How to Ace the 7-second Resume Test
This post was originally posted on YouTern.
We get asked all the time: “How do I get a recruiter to actually care about my resume?” The answer is simple: you have to pass the “7-Second Resume Test”.
Depending on who you listen to, it is widely believed that an applicant has between 6 and 10 seconds to impress the resume reader – the recruiter.
Here, then, is my version of the 7-second test… and exactly what I look for, step-by-step, when I glance at a resume – and determine pass or fail.
Second 1: Confidence
How do you show confidence in a one-dimensional document? Simple!
Start with your name in the header – bold and pronounced. Then clearly show me your contact information, separated by lots of white space so I don’t have to squint to find your email address. Next, show me a bulleted summary of your skills – and not just a bunch of buzzwords; I want a clear indication that you understand your strengths and how those may apply to my company.
Fail to impress me with a clear display of confidence – and your resume won’t last one second.
Second 2: Social Media Links
Like many decision makers, I live in a digital world – so I want to see links to your career-relevant social media profiles.
Typically, LinkedIn and Twitter are enough to show a professional presence. If you would also like to send me to an About.me or similar, that’s fine. Facebook and other “personal” sites, however, are of no interest to me – and it’s always a red flag of sorts to see those links on a resume.
Why do I care about your social media presence in second two of my resume review? See step one above… by showing me where you live online, you reveal another level of confidence.
Second 3: White Space
I can’t emphasize this enough… white space counts, a lot.
If your resume is packed into a document at 0.4” margins and 9 point fonts with no space between sections and paragraphs – this shows me you’re trying WAY too hard. Just like the person who can’t let a single moment go by during a conversation without filling it with inane banter, your resume is screaming “I’m nervous… please like me!”
Don’t kill your resume in 3 seconds… let the recruiter’s eyes bounce from section to section freely, and comfortably.
Second 4: Too Much Text
Similar to the white space issue: the use of way too many words is a resume killer.
Long paragraphs and run-on sentences are another sign of anxiety, maybe desperation. You should be able to articulate your accomplishments in one line. Period.
Do you really think a recruiter wants to read – or has time to read – a 1,200 word resume? They won’t – and in just the fourth second, that resume you’ve worked on for hours … is in the recycle bin.
Second 5: Numbers!
When I look at a resume, I don’t care WHAT you did… I care about your work ethic – and whether or not you were good at your job. More specifically, I care whether you’ll be that good, or better, at my company. I care about performance.
That means your resume must contain quantified statements like “exceeded quota by 132%”, “Met deadlines in 97% of assigned projects” and “managed highly successful event for 500 donors.” Even a more generic “consistently in the Top 5% of my team…” is better than nothing – and shows you understand how your performance is being measured.
No quantified statements on your resume? Your resume didn’t make it five seconds, and I’m now looking for another candidate who “gets it”.
Second 6: Achievement
I have a theory about “inferred contribution”…
Simply put, this theory says that if you won awards, competed on a high level – and were a high-impact contributor at your last position – you will do the same at my company. Some of this can be articulated through the quantified statements above, of course. However, as I scan your resume I look for other signs that you’re a high-achiever; perhaps monthly or annual awards, acknowledgement by an industry expert or academic institution, being named to a “Top” list in blogging, digital or social media, or similar.
Show me you are proud of your relevant accomplishments – and in second six, you are well on your way to impressing me.
Second 7: Leadership
Ah, the final test… is it clear that you embrace leadership in a team-focused work environment?
This is the last hurdle. Have you been a leader? Do you embrace the idea of being a forerunner? Are you willing to stick your neck way outside your comfort zone to make a team better? Or… are you the type that just does what you’re told in the background?
If I can tell you are the type that leads, regardless of the title on your business card… you have passed my seven second test – and are on your way to a phone interview, and perhaps a job!
Apply this seven second test to your resume. Then ask yourself… will you pass, or fail?
CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and Forbes regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.