What you can spot in a resume in 11 seconds

Hiring Advice Recruitment Challenges Man looking at a resume

Hiring managers have a job to do: fill positions. It’s not always an easy task, particularly the part where you have to sift through hundreds of resumes.

According to our latest report Thinkopolis IV: Time to Work, employers search the Workopolis database 16,000 times a day looking at candidate resumes – each search resulting in multiple resume views. Many more thousands of resumes are also submitted in online job applications. Workopolis can see in real-time how long employers spend on each resume page before saving it or moving on.

Nearly 80 per cent of resumes don’t make the first cut. Recruiters shortlist an average of two out of every ten resumes viewed, and that decision happens quickly. Nearly 60 per cent (59 per cent) of employers spend just 11 seconds or less on the resume page before either saving or downloading it, or moving on.

Resumes that are shortlisted by employers are viewed for 25 per cent longer than those that are immediately passed over. Even those resumes that are selected have very little time to make an impression.

Are you making the most of those 11 seconds? Just to be sure, here are the five most important things you can spot in a resume in 11 seconds.

Clear, organized formatting: If the resume is clearly and concisely laid out so that you know what you’re looking at, that’s a good sign. A cluttered layout could indicate a cluttered mind, which doesn’t bode well. Unless maybe the position you’re filling is mad scientist.

Short sentences and bulleted lists for maximum readability indicate a more organized mind.

A compelling summary: You don’t care what a candidate is looking for. You care what they can do for you. A resume that starts with an “objective,” like “Obtain a sales position at a dynamic company where I can utilize my skills and experience…” suggests the candidate doesn’t understand this.

On the other hand, “Experienced retail sales professional with excellent customer service skills and record of increasing revenue…” shows promise.

Relevance: If you’re looking for a product manager and the summary says “marketer” or “educator” there’s a good chance the candidate isn’t a good fit. Further down, do the jobs listed in the experience section reflect something similar to the title of the job you’re filling? Good.

Action words: Words like “improved,” “increased,” “created,” “launched” all indicate that the candidate has added value to organizations and has the stories to back it up.

Conversely, terms like “hard worker,” “results driven,” “team player” and “detail oriented” show you nothing of use.

Spelling mistakes and typos: Honestly, I don’t believe you need to always reject someone on the basis of a typo – as so many employers do – but if the whole thing is a complete mess, you’re probably best to toss it.

Missing chronological dates: If the candidate hasn’t listed their work history in reverse chronological timeline form, you should wonder why.

Everyone knows that the way a resume works is with work history listed in reverse chronological order. Everyone. If a candidate doesn’t do this, you have to wonder why. Do they not know better? Are they trying to be cute? Or maybe they’re hiding something, like a large gap in work history, a firing, or a stint in the big house.

This usually happens on a “functional resume,” also known as a resume created to mask a lack of experience, and is not a good sign.

All of these things can tell you in 11 seconds (or so) whether a candidate is worth more of your time.

Granted, they might be able to grab you further down the page. But who has time for that?