The 10-Second Resume Rule: Make an Immediate Impression or You Lose

Most initial resume screenings last an average of 10 seconds or less, that’s how the rule got its name. This initial screening happens very quickly, whether it is done using a human reviewer or technology. Nearly 75% of all applicants for any position are easily removed in this initial screening process. Did you get that? Within the first 10 seconds of resume review, 75% of all applicants are rejected. Hasta la vista. Catch you later. Thanks for applying.

To beat the 10-second resume rule, your resume must be able to quickly convince a reviewer, whether computer or human, in only a few seconds that you meet the position requirements and have the experience they need and are, in fact, the candidate they need to hire. Simple, right?

Resume writing is so challenging for this reason. It is the hardest form of persuasive writing. Why? Because there are few topics more difficult for most people to write about than themselves. That’s why many people find better success in bringing in a professional resume writer to help out.

Fix My Resume

Let’s set this straight now–there is no simple fix. The screening process counts on the fact that so many resumes don’t make the mark. Writing a resume is tough. That’s all there is to it. Most people do not like to write. Most people do not like sales. A resume is both – it is a written sales pitch. Ouch! Double whammy.

So, how do you fix a resume then?

The 10-Second Resume Rule Revealed

Let’s review the keys that make up the 10-second resume rule. You can’t beat a system you don’t understand, right? These top resume tips will improve chances that your resume will make it through the initial 10-second evaluation round.

1. Spend the Most Time on the Most-Read Part of Your Resume

Contrary to what you might think, the most-read part of your resume is not your name. When there are hundreds of resumes to review, names matter little in initial evaluations. The most read part of your resume is your Profile or Experience Summary. If your resume is missing this section, you are losing your best opportunity to create interest. It used to be common to put an Objective at the top of your resume. However, the Profile or Experience Summary section has completely replaced the Objective section. Why? It is a quick 3-4 sentence overview of your qualifications. This acts as an Executive Summary for a reviewer where you clearly point out why you are the best candidate for this specific position. If you don’t generate interest in this section, your chances of further review or even an interview are slim.

Write the Experience Summary section of your job resume for each specific position you are seeking. You must state a convincing case as to why you are the perfect candidate. For example, if you were applying for a computer programming job, you should focus your Experience Summary on your computer programming skills and experience and establish yourself as qualified right away. It may be nice that you were in a community play or a scout leader, but it is not relevant and won’t get you the job. This ultimate purpose of this section is to quickly make you stand out from other applicants. When drafting your Experience Summary, keep asking yourself if someone else would be able to make the same statements in their own resume. If so, you need to go back and re-work it again. You need to establish your value to the employer and clearly tell them, “Here is what I can do for you.” Investing your time on this one step will bring huge rewards for you.

Tip 2. Learn How Job Search Technology Works and Use it to Your Advantage

Technology is now in use at most medium and larger employers to help manage job applicants. This technology is much more accessible to a wider range of employers since prices have come down over the past few years. Why is this important to you? Because most of these software applications are used to quickly remove up to 75% of applicants from the review pool, which saves human resources staff a lot of time and work.

This technology presents some risks for you as a potential job candidate, so you must understand how they work. Many of these so-called applicant tracking systems do not recognize items in table format, text boxes, or other graphical elements. They are very text based. Therefore, you should avoid embedding anything important into graphical elements such as text boxes or tables to make sure they are not missed by these applicant tracking systems.

Tip 3. A Simple Resume Format and Resume Template Work Best

A lot of the initial resume review process may be done using software tools as discussed above. This software typically scans a resume for specific sections of information, such as profile or summary, work experience, education, training, etc. If the software can’t identify where information is in your resume, it is likely that the information you worked so hard to put in your resume will just be skipped over. Rarely will you get a second chance from an in-person reviewer. So keep your resume format simple to avoid having any issues with software tools used by potential employers.

