Sunday, July 13, 2014

Resumes and the 30-second rule

Whenever you write anything—be it an email, as essay, or even a Facebook post, you have to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Who is the audience?
  2. What points do I want to inform or persuade? (In other words, what are the “takeaways”?)

You probably have friends who write Facebook posts that ramble on for paragraphs, such that you find your attention diverted after about five or ten seconds of reading (often with a “huh?”). What is this person talking about, you ask yourself. A few of my Facebook friends who ramble sometimes veer from their work problems to their pets to their love lives in a single multi-paragraph post.

I seldom make it through any of these posts. I prefer Facebook posts that are short, sweet, and to the point. You are probably the same in this regard. Most people are.

The readers of your resume will be even more stringent in their requirements. Keep in mind: Before they’ve met you—you are literally nothing more than an abstraction to them. A piece of paper. A chunk of data.

Consider these facts:

Recruiters spend an average of six seconds with each new resume before deciding whether to contact the candidate. The number for unsolicited resumes arriving in corporate human resources departments is probably not much different.

First-time job seekers right out of college must take special pains to assure clarity and precision. Many new grads, quite understandably, lack an in-depth grasp of their goals other than a general direction. A new grad might know that he’s interested in “marketing”—but what kind of “marketing”? Marketing is a big field, after all.

The first time professional job seeker must therefore spend extra time ironing out their objectives.

As one career expert said, “Ask yourself: If I handed the resume to someone who knew nothing about my college major or career direction, could they easily identify the type of role I'm targeting and why within the first 30 seconds?"

This is a simple test that you can perform before you submit your resume to people who (hopefully) will hire you—or at least interview you. Your ideal test reader would be someone with experience in your chosen field; but anyone with a professional background could give you worthwhile feedback.

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