By Kailyn Rhone
No pressure, but your résumé has six seconds to make an impression before it is sent to the don’t-even-bother pile.
That is how long a recruiter typically skims a résumé to decide whether to pass it on to a hiring manager, said J.T. O’Donnell, chief executive of career-coaching site Work It Daily. Recruiters often have hundreds of online applications to wade through, even with algorithms helping filter many of them out. They will likely give yours little more than a glance to judge whether you make it onto the shortlist of candidates.
In other words, your résumé has to be highly “skimmable,” Ms. O’Donnell said at The Wall Street Journal’s recent Jobs Summit. “The human eye works in a Z-pattern, and I’m going down, looking for four to five things that I was told you need to have or you cannot be considered.”
The CV won’t clinch a job offer, but it gets you to the next step, she and other career coaches say. A résumé that’s hard to skim or fails to mention key skills needed for the job could keep you from ever getting the chance to make your case in an interview.
Some ways to make your résumé stand out, and some job-search killers to avoid, according to the experts at the summit:
1) Forget the professional statement.
Job seekers have long been advised to include a short paragraph atop of their résumé summing up their skills, experience, achievements and goals. No more.
“Recruiters don’t have time for that,” Ms. O’Donnell said. Instead, open with a one-line “headline” stating your occupational specialty—ideally with words matching the role you’re applying for, like “digital marketing specialist” or “technical writer,” she said.
Follow the headline with two short columns of bullets with concrete skills. If you coordinated a team to pull off a big assignment and the job posting mentions project-management experience, use that same language, since that’s what recruiters and their applicant-tracking-systems will screen for, said Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation, a nonprofit focused on workforce development.
“Every job you apply for, you should customize your résumé just a little bit by putting in some of the words that are in that job description,” Ms. Oates said.
3) Use numbers.
Avoid subjective, ambiguous language, such as “passionate self-starter” or a “dedicated hard worker.” The hiring manager or recruiter will assess your soft skills when they interview you, Ms. O’Donnell said. A résumé is about your hard skills, which are best told through numbers.
Her tip: Circle all of the nouns on your CV, because they can usually be quantified.
If you are describing your experience as a receptionist, for instance, don’t just say “Answer phones.” More effective is something like: “Work for a 300-person company, answering more than 100 calls a day, on a 12-line phone system,” she said.