Tip 4. Present Your Work Experience in a CAR

Not a literal car, but an acronym CAR to help guide your resume writing.
First, for each position listed on your resume, provide a short paragraph that describes your roles and responsibilities. This tip is designed to make sure you use keywords related to the position that the software may be searching for in your resume. If done correctly, it should allow your resume to earn a higher ranking in the system.

Next step, create a bulleted list of accomplishments in each position using the C-A-R method. For each bullet, follow the C-A-R formula: indicate a Challenge you faced, followed by the Action you took, and identify the Results of those actions. You must ensure that the achievements you include are relevant and significant so that a reviewer won’t read it and say “who cares.” This is so important. Those who write resumes for a living are very skilled at wording these achievements to sound very impressive and make them relevant. For example:

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Took over development of client’s web site that was months behind. Developed a plan to divide work among staff and assigned additional resources to get project back on track, finally meeting all original deadlines for site and receiving a commendation from the client.

  • Awarded consultant of the year award by client

Approach your write-up for each position in this way – first a short paragraph on roles and responsibilities, followed by a bulleted list of achievements. These should catch the eyes of resume reviewers. If you find yourself struggling with the writing, you may want to call on the assistance of a professional resume writer to jump start your job search.

5. Offer Proof for Your Statements

The old adage that finding a job is a job holds true. The burden is on you to prove to a potential employer that you are the best candidate for the job. To do this, you must build your case from the ground up. This means you need to offer proof for every statement you make. For example, if you say you have 6 years of experience with Java programming or accounts payable, an employer should be able to go one-by-one through your position write-ups on your resume and identify those 6 years by themselves.

Avoid vanilla, blanket statements that cannot be backed up. To accomplish this, you should offer details rather than meaningless phrases like top performer, top achiever, employee of the month, etc. While I am sure these are great accomplishments, you must explain them and tell why and how these recognitions should matter to a new employer. Remember, the actual recognition is secondary to your achievements, a potential employer will care more about why you earned recognition.

6. Avoid Flowery Language That Diminishes Your Achievements

You could have a comedy show with some of the statements people make on their resumes. You don’t want your resume to stand out for the wrong reasons. Avoid creative writing. Avoid big words and uncommon vocabulary. Avoid over the top statements that make you sound like you saved the universe. They immediately call your credibility immediately into question. Resume writer Don Goodman shares one of his favorite claims as “Rocketed performance to stellar heights.” Says Goodman, “People don’t speak like that; I have never heard an executive tell the HR person that they needed someone who could rocket performance to stellar heights. Remember, people hire people they like, so don’t make your resume read like an amateur poet wrote it.”

7. Keep it Relevant

In second grade, I played the role of a singing tree in my school play. As important an event as that was to me in my life, it is completely irrelevant to our discussion here about resume writing tips. You should follow the same advice on your resume. If it is not relevant or you can’t reword it so that it is relevant to the job or employer, leave it off. Focus your resume on the items that qualify you for the position you are seeking. In other words, get rid of the fluff. For example, I once received a resume from a programmer, however the only thing I remember from it was that they attended clown college and competed in national juggling competitions. Yes, that was interesting, but it completely trumped their qualifications for the programming position which I don’t even remember. Basically, limit items on your resume to those relevant to the position for which you are applying. Do not include irrelevant items to that position on the resume. If you haven’t figured this out yet, this means you will have multiple, fine-tuned versions of your resume for each type of position for which you apply.

You Will Get Better Job Search Results Using the 10-Second Resume Rule

Ten seconds is typically all you get to make your spark some interest from a potential employer for any job. These top resume tips should help you fine-tune your resume and achieve better results. To say it again, writing a resume and finding a job is not easy, most especially in a tough economy where an average of over 300 applicants apply for an open position. You have to make yourself stand out-there is no alternative. Use this strategy to make your resume stand out from the crowded field of applicants I those important 10 seconds. Put these tips to use and you should start seeing results.

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