We often read about the importance of elevator or thirty-second pitches – how we need to know our personal brand well enough to coherently communicate this vision to someone with whom we find ourselves on an elevator.  And while being able to verbalize your brand is critical, we also need to consider what our marketing materials say about us.  What kind of impression is your resume making to a recruiter?  Is the resume communicating your desired message a hiring manager?  If you are not sure, why not take the 15-Second Resume Test?

Ask your friends or colleagues for help.
Tell them you are going to give them a document to scan for 15 seconds. Do not mention that the document is a resume or that it is yours.  Hand them a copy of your resume with no header (name/contact information) to make it anonymous – at least initially. Allow your friend to read the document while you keep track of time.  After fifteen seconds take the resume from the reader – do not allow the reader to continue past 15 seconds.  Ask what your friend to tell you what he/she remembers about the document and record their comments.  Keep track of the comments and repeat this test with other friends at least 3 more times.

After a handful reviews, one usually discovers themes from the readers – the common comments tell you what are the most memorable parts of your resume.  In other words, this is what a recruiter is remembering about you, this is what you are promoting as part of your brand.  Now ask yourself if this is the most crucial information you want a hiring manager to remember about you?  If not, you have some work to do in crafting a document that communicates what you want an employer to remember.

So what should a resume communicate in 15 seconds?

  • Work experience for the past 7-10 years (less if a younger professional)
  • Level – are you senior executive, middle management, etc.?
  • What field/industry are you seeking employment?
  • Skills you can offer (technical, language, industry certifications – CPA, CFA)
  • Major accomplishments/tangible results

When crafting your resume, consider your brand and what you want the reader to remember about you and accentuate these pieces on your document.  Then, take the test; you may be surprised by what your resume communicates about you!


Kevin Monahan is the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Career Center.  In this role, he leads the center’s  employer relations efforts in addition to coaching young professionals in career management and career change capacities. He combines career consulting services with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituencies.  He is the author of the Career Seeker’s Guide blog.