Does Your Resume Have What It Takes To Survive The First Cut?
By: Ruth Anderson
To be a success, your resume must have sufficient "scan appeal" to pass a
first cut that initial stage when a busy employer, faced with a stack of
resumes, scans each one for about 30 to 60 seconds and rejects most. What
can you do to make sure that your resume survives the first cut?
For answers, consider the following analysis of a typical 30-second
scan. Then learn how to evaluate your own resume for scan appeal.
The first 5 seconds.
Resume writers spend most of their time thinking about wording. Yet, it is
the immediate visual impact of your resume that first influences how the
employer feels about hiring you.
Without consciously thinking about it, your reader "decides" within seconds
whether your resume is visually pleasing. Consider your own resume from
the 5-second perspective. Is there a good balance of text and white
space? Is the resume monotonous, or does it use a pleasing variety of
visual elements (heading sizes, bold, italic, bullets, etc.)?
Your reader also develops an immediate feel for whether your resume will be
easy to read. Make sure that your resume invites the reader to scan by
using a clear and consistent format, and by highlighting key points in
bulleted lists. Important information should never be presented in long,
The next 10 seconds.
After taking in your resume's visual qualities, the employer's eye focuses
on the top half of the first page. He or she will be trying to get a quick
overview of who you are and what you can do. Much like the computers at
employment web sites, the employer will scan quickly for information that
suggests you are a good match for the job at hand.
To take full advantage of these 10 seconds, most resumes should start with
a headline and a summary section. The headline (typically stating an
"objective") declares in one or two lines the essence of who you are and
what you are seeking.
The summary section (often titled " Summary of Qualifications" or "Personal
Profile") uses bullets and succinct wording to highlight what is likely to
most intrigue the employer. Before writing this section, make a list of
the 5 to 10 criteria that are most likely to guide the employer's choice
then summarize your qualifications in a way that speaks directly to the
The last 15 seconds.
If your resume is visually pleasing and starts with an effective summary,
your reader will naturally want to scan the rest of it. At this point, the
employer will look for: confirmation that you meet the job's requirements,
supporting evidence for your summary section, and any intriguing details
that add to the picture of what you would be like to work with.
Your job is to consider where the reader's eye is most likely to be drawn,
and use these places to your advantage. They include: section headings,
subheadings, the first sentence or two immediately under headings, position
titles, bulleted lists (especially the top one or two items), words in
bold, words in italic, and numerals (i.e. numbers that are not spelled out).
Consider all of these to be tools at your disposal when creating scan
appeal. Is there an accomplishment, for example, that you want to
highlight? Try putting it at the top of a bulleted list and including one
or two numerals (such as "reduced costs by 10%" or "supervised a staff of
12"). If appropriate, use some bold or italic either within the item or in
the wording that introduces it.
Testing for Scan Appeal
Your resume should be tested for scan appeal before any copies go out. You
must be able to answer two questions. Given just 30 seconds to convince the
employer to consider you, what must you bring to his or her
attention? And, what does your resume actually convey in a 30-second scan?
To conduct a preliminary test yourself, review your employment strategy
i.e. list the top five things you think are most important for the employer
to know about you. Then look at the parts of your resume most likely to be
seen in a scan, and make sure each item has been highlighted in some way.
For an even more telling test, give your resume to several people who don't
know you well, and time them as they scan it for 30 seconds. When they are
done, have them set the resume aside and jot down everything they remember.
Would the information they noticed and remembered provide compelling
reasons for the employer to hire you? If the answer is yes, your resume
has excellent scan appeal.
© 2005 Ruth Anderson
About the author:
Ruth Anderson is the owner of Vantage Point Coaching & Consulting and
author of WRITE RESUMES WITH CONFIDENCE: How to Create Outstanding Resumes and Have the Confidence to Use Them with Success. Learn more about her products and services, including the unique INTRODUCTION TO COACHING and JOB SEARCH TUNE-UP programs, at http://www.vantagepointcoaching.com or