Gone in 30 Seconds

Employment Matters column, i711.com

Imagine you are a manager. Someone on your team has moved, leaving a hole you must fill by hiring a replacement. The position pays well, and you get resumes from over 200 people. Now, in addition to doing all of your regular work, you must plow through that stack of resumes to find the person who will be your next team member. How are you going to do it?

You have one position and 200 applicants. While you are ultimately looking for someone to hire, to get there you must first eliminate 199 others. So right from the start, the applicant’s first priority is to not get eliminated. How?

While the applicant has plenty of time to worry over and fine-tune every detail of a resume, a hiring manager doesn’t have the luxury of time to appreciate all the details.

It’s a bit like driving on a crowded highway looking for a particular type of car. Maybe you’re looking for a Chrysler Sebring convertible. You might see dozens of Chryslers, you might see four or five convertibles, you might even see a couple of Sebring convertibles. How much detail will you remember about the hundreds of other cars you looked at? Not much.

Clearly, people not truly qualified for a position will be the first to hit the circular file. If the job requires you have a degree, and you don’t – hasta la vista, baby.

But let’s say a large number of people are actually qualified, and you’re one of them. How much time do you have to stand out in the crowd?

About 30 seconds. 30 seconds to get someone’s attention in a positive way. 30 seconds to impress someone who has the power to change your life. 30 seconds to stand out from the crowd – or you’re gone.

It’s not a coincidence that many TV commercials run for 30 seconds. That’s about how long you can expect to hold on to someone’s attention and convince them you have something they need or want. If you make it through that first 30 seconds and you still have their attention, congratulations – you’re a contender.

Your first task as an applicant is also a process of elimination. Go through your resume and make sure information relevant to the job you’re applying for is front and center. Don’t make the hiring manager look for it – or you’re history.

Anything unrelated to this job’s qualifications should not show up in the first 30 seconds of review. That can come later. If you’re just starting out in the working world and don’t have a wealth of experience to share, focus on your relevant personal qualities – the ability to remain focused, your amazing skill at reading people and communicating clearly, your commitment to following through to the end of a project.

If you do have a deep background to show off, great – but keep it simple. Bullet points are your friends. Right now your aim is to present the outline of a person well-matched to the job description.

It may seem unfair to have only 30 seconds to make your case, especially after spending years preparing through education, internships, and previous experience. But there’s no point in getting emotional about it. Just recognize that’s the way it is and craft your resume for maximum impact in a short span.

Do that well, and you can leave your competition in the rear-view mirror.