When you write your resume (with or without advice and professional help), who’s your target audience? Who are you trying to satisfy?
First, you’re not writing your resume to satisfy yourself. For that matter, you’re not writing it to satisfy any “expert,” the author of the resume book you just read, the recruiter you’re working with, your career guidance counselor, your cousin Fred who’s a human resources manager, or even a professional resume writer.
You’re writing your resume for a particular kind of reader: a potential employer. And if you’re like most of us, you make some very, very optimistic assumptions about that reader. You’re certain that your reader is eager to find the best person for the job. You’re confident that your reader is going to see the important things in your resume, and that his or her eye will be drawn to all of those clever formatting tricks you’ve used (columns, underlining, different fonts, boldfacing, italics, strong verbs, skills, numbers, results, etc.).
But you’d better take off the rose-colored glasses. Your resume has a better than 98 percent chance of ending up in the garbage can (real or virtual). To increase the odds that yours won’t end up there, here are seven characteristics you should know about the psychology of the typical resume reader.
1. Resume readers are some of the smartest and most skeptical readers in the world. They know that at least half of what they read consists of lies, exaggerations, half-truths, and semantic and formatting tricks. They don’t accept anything at face value. Remember, the typical resume reader sees literally thousands; they know every trick in the book by now.
2. Most readers are in a bad mood, not a happy mood of eager expectancy. They’ve got 300 resumes to read, and nobody is giving them an extra penny to carefully peruse each one. They’re rushed for time, annoyed at having to read yet another resume, and hostile rather than sympathetic. Reading your resume is a burden that’s keeping their attention from what they consider much, much more important matters.
3. Therefore, the typical resume reader is looking for a quick and convincing reason to throw yours out. Some will even discard it if they don’t like the envelope or the way the email looks. Some will read only the resume and not the cover letter, or vice versa. And they’re unwilling to open up a zip file. You know how annoying it is to get an email that requires you to open up several files; for the resume reader, it’s triply annoying.
4. They are unimpressed by the latest resume fad. For a long time, it was (and largely still is) using strong verbs. Since a verb is an action word, we think readers will be impressed by lots of great verbs. They’re not. Another big craze is numbers. Some experts say that you’ve got to have lots of quantitative data in your resume, or no one will take you seriously. I see resumes now that are nothing but a bewildering array of numbers, and I don’t believe it’s any more impressive to the typical resume reader than is a bewildering array of verbs.
5. None will read it in detail; that we all know. All will skim-read it for about twenty seconds or less. They are looking for certain information first, to see if the resume is worth reading in more detail. Usually they look for job titles and academic degrees first. Some look first for gaps in employment, some for certain skills, and some for length of employment. Each reader has his or her own top priority to scan for first. And even if she reads it in detail, she’ll give it to five other people who will skim it.
6. Most readers know that their company is in no hurry to hire. Even if they are interested in you, they will take their time responding. They are not interested in calling you back right away, even if they like your resume.
7. They are not interested in your personal objectives for your life and your career. They are only interested in how you can help their company solve its problems and achieve its goals—that’s why they hire. But they are totally unaware of your unique strengths and value that you can potentially bring to the organization. That’s because in most resumes, the person’s unique strengths and potential value are buried somewhere in the middle of the resume and not written for a skimmer/reader.
So, when you write your resume (or have anyone else help you write it), keep the above characteristics in mind. You have to give your reader 1) what she’s looking for FIRST, and 2) what you want her to find FIRST. That means that you cannot emphasize everything equally in your resume. You have to write it so that she sees her priorities and yours instantly. Make sure to keep that in mind, and you’ll have a much better chance of having your resume taken seriously.
Originally published on New Grad Life