Tuesday, February 16, 2010

10 Ways To Manage Your Resume Real Estate

The real estate of your resume is one of the most important, and most over looked concepts of effective resume presentation. Most resumes I review have an antiquated notion, if any notion at all, about how use of real estate affects your reader’s impression of your qualifications.

First, what is resume real estate?

Resume real estate describes the use of space and placement on your resume. Not all spaces are created equal.

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Most candidates I advise use a resume that’s planned around being printed on paper. However, most interview decisions are made on a screen. This is a huge difference, because the human eye focuses on different information in the space of a screen, versus on paper.

Is your resume ever printed out? Sure, usually for review just before an interview, but most hiring managers typically make the interview decision from a resume they view on screen. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but let’s concentrate on how the majority of decision makers work, since it applies to the majority of candidates.

Back to real estate...

The average time a reviewer, recruiter or hiring manager spends reviewing a resume is 15 seconds (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/03/15-seconds.html), an often published and quoted statistic.

In an online resume and in 15 seconds, the human eye scans what’s on the screen…typically the top ½ of the first page. This is your most valuable resume real estate. Press the page down key. This is your next most valuable resume real estate, typically the second 1/2 of your first page.

Your goal is to get your reader to press page down...if you’re successful, you have your reader’s attention for more than 15 seconds, and increase your odds dramatically that you’ll get an interview.

If you haven’t captured your reader’s attention in the top half of your first page and convinced them to hit page down, you’re probably not getting an interview with this reader. So if all of the sizzle to your resume is on the second page, you are asking your reader to hit page down, twice, to get to the really good stuff that is relevant to the company. How likely is that, in 15 seconds?

Here are a few suggestions to maximize use of your resume’s real estate, and some traps to avoid:

  1. Small Headers - Use small headers and top margins. No one other than you needs to see your name in 24 bold font in flashing lights. The thinner you keep your top header, the more room you have to show your reader why they should hire you. Make your header 2-3 lines max in 10 font.
  2. Kill the summary - Avoid a summary and key accomplishments section at the beginning. These are seller’s pitch, and your reader doesn’t believe them. Your hiring manager believes the bullet points contained within your work experience. These are your features and benefits, and most corporate buyers make decisions based on features and benefits…not seller’s fluff.
  3. Personal Branding Statement - Instead of a summary, use a crystal clear, very concise personal branding statement (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-personal-branding-statement-can.html).
  4. Don't describe the company - Directly under your personal branding statement, list your experience. Don’t waste space describing your prior companies – your hiring manager isn’t hiring your past company…you are asking them to hire you.
  5. Minimize the unimportant - If your most recent experience isn’t relevant to the job you are applying for – minimize it, by only listing where and when you worked keeping it to a line or two. If you spent the past two years at a non-profit, and you are trying to get back into your prior technology industry, make sure to draw your reader’s eye to what’s relevant – your technology industry experience, by expanding the relevant experience.
  6. Maximize the important - Make the first three bullet points relevant to the specific company, department, and hiring manager. Do research (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/4-killer-ways-to-use-research.html) to determine what the most burning problems are, and demonstrate how you’ve already solved them. Emphasize the three things your reader is looking for on your resume (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/3-things-your-next-employer-will-search.html). Your reader’s attention will focus most on the first three bullet points.
  7. Use short bullets – no more than 2 lines. The human eye doesn’t scan detail in bullets longer than two lines. Use bullets, not paragraphs. The human eye doesn’t scan details well in paragraphs.
  8. Seal the deal - Use the second (and possibly third) page to seal the deal, to add additional evidence. If your reader has gotten to the second page, the interview is probably yours to lose.
  9. Death to zoom - Don’t Zoom. About ½ of the resumes I get are zoomed to 150%, because they were saved while in zoom mode. Most resume writers use zoom for final reviews, to make sure that typing and spacing is correct. If you save in zoom, the reader pulls up the document in zoom. At 150% zoom, the reader doesn’t see ½ the first page, they see ¼ of your resume, drastically cutting your most valuable real estate.
  10. Save as .doc – Most companies save resumes in word or text, and a good percentage haven’t upgraded to Office 2007 and the .docx extension. If you have Office 2007, save in 97-2003 compatibility mode. The majority of companies and recruiters want your resume in word format, not .pdf.

I get so many resumes from frustrated candidates that have their most compelling information that makes the candidate a good fit … on page 2. These same candidates couldn’t figure out why they weren’t getting interviews.

Has this given you any good ideas? How will you manage your resume’s real estate?

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