“Do you know how much time an HR person normally spends reading a resume?” career coach Win Sheffield asked me during my phone conversation with him.
“I’ve heard it goes really quickly. So maybe 30 seconds?” I said.
“It’s usually between five and ten seconds,” he said.
Oh wow, that is daunting.
It is daunting because it’s really hard to catch people’s attention within such short period of time. You want your personality to shine through, and you also want your splendid experience to become the center of your resume. Because each company and each HR manager are looking for different qualities in a resume, your hours of preparation behind that 5-10 seconds resume screenings can add up to 5-10 hours, not knowing what your chances are.
While there is no perfect resume template out there, there are common resume pitfalls you should always avoid, and resume tips always worth considering. Below is some of the advice Sheffield shared with IntroAmerica. Are you ready?
Q: When students don’t have enough experience, what could they put on the resumes to convince potential employers?
A: In most working people’s careers, you’re going to change jobs and industries. So each time you come into a new job or a new industry, you don’t have any experience in that job or industry. It’s the same with the students. But why do people get hired anyway? They get hired because what they do have is skills and abilities which they’ve been developing over their school career before.
For example, if you’re a journalist, you might have been asking questions and looking into things from a very early age. That is a key skill. You can tell people about times when you looked into something in-depth, and discovered an answer. That will tell them you have some of the skills that are needed to be a journalist.
So what you have to do as a student is to take the experience you have, and discover where it might be relevant to something you want to pursue.
Q: What are the key elements in an effective resume?
A: The two audiences your resume needs to speak to are: HR and the hiring manager. HR might not know a lot about the job. They need to know your past experiences, your education history, and they need to see whatever you can put down such as skills and interests. The hiring manager needs to see that you can get things done, and that you’re the right person for the job. An effective resume should therefore include information that conveys that. (A resume writing guideline is provided courtesy of Sheffield at the end of this article.)
Probably HR is the first person who screens your resume, and once your application gets passed from the HR, the hiring manager will take over. That’s usually what happens in a job application process.
Q: For students and recent grads, which comes first on your resume—education or working experience?
It depends on how impressive your working experience is, and impressive your school experience is. For example, if you have an MBA from a top school, you might want to put that upfront. However, once you have more than five year’s professional experience, you really do have to put your work experience on top.
Q: How can a LinkedIn resume be different from a print resume?
With LinkedIn, you only have the ability to put on one profile. So you want to put something that is appealing to a large audience. With a resume, you can tailor it to specific jobs or employers’ needs.
Q: What are some of the additional tips you’d offer to foreign job hunters (a.k.a. people who need visa sponsorship in order to work in the U.S.)?
One of the things you do want to put down is your visa status if you are not a citizen or green card holder.. Some employers are happy to sponsor your visa, and some are not.
(Wouldn’t this decrease the chance of a foreigner getting hired? Because if one does not put down the visa status, one might get an interview and convince the employer they are good hires.)
If it’s a bigger company that is used to sponsoring people, you may be right. If your current visa allows you to work in the U.S., you can put down something like “authorized to work in the U.S.” If you don’t put that down and somebody sees for example a Chinese last name or they get the idea you are not from the U.S., they may worry. The moment they worry, they may put the resume in the trash can.
In addition, Sheffield mentioned that different industries may have different preferences in terms of resume style, typography, and overall design. “A resume sent to a law firm may look very different from the one sent to an advertising agency, for example.” Also be sure that you pay attention to the font size and spacing in your resume— a font size smaller than 10 can be deemed less preferable to read.
(Featured image source: businesswolf.org)
Sheffield has kindly shared with IntroAmerica his resume guidelines. You can download it here. To attend his free career coaching sessions in New York, please visit Win Sheffield’s website for the event calendar. Also check out on the site- the verbal resume called the “elevator pitch”.