Employers nowadays are generally so overwhelmed with applications for a position that they can't devote much time to each potential candidate. How can your résumé spark their interest enough to garner more than just a passing glance? Here, experts offer suggestions on gaining precious seconds of "look" time.
Make it visually attractive
The adage that you should not judge a book by its cover may be worthy advice, but throw the saying out the window when submitting an application. The last thing you want your résumé to do is look sloppy or disorganized among a stack of stellar submissions.
"The design aspect of your résumé has to come across in a clean, refreshing, simple way," says J. Patrick Gorman, co-founder of iFind Group, a Manhattan-based executive search firm. "In other words, have proper alignment, spacing, grammar, same-size fonts, clear fonts (not fancy), full-looking sentences after your bullet points, no abbreviations and good flow of the information presented."
Know how to catch a reader's eye
Tony Beshara, author of "Unbeatable Résumés: America's Top Recruiter Reveals What Really Gets You Hired" and host of the radio program "The Job Search Solution," notes that the biggest fallacy people believe is that a résumé is going to be read thoroughly. "It is going to be scanned. If it hits the right buttons quickly, it might get printed and read, but the initial scan is most important."
Beshara suggests providing an explanation of your present or most recent job in the very middle of the first page of the résumé. "Studies show that when people scan, their eyes start in the very middle of the first page, move to the left and then up to the top of the page."
Aim for clarity
Busy hiring managers don't want to have to dig around in a résumé to find out if a candidate is qualified. They want to know quickly which applicants are worth their time.
"Think more 'fact sheet' than 'short story' when writing your résumé," Gorman suggests. "You either prepared financial statements or you didn't; you either installed the IT system or you didn't."
Succinctness is prized, yet it should be backed up with information that gives the prospective employer a vibrant picture. Gorman notes that while readers love clear data points in order to know your specific role, you also need to convey your specific impact. Try quantifying your value in previous positions by providing answers to questions such as:
· How many days did it take to accomplish a project or task?
· How much money did you save the company by changing an existing procedure?
· How many people reported to you directly?
· What size budget did you manage?
· How much did your efforts add to the revenue growth of the division?
· What was your output, such as the number of sales, new clients or successful product placements?
Also, don't let a desire for brevity lead to a mistaken impression that keeps you from getting an interview. "Most people write about their titles and functions in terms they understand instead of taking into account if it will be understood by a hiring authority," Beshara says. "Likewise, most people write the names of the companies they have worked for with no explanation about what the companies do. There are 7.5 million companies in the United States ... most of us don't know what any of them do. It needs to be explained in detail."
Focus on achievement
Finally, remember that you are trying to show why you are the best person for this job. Presenting your most relevant skills and your greatest accomplishments is vital.
"An important aspect of an attention-getting résumé is one that is highly targeted and focused for the position," says Abby M. Locke, master résumé writer and personal brand strategist for Premier Writing Solutions in Washington, D.C. "If an employer or recruiter is looking to hire an accountant, [he] will be drawn to résumés that clearly emphasize expertise, relevant value and impressive achievements as they relate to public or corporate accounting. Extra information about skills in another area takes away precious résumé real estate and can also dilute a job seeker's career brand."
Likewise, Locke warns that too many professionals focus their energy on rehashing all their tasks and responsibilities without enough emphasis on how well they have done the job. Including descriptions of honors or promotions, performance-review quotes documenting strengths and quantifiable information about achievements can help convince a prospective employer that your résumé can't be overlooked.