Yeah, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but nobody reads resumes. Don't feel too bad. I make my living as a web writer and nobody reads web pages, either. What they do is scan them.
I'm talking about human eyeballs and human brains taking in and processing information. People skim around the page, looking for visual elements, words, or phrases that stop them in their tracks.
The experts call it information foraging. On a resume, it works like this:
- First, they scan around until something jumps out at them (a familiar acronym, a bold subhead, an impressive number).
- Then, they stop momentarily and look more closely (maybe even read a little bit).
- If it impresses them and it resonates with their needs, they continue reading.
- As soon as it stops impressing, they repeat the cycle.
Here are three ways to make sure your resume has plenty of eye-catching content for the information foragers:
Tip 1. PUT YOUR BEST STUFF NEAR THE TOP
Eye-tracking studies (not to mention common sense and experience) tell us people always start at the top of a page. So that's where you need to summarize your most important professional accomplishments and qualifications.
Of all the things your resume says about you, which ones do you really, really hope the employer will notice? The ones that prove what a perfect candidate you are. Whatever they are, put them up top in the summary.
Hit 'em with your best shot, right as they walk in the door.
Tip 2. USE NUMBERS
Numbers in a resume are like speed bumps for the eye. An actual number (like 25, as opposed to twenty-five) within a string of words serves two important purposes: it draws the eye like a magnet, and its mere presence lends an air of accuracy to the statement. For some reason, a "40% increase" sounds far more impressive and accurate than a "significant" or a "huge" increase.
Of course, not all jobs involve hard sales figures. That's OK. You can use numbers in other ways, too:
- Supervised staff of 11 programmers.
- Boosted average score on customer-satisfaction surveys from 74 to 89.
- Administered therapeutic recreational programs in a 122-bed skilled nursing facility.
- Supported 3 managers in a Fortune 1000 company with annual sales of $45,000,000.
Numbers are golden in a resume. As long as they're true, use them!
Tip 3. BREAK EVERYTHING INTO BITE- SIZE PIECES
Long, unbroken paragraphs of text are daunting, and minute details are boring.
People have short attention spans, so white space on a page helps give the eye a rest. Though they're not quite as effective as numbers, unusual text elements also serve as visual speed bumps:
- Italic or bold type
- Bullet lists
- CAPITAL LETTERS or acronyms (FYI).
Underlining also draws the eye, but I'm not a fan. Not only does the underline cut through such letters as p,j,g,y,q (see?), it also looks like a hyperlink.
Accept the fact that your resume may never be read top-to-bottom, left-to-right, start-to-finish. But if you make it an eye-catching, user-friendly tool that caters to a busy hiring manager's short attention span, it can still do the trick.
Try This: Look away from your screen, then quickly look back at this page. Did your eye naturally jump to certain elements on the page? Let us know in the comments section!