How to get your resume noticed in just 7 seconds flat

November 27, 2020

Why 7 seconds? Because that’s typically how long recruiters will scan your resume before they accept or reject your application. Want to know how you grab their attention? It all comes down to understanding how they read your resume


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Every day, recruiters are faced with two problems – too many resumes to thoroughly review and not enough hours in the day to do it.

When I first started recruiting many years ago, this wasn’t the case.

Once a week we used to advertise our jobs in the local paper and then respond as they came in over the next few days.

Then job boards came along and changed the whole nature of recruiting.

It was the birth of volume applications.

It was so much easier for recruiters to advertise their jobs to the masses immediately.

And it was so much easier for applicants to apply for many positions at once with just the click of their mouse.

However, this new way of recruiting meant that new processes had to be put in place to handle the rise in volume of applicants.

And that was the birth of Applicant Tracking Systems.

So, if you want to get your resume noticed, your first challenge is to get it past ATS, otherwise a human won’t get to see it at all.

If you want to get your resume noticed, your first challenge is to get it past ATS, otherwise a human won’t get to see it at all.

If you are not sure whether your resume will do this, here is a free course to make sure you won’t be a victim of those on online bots.

Learn how to Beat the ATS Bots

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Assuming you have submitted an ATS friendly resume, you now need to quickly impress recruiters when they scan your resume.

Just 7 seconds – is that really true?

First, a confession.

I used the 7 seconds in the title of this post for two reasons.

First it is shocking, so it grabbed your attention.

Second, it really is the generally accepted average time to scan a resume.

Google it now and you will come across a major study by the Ladders plus various other articles that support this.

Personally though, I take a bit longer. My average is around 15 to 30 seconds depending on the complexity of the role.

I know this because I have been recruiting and reviewing resumes for decades.

I’ve also trained and worked with many recruiters and I have found that consultants' scanning time tends to vary between 5 to 60 seconds depending on their level of experience.

But, whichever way you look at it, you don’t have long to make that first impression.

The most important thing for you to know is that, at this stage, recruiters are screening not reading.

When a recruiter scans your resume and sees what they are looking for, you get shortlisted.

Recruiters are screening not reading. When a recruiter scans your resume and sees what they are looking for, you get shortlisted.

That’s when they will go back to study your resume more thoroughly and contact you to discuss the role.

Getting your resume noticed by recruiters

Going back to the title of this post, it grabbed your attention and made you want to find out more.

That is exactly what you are aiming for if you want to get your resume noticed.

You do this by giving recruiters what they want in the top half of the first page of your resume.

To get your resume noticed, you need to give recruiters three things

  • A snapshot of who you are so that they ‘get you’ and your career history to date
  • Facts that support the value you could bring to the organisation and the role
  • Key words that signify your suitability for the role

How recruiters review your resume

When a recruiter is speed reading your resume for that first time, here’s where they look to get what they want.

step
1

Your name & location

Just your name, no credentials next to it, then your address to see your proximity to the role on offer.

step
2

Your profile

This is where they want to ‘get you’ by seeing key words and experience to tick off that checklist in their head.

Remember, they are not reading but scanning so this information has to be clear and accessible.

step
3

Roles, companies and dates

They want to quickly and easily see what you did, where you did it, and for how long.

For example, a Project Engineer role at a Tier 1 contractor is very different from a Project Engineer at a Tier 2.

This is why you should always put a company descriptor for each organisation so that recruiters can put your experience into context.

Also, if their client wants 5 years minimum experience, they need to be able to tick this too in their head by seeing your dates of employment.

At this stage they are not reading all about your duties and achievements – just your background match to the role they are recruiting for.

They are looking for the essentials.

The desirables come later.

step
4

Other pages

Finally, if they are still interested, they will quickly glance over the rest of your resume.

I just want to stress here the phrase “if they are still interested.”

Your profile at the top of the first page is so crucial.

It needs to sell you by giving examples of your achievements whilst mirroring they key requirements of the role.

Here’s a post that will walk you through how to achieve this.

How to write a great resume profile that will get you interviews...

So, now you know what recruiters want and how they will be reading your resume.

To finish, I just want to make sure you know the 'absolute never do under any circumstances.'  

Never do these 4 things if you want your resume noticed

don't
 1

Use a fancy, unconventional resume template

To get your resume noticed by recruiters, it has to be seen by them.

When you are applying online responding to a job ad, it is likely to be processed by an ATS, so make sure you are using an ATS friendly format or you might very well be rejected.

If you are sending a resume directly to a recruiter or hiring manager, make sure that you submit your resume in a format that is easy to read.

Fancy templates may look nice but if recruiters can’t find the information they want quickly due to weird boxes in strange places, they might get irritated and just move on to the next person.

Further, always use a reverse chronological format because it makes understanding you career history and worth so much easier.

don't 2

Start with an objective statement

Recruiters and employers want to know what you can offer, not what you want.

Don’t waste valuable space and their time by including this.

don't 3

List generic skills and statements

By this I mean such things as leader, excellent communicator, hardworking, detail orientated.

All of these are boring and unqualified because they are, after all, just your opinion about yourself.

So many people do this so If you really want to get your resume noticed, this is an easy win.

Aim to break through the readers boredom from reading such phrases over and over again by giving them something specific and factual aligned to the role they are recruiting for.

don't 4

Lead with your education

Unless you are fresh from school or college or you are applying for an academic role, this should be at the back of your resume.

Qualifications and certificates are important but what you have done with them is far more important.

Instead, put them at the back of your resume and have a last line of your profile saying something like “underpinned by a degree in x” or “committed to continuous personal development including…” and name just your top couple of qualifications.

This way you have verified that you are qualified, and they can read more about it later in your resume if they want to.

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Amanda Datchens

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, and entrepreneur, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub.

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