Your resume makes an immediate first impression on your audience.
If your resume gets past automated pre-screening, your human audience reacts to your personal brand in two immediate ways. In the first 6 seconds of a visual review, your reader decides if you’re qualified or not based on gut feel (based on TheLadders recent heat mapping study). How could they have time for anything else in 6 seconds? Next, in the first 15 seconds, your audience decides if you’ll get an interview or not by a quick scan of what’s on your reader’s screen.
Because both decisions are made so quickly, they aren’t made on fact. These decisions are completely based on your reader’s perception, developed in less time than you’ve spent reading this short paragraph. So managing your resume’s personal brand is critical to passing both hurdles.
Unfortunately, our backgrounds, traditions, rules of thumb and intuitions about writing a resume were developed around paper resumes, not resumes read on screen (yes, even today, for you recent grads).
This is why most candidates have a rough time communicating a personal brand. In the past, your personal brand was the entire first page of your resume and that’s still pretty much what’s taught today. However, in today’s job market, recruiters, HR reps and hiring managers review resumes on screen, limiting the portion of your resume that’s seen in 15 seconds.
Most candidates try to communicate their personal brand in a way that ends up being clear as mud. It’s not intentional, but it’s difficult to brand yourself in 6 or even 15 seconds, when you’ve been taught that you’ve got the whole first page to do it?
The result most candidates use is to write summary sections, core skills tables, selected accomplishments that take up much of the first page. Most candidates try to stuff so much into their personal brand, trying to be all things to all people.
This creates an extremely confusing personal brand, often resulting in the appearance of a jack-of-all-trades/master of none with shallow knowledge in many different areas, but deep knowledge in none. Why would an employer hire you for many shallow areas of thin knowledge – that’s what Google is for and it’s free.
This type of confusion often makes it difficult for your audience to tell which job you’re applying for. How can they judge that you’ll be a superior candidate when they can’t see which job you want?
What’s a better way to have your resume brand you?
Be crystal clear.
One good way to get past the 6 second and 15 second pre-screen is to make an easy decision for your reader. By making it easier for them to see you’re qualified and superior you increase the odds that you’ll win the interview.
What Job? First, you’ll want your audience to clearly see which job you’re applying for. For example, listing a resume title (or objective) of Manufacturing Executive is so broad that no one can tell what job you’re applying for or what level you think is a fit. Instead, list the actual title of the specific job from the specific company that you’re applying for. Why make your reader’s guess?
What makes you superior? you need to explain exactly why you’re a superior candidate. Most candidates bury the reason they are a superior candidate for a specific job in the middle of many other skills, because they don’t know what’s truly important to the hiring manager. If you don’t know what’s important to a specific hiring manager before you send a resume, you guess (odds are you’re guessing wrong) or you scattershot (trying to hit the hiring manager’s needs somewhere within 50 or more key skills). Even if you’ve included the hiring manager’s needs within this list, how do you think it will be found in a 15 second scan?
Hiring manager’s priorities: If you first understand the hiring manager’s top 1 or 2 problems and priorities, you can brand yourself as having already solved similar problems – a very clear way to brand yourself as a superior candidate. So if a hiring manager is trying to cut costs, you might brand yourself as being an expert in cost cutting (if you’re in purchasing or finance) or process improvement (if you’re in manufacturing or IT).
Go take a cold, hard look at your own resume.
Is your resume like most of the others out there? Is it a deluge of information, hoping the reader picks up what’s important in a quick scan? Are you branding yourself through a mass of information, using a shotgun approach, assuming the reader will make interview decisions by reading every word of an entire page in detail? Are you guessing what’s important to your reader?
Or is your personal brand crystal clear to your reader? Can they see (in an instant) the exact job you’re applying for, that you’re a superior candidate and that you can help the hiring manager with his/her priorities?