The 15 Second Resume

Fifteen Seconds. That is all the time your resume has in the spotlight before a recruiter or HR manager decides whether or not to look further at your resume. Fifteen seconds? People spend more than 15 seconds reading a fast-food menu! The pause between channel surfing clicks is at least 15 seconds! 15 seconds? That’s all you get.

So how can you be sure the person glancing at your resume recognizes the value in your rich and storied work experience? Pick up a couple of magazines and peruse the ads. You’ll see white space, varied font size and color, and precise, powerful language. Apply that to your resume, and you’ll improve your odds of going to the next round.

In their book on messaging and advertising, “Made to Stick,” Chip Heath and Dan Heath outline six key principles that make messages stick.

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

The Heaths wrote about advertising, but what’s a resume if not a slick advertisement for your skills and expertise? Check your resume for the same six qualities:

Keep it Simple: Include necessary, relevant information, but save the minute details of your everyday responsibilities for the interview. If your resume is fourteen pages, no one’s going to look past page one. Is your contact information easy to find?

Deliver the Unexpected: Stand out. Which accomplishments or activities set you apart from the competition? Every Accountant can reconcile a bank account; tell me how your reconciliation saved the company millions of dollars.

Use Concrete Language that connects to the job you want: This is about Search Engine Optimization. When you apply the word choices the company uses, your resume will more likely come up in an electronic search. Boldface type accenting relevant words and phrases a manager might be looking for will help the manager quickly make the connection between you and the job.

Be Credible: Tell the truth. This may not be a factor in the first round of resume reviews, but it will definitely matter later.

Emotions and Stories: Is your resume attractive to read? Does it tell a compelling, chronological story of your career thus far?


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