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Write your resume like a pro.

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How to Pass the 6-Second Resume Test

Make sure your resume is catching the recruiter’s attention for all the right reasons. We’ll show you how. [TWEET]

Studies have shown that the average recruiter scans a resume for six seconds before deciding if the applicant is a good fit for the role. In other words, to pass the resume test, your resume only has six seconds to make the right impression with a prospective employer.

As a result, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for the reader to skim and identify your most important selling points. Consider the top third of your resume to be a snapshot; in this section, include everything the reader needs to know and understand about your job goals, qualifications, and how to reach out to you if they’re interested in your candidacy.

Below I’ve listed a number of elements every professional should consider when crafting their resume and telling their career story. These critical elements can help pass the 6-second resume test.

Your name.

Include your name at the very top of your resume, as it appears on your LinkedIn profile and other job-search materials. Whether you like to go by Bob or Robert, that’s your prerogative – just make sure you’re consistent. If you have a very common name, you may want to include your middle initial in your professional name to help distinguish you from the several other Sarah Johnsons in the greater New York City area.

Certifications.

If you have a certification or advanced degree that’s considered valuable in your career, such as an RN, MBA, or PMP, include it after your name. For instance, I tend to use “Amanda Augustine, CPCC & CPRW” on my personal branding materials because these certifications demonstrate my expertise in career coaching and resume writing. There’s no reason to include the acronym for your undergraduate degree or a certification that’s not relevant to your current job goals.

You may be asking, why include this information at the top? How will this help my resume pass the resume test? Won’t the recruiter read about my education in that section of my resume? Yes and no. While recruiters are on the lookout for details about your credentials – in fact, it’s one of the top six items they focus on during their initial review – they also tend to scan the resume very quickly. By leading off with the acronyms at the top of the resume, you’re ensuring the recruiter doesn’t accidentally overlook one of your selling points.

Contact information.

Include your mobile phone number and an email address you’ve designated for your job search. If you haven’t set up your phone to receive voicemails or recorded a voicemail greeting, add this to your list of to-do items. When selecting your email address, I recommend creating one on a platform like Gmail that incorporates your professional name and is dedicated to job-search and networking activities. This will help you keep your job search organized and avoid and any age discrimination sentiments that often are associated with outdated emails such as a comcast.net or optonline.net.

It’s no longer necessary to include your full mailing address at the top of your resume. Instead, share the city, state, and zip code if you’re searching for a job close to home, or remove location information entirely if you’re interested in relocating for work.

Supporting media.

While the resume tends to be a very cut-and-dry type of document, there are ways to give employers a better sense of your personality, creativity, and subject matter expertise. This is where the magic of hyperlinks begins.

Next to the contact information in your header, include links to websites that shed some light on these areas of your professional brand. For instance, it’s now commonplace to include the URL to your LinkedIn profile (Hint: If you haven’t created one yet, now’s the time.)

If you’re applying to a position that involves working with social media, you may include links to your personal social media accounts as well. This is also a great place to share the link to your online portfolio (for those in creative fields) or your personal blog (for writers and subject matter experts). A word of caution, though: If you intend to include a link to any of these resources, make sure you’re regularly updating the information and that the content supports your professional brand and current job goals. For example, there’s no need to include a link to your blog about basketball if you’re applying for corporate finance positions.

Headers.

All the sections I mentioned above should be included in the top portion of your resume. However, don’t insert this information into the actual “header” portion of the Word document. This can get scrambled by the applicant tracking systems (ATS for short) and cause confusion for the recruiter. It may even cause your resume not topass the ATS resume test. Instead, decrease your top margin on the document to 0.5 inches and place your name, contact information, and hyperlinks at the top of the page.

If your resume is more than one page long, make sure your contact information is repeated at the top of the subsequent pages. You don’t want the recruiter to have to hunt for your phone number or email address if they’re ready to speak with you.

Professional title.

When someone takes a look at your resume to see if you pass the resume test, there should be no question as to the type of role you’re targeting in your job search. All too often I hear clients complain that they aren’t receiving the type of job leads that they want, whether they’ve been an individual contributor for many years and currently seek a management position, or they want to return to a field they worked in several years ago but only receive offers for work that correlates with their most recent experience.

To help remedy this situation, and ensure your resume passes the resume test, make your job goals crystal clear, starting with the top third of your resume. Include a professional title that states your intent. For instance, you may put “Senior Financial Planning & Analysis Professional”, “Global Business Development Executive”, or “Entry-Level Marketing Professional”, depending upon your level of experience and target role. Please note that these sample titles indicate the professional’s job goals without getting too specific. This makes it easier if you’re applying to a few different types of roles within the same field. If your job goals are very precise, you can take it a step further and include additional information. Here’s an example for a client who works in communications and specializes in a particular sector of the market:

SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL

Healthcare • Pharmaceuticals • OTC Health

There’s no doubt that this professional is looking for a communications role within the healthcare sector. Take a second look at the top of your resume and make sure there’s a professional title at the top that states your job goals.

Professional summary.

After listing your professional title, to pass the resume test, you need to back it up with supporting information. Consider this section to be the elevator pitch of your resume. In a short paragraph (3-5 lines), answer the following questions:

  • Why are you qualified for this type of position?
  • What about your experience, education, and skills make you a good candidate for this type of role?
  • Most importantly, how have you used these qualifications to provide value to your previous employers?

This paragraph is usually referred to as your resume’s professional or executive summary.

Core competencies.

You’d assume that the person reviewing your job application must have a good understanding of your field and the position they’re helping to fill, right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, the first few reviews of your resume will most likely be conducted by a piece of machinery, known as an application tracking system, and a junior-level sourcer or HR coordinator. To help get past these initial gatekeepers and pass the ATS resume test, it’s important that your resume incorporate a number of key phrases and terms that summarize your expertise. That’s where the “core competencies” section comes into play.

Just below your professional summary, include a few columns or rows of terms that give the reader a good sense of your areas of expertise. An easy way to uncover this information is by reviewing job descriptions that interest you and taking note of the terms that routinely pop up on these job listings. You can also copy and paste a number of job descriptions into JobScan.co to identify the most frequently mentioned terms and see how your resume measures up.

Highlighted achievements.

If you’ve been in the workforce for 15 or more years, you may want to include a highlighted achievements section. This segment is usually placed just below the core competencies section and above your professional history. In it, you list 3-5 bullets that highlight achievements you consider to be especially noteworthy and relevant to your target job. If some of your best accolades fall on the second page of your resume, this is a good way to give them special attention within your resume “snapshot.”

The friend test.

When you glance at the top of your resume, are your job goals and qualifications obvious? If you’re unsure, hand your resume over to a friend. It actually helps if this person is not in your line of work. Ask them to quickly scan your resume for no more than 30 seconds – this is longer than the average recruiter takes. If they can’t easily identify your job goals and qualifications, then you know it won't pass a resume test and there’s still work to be done.

Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. If you need help, or are worried your resume won't pass the test, consider working with a professional resume writer.

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!