Extending the 10-Second Lifespan of Your Résumé

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Click to enlarge

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A pile of résumés has all the excitement of an insurance policy

Presumably everyone has a résumé-in-waiting—waiting for that call or email from a headhunter or Larry Ellison’s secretary.

Is your résumé a grabber?

Or is it as boring as a suitcase full of rocks?

Career Builder—an organization that knows about these things—says: “Employers only look at résumé for an average of 10 seconds.”

Forget what your résumé says. If it looks like every other résumé in the pile—and it arrives without a cover letter—your chances of securing an interview are exponentially reduced (unless your name recognition in your industry is akin to Bruce Springsteen or Barbra Streisand in theirs).

[See the first and second images in the mediaplayer at right for a typical two-page sample résumé downloaded from the Internet. Imagine coming upon it midway through a pile of 200 other résumés.]

Will Ezell’s Advice
In response to the story “Brand Yourself! Brilliant Concept!” earlier this month, subscriber Will Ezell and I got into an email exchange on the importance of résumé design and readability. Ezell wrote:

What get’s a resume read is 2 things:

  • It drastically stands out and looks completely different; and
  • Social proof.

You of all people know how voyeuristic Americans are.

My friend Francine couldn’t score a gig. So we created a new resume for her (enclosed herewith). No cover letter required.

We asked her to re-submit her new resume to 10 companies that hadn’t responded to her “traditional-style” resume previously.

Eight called her in for an interview, and 6 offered her a position. Like me, Francine’s picky, and likes the opportunity to weigh all options, so she didn’t have any problem stacking the interviews and accepted every job offer knowing she’d only end up going to one (her choice).

She told me the HR people didn’t even look at her qualifications. Every question was about what the people said about her.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • Darren Somsen

    Dear Denny,

    Sorry, but I call B.S. I am a V.P. of Marketing with design background. My resume did look like example #3. I spent the time to add creative flair in a newsletter format which highlighted my experience and background. Yes, those who received a physical copy of my resume loved it – but the employment scanning software used by most HR departments did not. The unconventional format reduced the resume to gibberish. Out of frustration I reformatted my resume to a standard format. Result? I started receiving calls and emails.

  • Richard Armstrong

    It’s interesting that it’s illegal to ASK about children but apparently not illegal to investigate the matter and discriminate on the basis of the findings! (By the way, I just bought a new car. Maybe I should go out and apply for some jobs while it’s still in pristine condition.)

  • Reginald Doherty

    Progress is made by people who step out of line. If you doubt this, name the second person to fly the, or, more up to day, the second peson to walk on the moom. Francine’s resume is a terrific example of stepping out of line… and it produced results. -rjd

  • C. Makepeace

    The car trick wouldn’t work on me for several reasons: 1). My personal vehicle is a mess, yet i keep my workspace and project tracking system well organized. Trying to base my work habits on my car would generate an incorrect conclusion. 2.) I typically borrow my wife’s car (which is pristine). Further, I usually don’t park in the company’s parking lot when interviewing. I park offsite and walk onto the property.

    As to the social media search, I’ve made myself invisisble to all but those to whom I have allowed access. A company trying to do a social media search would come up empty. And yes, I am that careful.