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The 6-second resume screen and beyond — how to guarantee you will get the job

James Clift | October 7, 2015

It’s well known fact that recruiters spend on average 6 seconds initially reviewing a resume. This 6 seconds is when a recruiter will make the decision whether you will move forward in the hiring process. Not to be overly dramatic, but that 6 seconds can change your life.

If you make it past the first screen your odds increase dramatically. This article will show you how to first beat the 6 second test, and then once you do how to guarantee you’ll get the job.

Here are 5 must-do’s when applying for any job.

Be a good fit for the job

Obvious advice, but this truth is unfortunately ignored by many job seekers. If you’re not qualified for the job, you will not be successful in the traditional application process. This isn’t to say that you can’t get a job you’re unqualified for — but you’ll need to do it through non-traditional ways.

If you’re not satisfied with the opportunities you have, the job search is good opportunity to decide if it’s time to upgrade your skills or even switch industries.

Apply to fewer jobs

Don’t bother applying to jobs that you’re not excited about.

Life is too short . This doesn’t mean that you need your dream job right away — but make sure that you’re aware of how your next job will impact your career trajectory. You could be excited about the product, the team, the money, or the skills you’ll learn — but make sure it’s something!

If you’re excited about the opportunity, you’ll spend more time applying and do a better job of it. Simply sending your resume to hundreds of open jobs is a waste of both your time and the company.

Extensively research the company

Taking the extra time to research the company is your best weapon. You’ll get an idea of their products, their culture, and their values. This information will be extremely valuable when customizing your resume for the job and writing a cover letter. In the interview stages, it becomes even more relevant.

Here is a list of what to research

  • The company website
  • News articles and press releases
  • The company’s products. If it is software, sign-up or watch a demo. If it is a physical product, go to a store and give it a try.
  • Interviews with any key team members (Try a Youtube Search)
  • Team members social media profiles

This will give you a TON of data on what the company culture is like, and help you get a better idea of what exactly they’re looking for.

Customize your resume (and cover letter)

A well-designed resume will outline your skills, experience, and how it relates to the job. Customize your resume for each job application, and use keywords from the job description to increase your chances at an interview.

The initial resume review involves recruiters pattern-matching — looking for similarities between the job description and your resume. Make their job easy. According to The Ladders’ famous resume study, recruiters spent almost 80% of the time looking at:

  • Candidate name, current title, and company
  • Previous title and company
  • Start and end dates for current and previous positions
  • Education

“Beyond these data points, recruiters did little more than scan for keywords to match the open position, which amounted to a very cursory pattern-matching activity” said researchers from the study.

Never apply to a job with your LinkedIn profile — It is too general, and doesn’t outline exactly what you bring to the table specifically relating to the position.

The same advice applies to your cover letter. Adapt your cover letter to the company’s style, using information you learned in your research process.

Get a warm referral

Contact someone relevant at the company for an informational interview where you can learn more about the position, impress the right people, and increase the odds of your resume getting a second look.

Search on Data.com or LinkedIn to find someone to speak with at the organization. Find their personal email address (don’t send an InMail).

Write a relevant email outlining why you’re interested in learning more about their company. If you show your passion for the job and ask great questions, you will get a response.

Following the previous 5 steps will give you the best opportunity to move forward in the hiring process. Now what? Here’s how to get the job after passing the initial resume screen.

Beef up your online presence

Once employers like your resume, they’ll dig deeper. This includes a second look at your resume and a Google search. Link to an online portfolio that showcases your top projects from your resume. Our data shows that people spend on average almost 4 minutes viewing an online portfolio — compared to a 6 second resume screen, it’s your best opportunity to make a lasting impression. You should also have a basic LinkedIn account, and Twitter profile. If you’re not planning to be active on Twitter, delete your account. Clean up your Facebook and Instagram accounts to make sure you don’t trigger any red flags. Red flags are anything stupid you’ve done in the past with picture evidence.

Prepare for the interview

Research is your best friend for interview preparation. Remember, if you’re getting a phone or in person interview — the employer is interested. Your hours of previous research will be extremely useful here. If you know the company, the product, and the people inside and out you will do well. A simple Google search will also help you find the most common interview questions — employers usually ask at least a handful of these. A pro interview tip we mentioned earlier is to watch any videos of people who will be interviewing you before the interview. Get an idea of their style, and try to emulate it. Same goes for the company style. Another trick is to get in touch with people who have interviewed there before and ask for any insight.

Close the deal

If you’re well prepared and confident going into the interview, you’ll nail it. And if you followed this process for multiple jobs, you’ll have multiple offers to deal with — and you won’t even feel the pressure.

Blost post author James Clift

About the author

James Clift

James is the CEO of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

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