The Six Seconds Rule
That’s how long—according to a study released by The Ladders, an online job matching service—that recruiters spend reviewing an individual resume. It was recently revised to 7.4 seconds.
Whatever. Whether your resume is scanned for six or sixteen seconds, you’ve got precious time to make a sellable impression.
So does anyone actually read resumes? Well yes and no. Let me be more specific.
It takes recruiters six seconds to decide if they want to read your resume—or if it has any interest whatsoever.
The first order of the day is to quickly get rid of all perceived non-qualified candidates. That’s the six seconds rule.
In spite of that, far too many job seekers reflect a naive belief that each and every word will be read by a Rational Reader.
Rational Readers are marked by receptive hearts, detached egos, and lots of free time. They are rarer than unicorns. I certainly have never met one.
But let’s first back up a bit and ask: What is the objective of a resume? If you answered ‘to get a job’, go to the back of the class. A resume has one single goal: to get an interview.
One you’re in the door, you get to fill in the dots…tout your experience…tell (some) of your life story, but you have to get invited in first. That’s what a killer Power Resume does.
Start with a Summary
So let’s start our Power Resume by getting rid of an obsolete technique: the “Objective Statement.” An objective states what you want—not what the employer needs. Your objectives or aspirations are only of interest to the hiring authority to the extent they correspond with what they’re looking for.
Summaries work better than objectives because they emphasize what you offer, not what you want. Focused summaries describe what you did…the skill set you used...the results you obtained. It gets an employer's immediate attention by focusing on their needs.
Let’s take a quick look. Here’s one summary style I find particularly effective:
This summary starts off with a title—targeted to the specific job opening—and a brief background statement of the types of experience you’ve had. No specifics yet; that will come.
Right underneath this, eight of your key skills are listed—put into two columns, this makes a good presentation format—that are applicable to the position. Why skills? Because skills are expertise…they’re transferable…they give the best prediction of your future performance to a hiring authority.
All purchase decisions involve risk. The hiring authority will be “buying you” in offering you a job. You want to reduce any perceived risk they may see. A skills-based approach is a great technique when you’re using experience from other industries to break into a new field…like English teaching.
We specialize in taking candidates with no specific job or industry experience and repositioning them as viable candidates with a TEFL teacher Power Resume. We’re particularly effective in repositioning non-native speakers into dynamic English teachers.
The next summary section summarizes results. Please note that we rarely use complete sentences in resumes. This is not a book—no one is going to read every word. Use phrases and bullet points to make more impact.
The mind…perceives info…and data…better…in fragments. Something like this:
Finally, just below those results, the employers can see your degree (if you have one) and that you’re qualified to teach English as a foreign language, i.e. you have a TEFL certification. Again, the details and dates will be shown at the end of the Power Resume.
Don't overload the summary. You simply want the employer to see your relevant background, teaching skills, results, the degree and your TEFL certification.
Your complete summary could look something like this:
Check, check and check…6 to 10 seconds. Congratulations. You’ve survived.
Think of all this in terms of a joust—where your resume is a battleground for a ritual skirmish. If you stay on your horse through the first scan, you'll get to the second round—an attentive reading. Survive all this, and you get to go to the castle and meet the princess.
The Experience Section
Welcome to the round two. Here list your previous positions, the organizations you worked for, where they are and dates you were with them on one line. Just below, on the second line, tell something about that organization. Here’s a couple of examples:
Do you know about Pobal? I didn’t. I’m guessing many readers will be like me.
Organization’s names are brands. They matter. Use them. Names carry clout the same way numbers do.
If where you worked before is relatively unknown, you can use an organization’s website, Facebook page or Wikipedia entry to create a great one-line description of who they are.
I call this the gravitas statement. Like gravity, it gives weight to all your subsequent experience. Working as a program manager at McFly’s Software Heaven is not the same as doing the same level job at Microsoft.
Imagine if George Washington’s resume simply stated: Played significant role in planning and implementation of major country.
Look at how we treated Hilton Hotels above. Such references can make an enormous difference in how you’re perceived and the quality of your achievements. If your company is more unknown, link to its website to give it greater credibility.
The complete entry for this experience point could look like this:
This guy is trying to land his first teaching job after completing his TEFL certification. If you were hiring an English teacher, do you see any transferable skills? Hmmm…he’s used music to promote a language. Hmmm…he’s taught both songwriting and a musical instrument. Are you starting to see something relevant here?
One more thing about experience. It’s not just the things you got paid for. Volunteer experience can also be highly relevant. How many new teachers list their “practicum’ portion of the TEFL training on their resume? Vantage candidates do!
This candidate taught at Pobal and enrollments levels increased. Do I smell the scent of success? He’s put the results in bold typeface. People that have success somewhere tend to repeat it elsewhere. This employer’s buying risk is decreasing.
Numbers talk in ways words can’t. They are quantitative and they show the magnitude of achievement. So a teacher’s resume could note that students’ test scores went up 22%.
When results can’t be quantified, qualified them, like this: “built relationships with parents.” Since parents are the real customers at most any school, most would-be teachers might want to find a way to include success bullets about them.
No Laundry Lists
Far too many resumes are just a list of what-they-did. For every action, there’s a reaction, so tell us what happened? If there are no results for a least some of your actions, you don’t have a Power Resume.
When you detail your experience, use Power Verbs to strike a blow for action and achievement: Manage. Execute. Analyze. Create. Organize. Formulate. Let the other wimp be the one who “aided,” “participated in” or “helped bring about.”
Most resume writers know that self-marketing resumes should not exceed two pages. Many, however, take this limit as an excuse to load up those two pages like a rush hour train. Using the first person, they try to cram in a detailed personal history, replete with pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses. Please, don’t do that.
You also don’t have to list every-single-thing-you’ve-ever-done. If you have a college degree, everyone will assume you've survived the sixth grade. While you’ll need to fill in any obvious gaps, your experience should be like the rest of this document: targeted. Keep it focused on that new teaching position you’re dreaming of.
Finally the third and final section has the bio-data details. It’s at the end for reason. Your summary had to get the employer’s attention in six seconds. Now that you’ve survived that first cut, and are now in the “re-read more carefully” phase, your bio-data details backs up the skills in summary and the results in your Experience section.
Here, in this final section, you’re going to put details and dates to your qualifications.
Pesky Personal Data
I tend to think anything that can be used to eliminate you as a job candidate should be excluded from a resume. Remember: our single objective is to get an interview. Anything that would result in you getting screened out, should probably be left off.
Having said that--in consideration of Thai traditions--you can see how we put those pesky personal details for one candidate:
Nationality: United Kingdom
Marital status: Single
Put these personal points at the end of your resume in the Bio-data section. Why? Because these are data points that buyers typically use to eliminate choices, i.e. you! The summary, which they'll read first, and the experience section with results where they'll spend more time reviewing, may get them interested enough to want to talk to you.
The one exception would be your photo. You can simply embed one next to your name at that top of the resume. No rookie mistakes here...have one that makes you look professional. Look like your arriving for your first day of work. After all, this is a brochure about you.
Putting it all Together
On the Power Resume Sample page, is a template example. It’s compiled from real resumes we’ve developed, but compiles experience from different trainees.
Your Power Resume should be unique. This example will give you the template, but you have to craft your own experience, skills and results onto the Power Resume format.
About the Author
Kevin Cullen is the Jobs Coach at Vantage TEFL Certification. His Power Resume has helped take him into diverse roles as a teacher, an oil executive, a corporate banker and a business owner.