First thing to know is employers easily receive 80-100+ applicants for any given job ad. I say this not to scare you, it’s simply to help you understand that there is a good amount of competition and why you need to do your best to stand out right off the bat with your cover letter and resume.
What almost all (smart) employers will do with the resumes they receive is take a quick 10-30 second scan of the whole resume first to get an overall impression without investing much time in each initially.
When I’ve been on hiring committees, I do the quick scan & divide the resumes into 3 “piles”:
1) “YES!” – I like what I see right off the bat, and I want to read in more depth to decide on interview candidates (see my post Getting Your Resume to the Top of the Yes Pile)
2) ‘Maybes….’ – I’m iffy on this one for some reason (it’s either lack luster & doesn’t stand out, or maybe lacks 1—2 key skills we want, but are not requirements.) I’d return to these resumes if I didn’t find enough to interview in the ‘yes’ pile and/or to keep if my ‘yes’ candidates don’t work out
3) ‘NO.’ I’ve spotted something that immediately gives me reason to disqualify the candidate or just a big red flag or turn off of some sort. (see my past blog post 3,741 Things to NOT Do on a Resume) Recycle. Trash. NEXT!
So what am I, and most resume readers/hiring managers
looking at and evaluating in that first scan through?
We’re on the alert for:
Skills match: How easily can I see that you fit all the requirements, and all or most of the ‘preferred’ skills and experience listed in the ad?
Professional look and ‘feel’: Is it easy and appealing to look at, scan and eventually read? We’re not really evaluating it so much as just noticing and being influenced by how it looks and feels without even reading any of the content. Does it look clean, crisp, professional & balanced? (not too dense, packed with too many words, or too much formatting like overuse of bold, underlining, CAPS; are the margins reasonable, or too wide; are there long lists of bullets, run-on wordy sentences, and/or mega-paragraphs only (all bad). Things like that feed into the overall impression right away
Quality of Content: Yes, even in a quick look we can see whether your resume content reads like a job description (just the basics) or is there something interesting and compelling being shared (specific ways you contributed in past jobs, honors/recognition/accomplishments, etc.) This has to do with both your formatting (does it stand out?) and language use (is it clear and concise? Verbose? Are your action verbs and key words obvious?)
Reasons to say “No”: Employers HAVE to eliminate large amounts of applicants – so it onlymakes sense to scan for any big ‘red flag’s’ or no-no’s (such as: blatant and/or repeated typos or other evidence of a lack of quality & attention to the resume; real oddities (see my blog post You Must Be Joking! Real Examples from Real Resumes for sad but amusing examples); really outdated or unprofessional style such as writing in first person “I did thus & so”, “My management style is…”; including personal information (Married, 2 kids, 1 dog, hobbies: golf & bird watching). These sorts of things are just begging to get you in the “NO pile” right off the bat!
How does your resume stand up to the 10 Second Scan?
Including it’s “10 second scan” first impressions (
AND how to make improvements to ‘get in the YES pile?” <<—