With the arrival of football season comes the fastpaced “two minute warning.” For those of you who are not familiar with this analogy, it is when there are two minutes left on the game clock — all the time remaining for the offensive team to score a touchdown. This same analogy can be equated to the amount of time a recruiter or hiring manager spends reading your resume to determine whether or not you are the right candidate for a job. Two minutes is even a little generous in some cases; one study conducted by TheLadders.com determined that it only takes a mere six seconds for a hiring manager to form an impression about a candidate’s resume. A six-second review of your resume is all that it takes to determine whether or not you are a potential candidate for your dream job. This alone should show you the importance of crafting a “winning” resume that scores you the “touchdown” of your next job.
In my profession, I often tell students and executives that if you were to ask ten different recruiters what they would like to see on a resume, you will probably receive ten different answers. What matters most in the eyes of recruiters and hiring managers are the keywords in your “playbook” and the “plays” you executed that led to touchdowns.
Keywords in Your Playbook
Keywords on a resume are an important factor for the determination of overall fit in a particular job. If your resume does not include keywords that mirror the job description, then that six-second resume review is sure to end there. One technique that is helpful in determining what is important for a particular job is to read the job description several times over, highlighting in color any repetitive keywords or phrases. Also important are those experiences that jump out at you where you know you have made a significant impact in previous roles. These words and experiences must appear on your resume.
Another great technique is made available by TagCrowd2, a web platform that visualizes word frequencies in any text, such as a job description, that you paste into its home page. It then creates a “word cloud” that identifies keywords by the number of times they appear. You can cut and paste a job description into the platform in an effort to recognize those keywords that are relevant to a particular job, thus providing you a clue as to what is important to them and what they hope to see on a potential candidate’s resume.
Imbedding action words (or verbs) within your resume is another important technique that cannot be overlooked. These words provide the reader with an idea of what you actually did in your job functions that goes above and beyond your overall responsibilities. Words such as analyzed, created, developed, improved, increased and researched are all examples of specific actions that will gain the attention of the reader.
Plays that Lead to Touchdowns
A recruiter can look at a job title on a resume and decipher your general responsibilities for that position. As a result, if all you are doing is listing your responsibilities, you’ve wasted space! What they like to see are your success stories as well as the impact you made within that function and how it positively impacted the company you worked for. They like to see the “plays” you made that led to “touchdowns.”
In business, this means utilizing certain parts of the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action and Result) within your resume in order to tell your story. I recommend defining the “Action” and “Result” of this method on your resume, which will ultimately show the impact you made.
Here is one example of an effective resume bullet point utilizing this method:
“Developed a territory management strategy for current and prospective clients by conducting customer-needs analysis and segment-prospect research (the “Action”), resulting in a 75 percent increase in client meetings and a 40 percent increase in sales year-over-year (the “Result”).
This is a powerful resume statement that communicates to hiring managers that you can do the same type of work and gain the same type of results at their companies. It encompasses key “action” words along with quantitative results that jump off the page in the eyes of a recruiter.
Landing your dream job is like winning the big game. But, in order to do so, you need a really effective game plan to compete with. By spending time on improving your resume with these tips, you will be ready for the big game.
CRAIG W. PETRUS joined the Hough Graduate School of Business in June of 2009. As Director, Craig is responsible for the day-today operations of Graduate Business Career Services and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the Hough Graduate School of Business at the University of Florida.