3 Strategies For Making It Past The Initial 5-Second Resume Scan

I’ve heard it said various ways: you get a 5, 7, or 30-second initial resume scan from the hiring manager. I can tell you, when I was an HR manager and had 100 resumes to go through, my initial scan was about five seconds long, and I was looking for something to catch my eye.

Making It Past The 5-Second Resume Scan

Here are the three areas I looked at when considering whether to invest more time:

Professional Formatting

When you’re reviewing 100 resumes a day, the ones that really stick out are the ones you can tell the person invested time into creating. The professional and executive resume formats that were well-organized, easy to read, and perfectly laid out really made reviewing the resume easier—and definitely caught my attention.

When you’re comparing a professionally organized and strategically laid out resume to a messy, unprofessional, and disorganized one, determining which one to invest time into reading becomes a no-brainer. After all, why waste time searching through a document trying to find the information you need when someone else has clearly laid it out for you?

Easy-To-Find Requirements

When I posted a job ad online and was deluged with responses, I was appalled at how many people just shot me a resume that said absolutely nothing about the requirements I had spent so much time writing to include in the ad. Normally, when I posted a job ad I would include: REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS and PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS.

At the very least, to even be considered, the person had to possess the required qualifications; and the resumes that caught my attention were the ones that made it easy for me to see they did indeed meet the requirements—either by listing them in the top or calling attention to them in a bold, underlined, or italicized font, and placing them throughout their resume.

Want to put the nail in the coffin? Call attention to the fact you also meet their preferred qualifications. Meeting the required and preferred qualifications—and calling attention to this fact in your resume—makes you a perfect candidate for the job.

Compelling, Easy-To-Read Content

Long paragraphs on resumes serve one purpose… and that’s to lose the hiring manager’s attention. If you’re using paragraphs with 5+ sentences, then you not only lost my attention, but now the information I need isn’t readily accessible – it’s buried beneath an enormous amount of text density that I don’t have the time to wade through.

Keep it concise, cut out the mundane, and highlight your accomplishments. Don’t go super crazy with the bold, underline, or italics, but use them when it fits, and use them to call attention to the most important information.

Just to review—here’s how to make it past the initial 5-second scan:

  1. Professional, polished, and well-organized format (colors and white space, good—messy and distracting, bad).
  2. Make it easy for the hiring manager to find exactly what he or she needs—and to find it quickly.
  3. Keep the content concise, and highlight the critical information the hiring manager needs in order to make the decision to call for the interview.

Other strategies come into play when creating a compelling resume that will secure interviews, so if you’re not sure your resume has the right stuff—and if you haven’t heard of personal branding or incorporated it into your resume—it may be time to call a certified resume writer and get a resume checkup. If it means the difference between three interviews next week or three more months of job searching, you may want to consider speaking with a professional.

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