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The secrets behind a perfect resume

By Evan Moore

For Plainsman Online

Imagine that you’re called into an interview for a complete rundown of who you are and you have only six seconds to do it.

That’s six seconds for an employer to ascertain your job history, accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, and character to see if you’re fit for the job. 

Would that interview seem fair to you? Of course not.

Yet, according to an eye tracking study done in 2012 by professional career site, Ladders, Inc., six seconds is the average time a recruiter spends looking at each resume. In 2018, the same company did another study in which the results were slightly higher, clocking in at just 7.4 seconds. That’s less than 10 seconds for an employer to make a decision about you. 

With time against you, do you think you could make it?

Wait a moment. An interview is not the same thing as a resume. Or is it?

Ben Alexander, the executive director of the Lubbock Center and Workforce Development at South Plains College, says, “What is a resume?  It is a picture on paper of who you are that hopefully invites an employer to want to know you a little bit better.”

Alexander is a 15-year veteran in the hiring field who says he has looked at quite a few resumes.

“The do’s are to stay professional,” Alexander says.  “The don’ts are don’t try to get too elaborate. Just stay very basic.”

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In fact, Ladders Inc. echoes the same advice.  It says resumes that feature basic layouts, with simple, organized sections and headings succeed, while resumes with cluttered layouts, multiple columns and long sentences do not. A lack of section or job headers also turns off recruiters.

Even though Alexander says basic is best, he adds that you shouldn’t be afraid to really highlight your accomplishments on your resume. 

“Brag about who you are,” he says. “Brag about your accomplishments to others to give them an idea that you have a skill, or you have knowledge that they may desire.”

Customizing or aiming your resume to fit the job you’re applying for, Alexander adds, isn’t a bad suggestion either.

 “If I’m looking at a particular job posting, and it sounds like I’ve done the research and customize the resume to that particular job then I’m not scatter shooting,” he says.

But resumes aren’t exactly easy to put together. Creating something simple that puts who you are on paper can be stressful.   So how do you get started?

Christa Henley, an advisor at the Levelland campus of South Plains College, says using Career Coach on the SPC webpage that features a built-in resume builder can be very helpful.

 “It really helps students not only figuring out which career path they want to take and programs we offer at South Plains College,” she says, “but also helps them create that resume.”

Henley says students can make an appointment with the Advising Center to help them get started using the program.  She, or another advisor, can help answer questions such as where to click or where to enter information.

“So when students first initially go into Resume Builder,” Henley says, “they can enter their personal information. Then you can start adding your work experience.”

 She adds that the program will even help students find the right words to describe tasks they might have done while on a job.

The biggest takeaway with the resume builder, Henley says, is for students to not only use the resources, but also reach out to an advisor who can review the resume with them.  She says the finished resume might need some grammatical editing or other fine tuning before it’s given to an employer.

So, what is it about your resume that might make a potential employer toss your life’s work away in 7.4 seconds?

  “Missed words, bad grammar,” says South Plains College Professor Janna Holt-Day.  She has been teaching resume writing as part of her Business and Professional Speech class for 30 years.

 “I had someone say that they were a psychology major and had experience in psychology,” she says, “and every single time they typed the word, it was misspelled. You know for sure that person’s resume and cover letter is going to go straight into the trash.”

Holt-Day suggests being thorough with the information on your resume.

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  “Don’t let there be a gap in employment or educational history,” she says, “because that’s going to be a red flag for a potential employer.” 

Another key point, according to Holt-Day, is to pay attention to the cover letter that goes along with your resume.  She says to be sure, especially on a cover letter, that you spell the name of the place and the person you’re sending it to correctly.  

Although it may be tempting to force as much information as possible on to one resume page, Ladders, Inc. tells job seekers not to do it.  Instead, keep it short.  Also, use bold type for certain sections and job titles that will make it eye-popping.

Writing a resume is something that takes time and patience. But by taking the right advice, you can increase the likelihood of landing the job you want.  And the more time you put into it, the farther those 7.4 seconds will go.

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