Your resume has 6 seconds; are you wasting that time?

House ad 450wI’m writing about the scourge of long-term unemployment today and the stubbornly low employment rate (don’t be fooled by the fake un-employment rate) — I will spring some really interesting research from on you soon — but in my reading I came across a really helpful resume writing article. Those are rare, so I’d like to spotlight it for anyone who’s job hunting. (I’d also like to do anything I can to help with that long-term unemployment thing.) It’s obvious that your resume is the most important part of your job application because it’s the first impression your potential employer has of you. This is why so many people get a resume writing service vancouver to make sure it’s professional and well done.

I’ll make this quick: recruiters only spend 6 seconds looking at job resumes, says Dr. John Sullivan (no relation). I can’t stress this point enough. In our book Getting Unstuck, Hugh Thompson and I talk a lot about the perfectionist tendency to pore over every detail when writing resumes — often, struggling so much that the resume never gets sent! (I will confess I just spent an unreasonable amount of time making sure I just used the verb “pore” correctly).

Extreme perfectionism that leads to inaction can be your worst enemy. But perfectionism that leads to unnecessary delay can be almost as bad, as it leads to opportunity cost. Spend several days wrestling with your resume, or a cover letter, or your LinkedIn profile, and you’ve just NOT applied for dozens of jobs. You’ve probably emotionally drained yourself, which will lead to despair and more missed opportunities. That’s probably your biggest enemy. You might want to consider using CVmaker to save time, stress, and to create a professional CV effieciently.

Want to learn more about how to Get Unstuck? Consider signing up for my online course, or buy my latest book here.

I call this “misplaced effort,” and you probably see it all around you. At work. With your family. With that email you need to send your friend who might be mad at you. You’ve probably spent a week working on a presentation slide that everyone knew would get cut. Or a month worrying about a marketing meeting that lasted 10 minutes. Misplaced effort is the evil twin of opportunity cost. You want to eliminated it at all costs.

Back to Dr. Sullivan’s piece. He cites some really great eye-tracking studies, and I won’t steal his thunder here — you should read it at But the basics are simple: recruiters get hundreds of resumes for every opening, and sorting through them is a terrible job. Say you have a pile of 250. Even if you spend only 6 seconds looking at each one (and one second turning the page), you’ll spend nearly half an hour on that one pile. You resume writers need to keep that in mind.

So, what do hiring folks do when they look at resumes? They GLANCE at job titles, where you’ve worked, start/end dates, and education. Then move on. So, keep in mind these two things:

1) Make those items as clear, convincing, and find-able as you can

2) Don’t torture yourself over deciding between verbs like “launched,” “mentored,” and “improved.” Focus on getting ‘er done.

(Ok, everyone likes word suggestions, so here’s one set of them. But remember, as soon as they land on a list like this one at Forbes, they become cliches. )

Also keep in mind that resumes start pouring in only seconds after jobs are posted online, and while there’s no guarantee that a fast response is better, you certainly don’t want to delay for a few days of wordplay and end up at the bottom of the pile.

I am not talking about being careless. Misspellings are often a death knell to resumes. I am talking about putting effort and possible results into appropriate balance.

That leads to one important caveat: In truth — you all know this but it bears repeating — job hunting is about who you know. Networking is a much more effective way to get a job. It’s not always possible, and it’s not the only way, but it’s the best way, particularly when there’s hundreds of resumes for every job. Go to industry events, chat with Facebook friends, ask all your friends for help, and talk, talk, talk.

When you finally get a hot lead (“Sure, send me your resume”), now you should obsess a little. A custom resume is a must. Find out all you can about the person and the job. Fine-tune your experience to fit what the firm needs. Don’t lie, but do “frame.” If you are struggling with writing a resume you feel you’d be proud of, it wouldn’t hurt to check out someone resume templates, just so you have some guidance when it comes to creating your own. Do a little social media research to see what this person’s out-of-work interests are, and see if you can make a match. (Oh, you sing in a church choir, too?) I’ve spent much more time in most job interviews talking about my hobbies than my experience.

Above all, even when you feel a little desperate — especially when you do — avoid the misplaced effort trap. Focus on the really important things, break your own perfectionism cycles, and get moving.

Want to learn more about how to Get Unstuck? Consider signing up for my online course, or buy my latest book here.

About Bob Sullivan 1444 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.