Corollary 1: Attention span of your target audience is limited.
Understand that a typical recruiter would scan through dozens of resumes to shortlist a few and then call them for interview. The more prestigious the job, lesser the proportion of resumes eventually shortlisted. Also the people who shortlist you are busy fellows. They are in most cases NOT likely to read your resume in detail. They would briefly scan through, see if something is worth catching attention, and make a quick decision.
A typical recruiter spends between 5 to 8 seconds on each resume in first glance.
If those 5 to 8 seconds reveal something interesting, he spends around 20 to 30 seconds on the resume to make his decision. If this ignites his interest further, you are ready to move to next level of recruitment – typically interviewing.
So here is the strategy:
1. Make sure that there is some stuff on the first page that attracts attention and can be easily understood within 5 to 8 seconds in a manner that the recruiter is interested in your profile.
Now note that typically a recruiter would read your resume from top to bottom (I read differently though and would share the secret sometime later!).
So there should be something compelling in first quarter page of the resume or half page (in case of a different layout scheme) that is interesting for the recruiter. It should be brief so that it is understood within 5 to 8 seconds. And it should be enough to titillate his mind for further probing in your resume.
Also note that the recruiter does not know which part of the resume contains that titillating information. You will have to design your resume in such a format that he or she is automatically guided towards what you want him to focus upon.
This further means that any junk information that you may be putting at beginning of resume should be brutally removed.
For purpose of this brutality, whatever does not create interest within 5 to 8 seconds is junk. If you are too possessive for any of this junk put that in some other part of the resume. (people tend to get too possessive about whatever they have invested a lot of time to create or nurture. This mindset is the reason why we have so many problems in the world. We tend to consider every thing that we have thought too much about as our own baby. More we think, more dearer the baby. To protect this baby, an Osama will crash planes, a Hitler will perform genocide, friends will fight, hunger-strikes will be undertaken and resumes will be spoilt!)
2. Now having attracted his initial attraction, put sufficient material and ‘sufficiently interesting’ material to keep him enjoying your resume in next 20 to 30 seconds.
Compel him to spend more than average time on your resume. Smoothly glide him from initial attraction-pointers to further details that keep him enthused. This is where advertising through resume diverges away from typical advertising.
Typical advertisings – banners, posters etc – aim to attract you only momentarily. So they have no obligation of sustaining your interest after the first few seconds. They aim to make you think illogically. That is why you will see so many vulgar ads – a scantily clad girl holding a plywood and other bogus stuff.
But similar approach would not typically work in professional recruitment. Here people are mentally prepared to think logically and hence mere first 5-8 seconds of excitement followed by a dud is going to take you nowhere in most cases.
So you have to do 2 things:
a. Each attraction point you created to attract the first 5-8 seconds of recruiter should be followed by more interesting stuff.
b. Further interesting stuff should be dispersed across the entire resume to keep him enthused throughout his quick scan of the entire resume.
A metaphor would be to do following:
a. Assess if the resume attracts attention in first 5-8 seconds
b. If above is yes, does it sustain that interest in next 20-30 seconds so that the recruiter is motivated enough to read the resume in detail now?
While the second might be tough, you can give yourself a probable score. To conduct this exercise, you can take help of your friends or mentors. Ask them to let them know if the resume was interesting enough for them, and if yes, what attracted them. And then compare with what you wanted them to be attracted with. Also master the art of unbiased self-observation without being emotionally attached with your thought-baby! If this be mastered, you will master the whole world – wise have said.
Corollary 2: Write resume for the recruiter and not for the job
Often people write very impressive resumes that are perfect fit for the job. But the recruiter is unable to understand the jargon much and hence the efforts go waste.
Keep in mind that your goal of writing the resume is to impress the recruiter and not necessarily prove your fitment to job in an absolute sense. Some amount of jargon may create impression of your being a geek, but most resumes tend to overdo it creating a perception that if we recruit such a person, we would be speaking in English and he would be replying in Mandarin!
So do assess the typical profile(s) of your recruiter. If its an entry level job, don’t write stuff to impress a Chairman to make you the CEO of the company. If you are planning a shift in job profile, avoid jargons from previous industry that outsiders cannot comprehend.
The designations vary from industry to industry and company to company. In some companies, even a new recruit is made Assistant Vice President. For example in companies which sell products to HNI (High Networth Individuals). In other companies, even an Assistant Manager is a fairly senior position. So unless you have an impressive designation, better title the functional role rather than give actual designation. For example, instead of putting designation as “Assistant Secretary” make it ” Administration Management” and put the points of achievements. In other words, focus on skills rather than designations if designations are not appropriate.
Further, as Graham Greene states the first of his 48 Laws of Power, Never Outshine the Master. Don’t write a resume that makes your recruiter think that rather you should be interviewing him! This is a generic advise for corporate world. Unless you have a bigger master taking your responsibility in the corporate jungle, never outshine your existing master. And know that no lion is trustworthy in this safari. So for rookies, this law is fairly universal.
If you have properly understood the key principle and corollaries behind the art of resume building, the value that your next resume can bring to you has already increased several times! In further parts of this series, we shall apply this wisdom in various aspects of resume building.