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Upgrade Your Resume

5 Resume Secrets That Give You an Edge

Step inside a hiring manager's head

It doesn't take long to leave an impression: Recruiters and hiring managers spend an average of 6 seconds reviewing a candidate's resume before they make an initial assessment, according to a recent study from the job-search website TheLadders. 

Six seconds.

Now that you’re done shaking your head, give you resume a 6-second look and ask yourself what you took away from it.

If you scan documents like the majority of hiring managers, your eyes moved over your resume in an F-shaped pattern, finds a study from the research and consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group. That means you probably read all of the top one or two lines, the first few words of the next lines, and very little of the bottom portion apart from section headlines. And knowing that, you can rework your resume for better results, the study authors say. 

First of all, your most impressive and relevant accomplishments need to find their way into the top-left portion of your C.V., the researchers advise. Applying for a sales job? Consider a headline like “Award-Winning Sales Experience” for the career portion of your resume. Right away, you’re announcing to the hirer that if he keeps reading, he’ll see something impressive. You could even begin your resume with one or two bullet points highlighting your greatest professional feats. Just get the good stuff up top and to the left, the study suggests. 

Here are four more gems to help you spit-shine your resume:

1. Drop in an achievement stat between your former employers’ names and the dates you worked for them, TheLadders study suggests. Hiring managers spend a big chunk of those 6 seconds looking at who you worked for and how long you were with them. So force employers to read about your successes by wedging them into that portion of your resume. For example: 

ABC Labs, New York, NY  - Awarded Chairman’s Chemist Honor 2008 to 2013

2. Emphasize numerical rankings if you’re part of an elite list, says Mathew S. Isaac, Ph.D., of the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University. We’re talking “Top 10” or “Top 25.” Such rankings are inherently impressive and eye-catching. Just make sure you’re not on the outside of a round number. For example, mentioning you’re #11 or #6 will give the resume reader the impression you failed to make it into the most-successful echelon. In both of those cases, it may be better to say you’re in the Top 15 or Top 10, Isaac suggests.

3. Don’t hide your time off after college. Employers will likely see this break as a sign of your “flexibility," a trait that’s especially valued in creative fields like entertainment, marketing, or architecture, says study coauthor May Ling Halim, Ph.D., of California State University, Long Beach. 

4. Present your accomplishments in the simplest, most-flattering context, urges a study from the University of California, Berkeley. For example: If you grew your team’s profits by 10 percent in an industry that averages just 2 to 3 percent growth, don’t assume the interviewer will figure that out. Instead, point out that you “tripled the average growth rate”, the research suggests. On the other hand, if you achieved 30 percent growth in an industry that averages 50 to 60 percent improvement, leave out the context. “Play up the interpretation that shows you in the most favorable terms,” advises study coauthor Samuel Swift, Ph.D.

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