The Resume and First Impressions – A Recruiter’s Perspective

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By Stephanie Clark.

In an instant, we size up a person and make assumptions about their status, health, and  maybe even their personality. We do this by assessing hair style, clothing, and physical appearance. Any number of things trigger a response in a first impression.

This is no less relevant when a recruiter assesses a resume. In fact, in a seemingly impossible time span of seven seconds, the typical recruiter will decide whether or not a candidate will be interviewed.

This may seem ridiculous, given that reading takes much longer to convey a message than a quick glance. But it is so, and this was proven to me last week when I took in a webinar presented by a recruiter (let’s call her “Jan”) to an audience of resume writers.

A visual presentation of this seven second resume review was undeniable. By sharing two resumes, one which impressed the reader –immediately – with a fit to the job posting, and the other which decidedly did not impress, Jan convinced me that yes, a seven second review can indeed serve its purpose: to narrow down suitable applicants from an unmanageable 100 to a short list of a few.

Here’s how it’s done, as was demonstrated in a slide presentation.

  1. The recruiter checks the address. If it’s too far, the candidate is out. There are ways around this, as Jan explained. If the candidate is planning to relocate, just enter the new city rather than the actual residence. This should be explained in the cover letter, in the interest of transparency and honesty. Jan also suggested that a street address no longer serves much purpose and can safely be eliminated, if needed.
  2. Next, the recruiter looks for the position title. Jan agreed that the objective statement is useless, and is best replaced with the title of the position applied to. This also helps, she mentioned, if the recruiter chooses the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to parse resumes rather than going through resumes manually.
  3. Now quickly scanning the summary and list of skills, the recruiter is looking for key words and phrases that speak to that position. She is not reading the summary at all, just looking to pick up related language.
  4. And finally, the recruiter scans the page down to the applicant’s current job. The position’s title needs to be similar to the position being considered, a natural or related progression rather than a jarring disconnect. Jan said that most recruiters don’t care if you adjust the title, in the case of a title that may mislead the recruiter to think that your present or last job is not aligned with your career. Adding the real title in brackets can ensure that you are being truthful. Some job titles do not accurately reflect industry norms and this step solves that issue.

Those four steps added up to seven seconds, which Jan illustrated by removing the slide at the seventh second! Incredibly short.

One more thing to note. One of the resumes that Jan pulled up from her database (in real time) did not appear as most. Although the resumes are all stripped of formatting (a very plain “look” that recruiters are used to), one resume had too much spacing in between lines and Jan shared that that is an issue. Anything that breaks the recruiter’s rhythm, when tasked with selecting perhaps 10 resumes out of 100 applications, can result in disqualification simply by virtue of the fact it would take more time than typical. And so, formatting is also important! Don’t rely on the space bar; learn to use tabs!

This lesson illustrated why a general resume will not work, why the job hunter (or resume writer) must target the resume to a tight career goal, why key words and phrases continue to be critical, and why you need to make formatting Word your friend for a successful job search!

Stephanie Clark is a Master Certified Resume Strategist (MCRS) and primary consultant at New Leaf Resumes. Find out how you can become a Certified Resume Strategist (CRS)

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