Career Center Blog

July 6, 2010

How to capture a recruiter's attention in seven seconds


I see candidate frustration daily. The biggest complaint I hear is, "I just paid a professional resume writer to craft the perfect resume and have sent it to countless employers. Why am I still not hearing back?"

One thing candidates fail to recognize is that companies on average receive 900 resumes per job description. Think about that for a second. Would you be able to find your own application in a pile that large?

Did you know that on average, a recruiter spends less than seven seconds scanning your resume?

What's more important in this competitive market is how you structure your resume and less on what content it contains. The details of your experience, education, and career history are instrumental in you getting hired but if they don't see what they're looking for right away, you might not have enough time to impress them and communicate your offering.

The question is "how do you organize your resume so that it grabs their attention in seven seconds?"

Make sure your resume is scan-friendly. What you see on your resume isn't necessarily what they'll be able to scan in the first seven seconds. Studies have shown that the human eye will only see the top half page of your resume. Fold your resume in half and notice how little real-estate you have to make a first good impression.

Emphasize your title and not your name. I once used a resume template where my name was the largest font on the document. When a recruiter is scanning your resume, the title "Project Manager" is more important than your name, "Paul Anderson."

The title on your resume must match the title of the job description. Companies such as Expedia Inc. have unique company-specific titles such as "Configuration Manager." Although the duties and responsibilities of a configuration manager are the same as a "Program Manager," if you try to apply for a program manager job with a configuration manager title, you'll confuse the recruiter and run the risk of not being selected.

Address the needs of the employer right away. Objectives found on resumes tend to be about the candidate's personal goals and interests. Instead create a short professional bio that summarizes what you've done specifically that also addresses the needs of the employer. Build prestige and credibility quickly by naming former employers, years of experience, size of budget you managed, education history or whatever you think differentiates you from other candidates.

Bullets are king. I notice many candidates fall into the trap of writing long and great-sounding paragraphs. Paragraphs aren't scan-friendly; bullets are. Try organizing your high-level competencies in a two column, five-to-seven bullet style instead of using long sentences. Examples of core competencies in project management could include: "Risk Management," "Requirements Gathering," "Budgeting" and "SDLC."

By making a few simple changes on your resume today, you can greatly increase your odds of being reviewed. Just remember the seven-second rule.

Paul Anderson of ProLango helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.

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Paul Anderson, your advice is job search suicide. You are not in touch with job seekers and you don't know what recruiters are looking for.

I doubt your biggest complaint is "I just paid a professional resume writer to craft the perfect resume and have sent it to countless employers. Why am I still not hearing back?" because most people don't have there resumes professionally written.

900 Resumes per job opening? The staff running the job board section can log in and see that isn't even remotely accurate (talking averages). That said, what a discouraging statement, job seekers need to feel assured that there is hope and offered tips on how to make sure they stand out. Example: If I confuse a recruiter by putting "Configuration Manager" on my resume, I have succeeded, because now I have their attention. I can only hope the recruiter is competent enough to realize that there are variations to job titles between companies.

I applaud your efforts, but get the data needed to accurately inform the current market so people like myself who have been hands on representing both sides don't try to run you out of town for selling bad medicine.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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