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Get Noticed in Six Seconds

By Kip Carlson

Six seconds – that’s how long you have to make a great first impression on an employer.

And you’re not even in the same room with them.

Studies indicate that employers scan a resume for about six seconds before deciding whether it represents a potential employee or goes into the recycle bin.

That’s not a lot of time to convey what you have to offer.

Here are some simple things to keep in mind that will help your chances of being positively noticed:

Bullet Points, not Paragraphs

In six seconds, an employer isn’t going to be reading an entire paragraph to find what they want. Put your entries in the form of bullet points instead of paragraphs. These help make the words tying you to the job stand out more during that quick glance your resume will likely get on its first review by an employer.

For example, some bullet points from Superman’s resume:

Faster than a speeding bullet;

More powerful than a locomotive; and

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The Personal Statement/Objective

Many resume templates begin with an Objective or Personal Statement section, which often take the form of a paragraph – and we’ve already discussed this as something to avoid. You can find advice both urging and discouraging use of either of these. But if you do opt to include one or both, remember to keep them short.

A thought on the Objective: If we’re honest, our objective is to find “a job doing what I love, working the hours I want to work, and making a lot of money.” However, that’s not what the employer wants to hear, and your resume is all about showing what you can do for the employer. So start talking here about how you’re going to make them better.

If you can work the word ‘contributes’ into your objective, you’ve flipped it from being about you to being about them … something like: “A position using my skills and experience that contributes to friendly, efficient customer service at an outstanding credit union.”

Your goal is to get them thinking quickly about what you can do for them.

Skills & Qualifications

Often, job seekers will simply start their resume with their Experience section and their most recent job, then go through each job they’ve had. If you do this, you’re making potential employers pick their way through all of your information to find what fits you to their open position; they may or may not have time to do this.

Instead, start with a section labeled “Skills and Qualifications.” This lets you list anything in your background that they’re asking for in their job posting, and they’re going to see it right away. Think about putting in not just the common skills often sought – detail-oriented or good communications skills come to mind – but also computer programs they want the person to be familiar with, any license or certifications that are required or preferred, etc.

Adverbs & Adjectives

Create a better picture of your abilities. Using a phrase such as “thoroughly, consistently detail-oriented” is going to evoke a much more positive image than just “Detail-oriented” when an employer scans your resume. It’s a simple, effective way to enhance the first impression you’re making.

Relevant Experience

Rather than lumping all your work and volunteer experience into one section, break those entries into “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience” sections.

“Relevant Experience” should include only those jobs and volunteer positions whose duties were related to the work for which you are applying. Place the “Relevant Experience” section immediately below the “Skills and Qualifications” section so employers will quickly see the work you’ve done that matches what they are seeking. That way, they don’t have to sort through every position you’ve ever had looking for evidence you’ve done the work they have available.

The Career Services staff has basic resume templates available; they are Word documents available to all Chemeketa students and graduates. If you’d like a copy, e-mail and we can send them as attachments.

For more tips on completing resumes or reviews of resumes, make an appointment to see a Career Services staff member for one-on-one help. Appointments can be made on ChemekNet or by visiting our office.

Career Services is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in Bldg. 2-115.

Kip Carlson is a student employment specialist at Chemeketa’s Salem campus.

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