Before analyzing the details of state of the art resume building, a bit of context is in order. As a job applicant you need to know how the process really works to gauge your perfect resume’s chance of success.
Let’s take a quick quiz.
True or false?
1) Your resume took hours or maybe even days to write so it will get a careful look.
False: Even your visually appealing resume will get a quick glance. Some estimates put the average time spent on each resume in an initial screening at around six seconds.
2) You wrote a creative resume because it will be reviewed by someone who makes hiring decisions.
False: If you’re applying for work at a three-person operation, a decision-maker may well be on the front lines. Otherwise, your resume will be screened by a member of the support staff or by a contracted third party. While those people can’t decide to hire, they act as gatekeepers, determining which resumes move forward and which ones don’t. They often decide who not to hire.
3) At least your carefully edited resume will be reviewed by a human being.
False: Especially at larger companies, the blessings of automation often play a big part. Machines can screen resumes, looking for keywords. You don’t have the right keywords? Your resume joins the discards.
4) Your resume allows the reviewer to find the best candidate.
False: This is a fundamental disconnect between the candidate’s assumption and the employer’s process. “Best candidates” may emerge further down the line, but the first order of business is discarding resumes, finding the ones that are easy to reject.
5) If your resume is good enough, it will land you a job.
False: Nearly all job seekers soon discover that a great resume is not enough. Finding a job is about research and networking and putting yourself out there in a multitude of ways. It’s about interviews and follow-up. You need a great resume as part of the search, and it will always be asked for, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
The Resume’s Purpose
The overriding theme of my little quiz is that reviewing resumes, especially in the early stages, is not about deciding who to hire. It’s about culling the herd, about getting numbers down to a manageable size so that the rest of the hiring process can continue.
Do employers lose some potentially great hires in the process? Yes, but they’re willing to live with that. They’re not about to commit more resources to hiring or to spend more time reviewing applicants. If what they’re doing works “well enough,” they’ll leave it alone.
From this perspective, your job is to stay out of the discard pile or, harking back to the football analogy, to get 10 yards closer to the goal with a fresh set of downs. You can’t score a touchdown at this point. Your goal is to try to stay in the game.