What Does Your Resume Say in the First 10 Seconds?

Your resume’s first impression – the first ten seconds it is read – is critical to your job search.  No other point in a job search will have a greater impact in such a short time. 

The first ten seconds are critical because the first impression will drive the assessment of your resume.  Before the hiring manager begins to assess your potential, he needs to choose the assessment criteria.  This requires categorizing the resume very quickly.  The hiring manager will identify the job type, experience level and professionalism of the candidate and decide where in the company the candidate might fit.  The goal at this stage is to categorize the candidate.

To make this determination, the hiring manager will only read a small portion of the resume – the first line or two of the resume, the most recent job title and the first thing listed in the education section.  The hiring manager will also look at the overall presentation. 

This first assessment allows the hiring manager to decide how to assess the job seeker.  Like all first impressions, you can overcome a bad start, but it’s tough. 

The best first impression will present a professional image for the job you are seeking.  You want the hiring manager to immediately develop a basic understanding of who you are.  A lot of resumes create an impression that doesn’t match the candidate’s.  Some job seekers prioritize the wrong information on their resume leading to an impression that the job seeker is more or less qualified than they really are.  This is especially problematic if your career has followed a non-standard path. 

One of the most significant elements of your resume is the job title of your most recent job.  If this title is not representative of your background and potential, you risk making the wrong first impression.  To remedy this, you need to include information at the top of your resume to make the right impression.  Often a one or two sentence summary can make a huge difference.

There are two main problems with creating the wrong first impression.  First, you could be rejected before the hiring manager understands who you really are.  Many resumes get rejected in the first 15 to 30 seconds.  You need to make the right impression immediately.  Second, making the wrong first impression will make it more difficult for the hiring manager to assess your true potential.  Every second the hiring manager spends trying to figure out where you fit is time they are not spending looking at your potential.  The faster the hiring manager can decide how to assess your background the better your chances.

It is extremely difficult to assess the first impression of your resume by yourself.  You can’t make a first impression with yourself.  To assess the impression you are making, show your resume to someone that hasn’t seen it before.  Ask them for their first impression. 

You can also review the information the hiring manager will look at first.   If gave someone only the first two lines of your resume, your most recent job title and the first line of your education section, what impression would they get?  Is this the impression you want to give?