You’ve got six seconds to make an impression with your resume. How can you possibly show how great you are in so little time? Good question. The trick to impressing a hiring manager or recruiter in just a few seconds is making your resume as skimmable as possible, and we’ve got some advice to help you do just that:
1. Clarity is King.
Put your title right under your name and contact information at the top of your resume. Are you applying for a Senior Systems Engineer position? Are you currently a Senior Systems Engineer (or have the same responsibilities but a different title)? If you put that title at the top, instead of in your list of experience, as soon as a reviewer sees your resume they know they’re looking at the right kind of person for the role.
2. Make a Statement.
There’s been a lot of debate on the best way to start your resume. Some will argue for a summary of your career, others will say an objective statement, and still others will say to leave it off altogether. We’re proponents of an expertise or executive summary. The executive summary is best used for higher-level manager openings and the expertise summary for technology-level openings. This summary makes it quickly evident to those reviewing your resume where your experience lies. Be specific. While these can be very difficult to write, a compelling expertise or executive summary objective, tailored for each job application, will help you stand out, making it well worth the effort. For hands-on technology professionals, your expertise summary should include a summary of your technology skillset to reflect how your skills align with the position you are applying for.
3. Call Out Your Accomplishments.
One of the biggest mistakes candidates make on their resume is simply listing their responsibilities at previous or current employers. For higher-level openings, hiring managers are really looking for how you did your job, not what you did. Even more so, they want to know how your work and skills tangibly will benefit them as your employer by seeing how you contributed to your past employers. Did you save the company money? Were you more efficient and productive than your peers? For hands-on technical resumes, in this accomplishment section, it is beneficial to be specific about the technologies you used, projects you were involved in, and how you made an impact on those projects and their outcomes. While focusing on accomplishments rather than duties is key throughout your resume, calling attention to 3-5 accomplishments in the top third of your resume can really give you an edge over your competition by stealing the hiring manager’s attention right away.
4. Highlight Your Skills.
It’s easy to present your skills in a clean, eye-grabbing way, but many people don’t think to do it. While it’s more common among technology job seekers who often divide their skills into languages, programs, and methods, it is just as valuable for professionals looking for less technical roles. Use this top third of your resume to highlight your skills with a bulleted list or vertical slashes or dots to separate items listed horizontally. Pro tip: List only the skills that you have mastered, not everything that you have ever done. No one person is an expert in 7 different coding languages or all project management styles, so let your real expertise shine in your skills summary.
5. Keep it Clean.
We’re not talking about your language—though actually, yes, keep that clean too!—we’re warning you against over-populating the top of your resume with unneeded information, confusing formatting, or other clutter. Be concise and direct to help the reviewer focus on the really important details you are showcasing. Ensure your formatting, punctuation, and spelling are consistent and accurate so as not to give any reason for a reviewer to reject your resume. We also recommend that you leave color off your resume (though some subtle shading can be helpful for organization) and use a basic, professional font.
Remember you only have a few seconds to make the best impression by strategically using the top third of your resume. Good organization and relevant information will help your recruiter or hiring manager know what you are able to do for them and how you can be a great fit for their law firm. Catch their eye right away and they’ll want to keep reading the rest of your resume.