Resumes & Cover Letters

Optimize Your Resume for an 8-Second Skim

optimize resume
Written by Peter Jones

You’ve put all this time and effort into your resume. It reads like a perfectly crafted, grammatically perfect dream from the header to the footer. Trouble is, most recruiters and hiring managers will spend approximately 8 seconds perusing your treasured document.

The trick is figuring out—in addition to making a quality document through and through—how to make sure whoever glances at your resume gets a great impression, and quickly. Here are a few tips for how to pass the dreaded 8-second skim test.

Use keywords like a pro.

Load that baby up with as many choice keywords as you can. You better believe the recruiter is spending most of those 8 seconds skimming for precisely those words that matter most to their search. Make it easy for them. Don’t forget to pepper in specific technical skills and knowledge set phrases particular to the job description.

Lead with your best.

When you’re bulleting your accomplishments, make sure to put the most impressive ones at the top of your list. Imagine a recruiter reading only one bullet per section! Make that bullet count.

Make smart formatting choices.

Looks are almost as important as content. Don’t make your print smaller than size 11, or you’ll make your recruiter spend valuable seconds squinting at your document. And keep everything in the same font/size. Align your text to the left and your dates to the right. Don’t justify so you avoid any unsightly gaps. Bold either your roles or the companies you’ve worked for to make them more eye-catching. And remember: using all CAPS makes text harder to read. Be consistent with your formatting for an easy read.

Keep it brief.

Keep your bullets short and sweet. Make your language hyper-economical. Remember that skimmers are likely to read the first 5 words of every sentence or bullet. Put the full force of your attention there. Use numeric digits instead of spelling out numbers—it’s more eye catching and saves space.

Leave a little blank.

Any art student will tell you that a little negative space can affect the way we look at things. Don’t be afraid of a little blank white space. It will help your text to flow.

Create a skills box.

Yes, you’ve detailed all or most of these skills in separate subsections anyway, but it never hurts to recap them in a skills box to help the recruiter extract the right information and walk away with what you need them to know.

Make a top heavy document.

Some readers won’t skim the whole document but will concentrate their skimming on the top half. Make sure all your biggest achievements and fanciest skills or experience are detailed there. Save the bottom half for the older or less impressive content.

About the author

Peter Jones