The term “resume reading” should be obsolete in today’s job market. Given that the average reader spends between six and 20 seconds on the first pass, we should really refer to it as “resume scanning.”
While the idea of scanning versus reading a resume may be terrifying – understanding where our eyes dart and making sure these areas include powerful verbiage can help your resume align with today’s skim reading habits.
Interestingly, the way most of us skim read the news is almost identical to the way resumes get read, which is why incorporating the concepts from newspaper writing will help your resume pass the scan test.
1. Career Title or Headline
In a newspaper, a headline tells us what the story is about. A Career Title placed at the top of the resume does the same thing.
Are you a Quality Assurance Specialist or a Treasury Manager, Operations Analyst or a Financial Services IT Executive? Whatever you are—make sure your headline shouts it in larger font than the rest.
Career Titles are ideal for customization. By adding a word or two you can rapidly change your story from industry-neutral to industry specific.
EXAMPLE: “Cardiology Medical Device Sales Manager” to “Medical Device Sales Manager.”
2. Branding Paragraph or Lead Paragraph
Just as the lead paragraph in a news article gives the reader some insight into the story’s details, a branding paragraph placed directly below the career title gives the reader preliminary details to ensure they connect you are ideally suited for a specific role.
3. Areas of Expertise or Call Out Boxes
The Areas of Expertise section in many ways serves the same purpose as call out boxes in newspapers – in that it allows a specific portion of text to stand out from the rest.
This highly scannable section should include a list of industry- or role-specific skills. The majority of these are readily found in job postings, so review these carefully when determining which skills make the cut.
4. Job Experiences or Sub-Headlines
Job experiences serve the same purpose as sub-headlines in newspapers in that they break the story down into digestible sections to read. When it comes to scanning your work history, readers tend to look at where and when you worked and in what role.
5. Achievement Bullets or Body of the Story
The next step in resume scanning is to quickly peruse the first bullet below each job title. If time allows, the last bullet may get read. Bullets in the middle tend to get skipped for that deeper, second read providing your document has made a good first impression during the first go-round.
Given that the first and last bullets are often the only parts read during the first pass, it is critical that they contain details that relate powerful, and preferably quantifiable, achievements.
There are several sections common in resumes that act in the same way as footnotes to a newspaper—they provide detail that may or may not be relevant to the story. Education, Technology Skills, Awards, Certifications and Industry Affiliations are a few of these sections.
Writers must determine which of these sections should be included. Consider referring to job postings to determine if they are relevant to your current aspirations.
If a job posting calls for a degree or a specific technology proficiency, be sure to include a section that outlines this. If a certification is relevant to your industry and denotes a level of expertise, don’t forget to include it.
Awards, industry and volunteer affiliations speak volumes about personal character and investment in a role, cause or community – and should be included if possible.