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The #1 Rule of Resume Writing: Don’t Waste the Reader’s Time

Write a resume that clearly showcases your strengths and accomplishments, so your reader can quickly see the connection between your background and the company’s needs. Investing time upfront to present an organized, articulate resume that shows respect for your reader’s time is a great way to not only introduce yourself to your next employer but make an excellent first impression as well!

Stephanie Meehan
Stephanie Meehan

Why would you spend days and weeks writing and revising your resume, only to have people spend less than a minute reading it?

Research shows the time hiring managers spend on the initial screening of a resume is less than one minute. But in reality, it’s more like 6-10 seconds.

Since most hiring managers are speed readers, your objective is to create a resume that can be read quickly.

But first, it’s helpful to consider what makes a slow read (or a never read)…

Slow Read: No one reads long paragraphs anymore. Long bullet lists are difficult because it’s hard to scan a long list quickly. Likewise, too much bold, all caps, centered text, fancy fonts and multiple font sizes all create barriers between you and your reader.

So, what makes a quick read?

Quick Read: Doing your homework upfront and being strategic about your introduction will help you connect with your reader right away.

Let’s dive into the details:

  • Executive summary:  Your resume is your marketing brochure. To write the summary, you have to articulate the skills and benefits you bring to the marketplace. This section gives direction to the whole document and piques the reader’s interest in the experience and accomplishments laid out below.
  • Don’t save the best for last: Are some of your key accomplishments buried at the end of page 2 – MBA, Retail Link, fluent Spanish, awards? Try mentioning them in your summary.
  • Keywords: This is not just about you. It’s about your skills and experience in relation to a company’s needs. Study job descriptions to identify keywords for roles you’re targeting. Hiring managers use software to search their database for resumes with those keywords.  
  • White space: White space gives your resume a modern look and makes your message feel more approachable. Without enough white space, readers think, “Too wordy.”
  • Bold: Do you have signature projects that define your brand? Try using bold sparingly to highlight your results. Speedy readers will focus in on that bit of bold print.
  • Small bites:  A great guide for resume format is the 5-5-2 rule: No more than 5 lines to a paragraph, a maximum of 5 bullets in a list, and no more than 2 pages. Too much to say in 5 lines? Break your paragraph in 2. Text running onto page 3? Condense early career.

In summary, NEVER assume people will read to the end of your document, much less read between the lines or try to read your mind.