Make Sure Your Résumé Passes The Six-Second Test

By on Apr 4th, 2014 | Work

Photo courtesy of Missy Lacock.

Photo courtesy of Missy Lacock.

In an effort to emerge from the crowd, applicants are altering the traditional résumé — not just by using color, images, and typology like these beauties but also by transforming its medium. Some modern résumés are candy wrappings or videos; some fold into boxes or oragami; some are Amazon pages or Google-themed. They all, however, attempt to do the same thing: stand out — and for good reason. Our CVs will be just one in a very fat stack, my friends. In fact, companies receive an average of 250 résumés for each corporate position, which means we’re in the competition of our lives. Worst yet, the average employer only spends six lousy seconds scanning our life’s précis, according to TheLadders. Our résumés need to make those six seconds count and usher in many happy paydays.

But should we always take the creative route? On one hand, visual résumés demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile and think outside the box, two key qualities employers look for in employees. Creative résumés are also especially appropriate for those applying to creative fields, such as graphic design or marketing. But the primary benefit? A visually strong résumé always stands out against the bleached papers sandwiching it.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with the ol’ standby for those unfamiliar with design: that no-frills, eight and a half by 11 inch sheet of text. After all, quality is always better than showmanship, and a great traditional résumé trumps a mediocre “creative” one every time. Some employers even prefer the classic résumé, and many aren’t interested in infographics, social profiles, or video résumés. If you insist on a visual résumé, however, there are plenty of beautiful and wacky résumé examples online. And if you can shell out the greenbacks, design companies such as Loft Résumés can do your creative work for you.

So, while the creative résumé might get you a second look (seven whole seconds?), it still won’t replace poor content. Remember the basic elements that make any résumé great.

Tailor it to each job. Have a clear understanding of the industry, and emphasis your related experience and qualifications.

Be clear. Those six seconds are short as hell, so make sure the résumé is uncluttered and information is immediately accessible. White space is your friend.

Quantify your accomplishments. Instead of just listing former responsibilities at a company, be specific about your contributions. How many new clients did you obtain, or how much money did you generate?

Use reverse chronological order. Listing your most recent experience is more convenient for employers.

 Use key words. Relevant words and phrases are usually provided in job postings, and matching key words are how applicant tracking systems select résumés.

Provide brief company descriptions. Company sizes indicate different responsibilities and experiences.

Proofread. Many employers trash a résumé if it includes a single error.

Include URLS and links. Provide URLS to your professional online profiles for print résumés, and include links to your portfolio or social media for digital résumés.


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Missy Lacock is a writer and bookworm from Missoula, Montana. She has a MS in Book Publishing, a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing, a BA in Theology and an AA in Liberal Arts, and yes, she realizes that's two degrees too many. She's a soldier in the AP Style camp and hates the word “munch.” Missy wants to learn paragliding and browse the Library of Congress. And take more naps.

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