October 12, 2015

Two Words That Keep Your Resume From Being Read

oceanLong ago, resumes used to be written in a much different format. They began with a statement outlining what the job seeker wanted, followed by an “experience” section that detailed the job seeker’s current job, and they ended with the statement “References available upon request.”

But the times have changed. It became a buyer’s market in the realm of hiring, and resumes written in the older format no longer attract positive attention.

Exactly what changed? The environment went from being all about the job seeker to all about the potential employer. No longer does a potential employer want to know what the job seeker wants; instead, today’s employers want to know what the job seeker can do for them.

Beginning a resume with the two words “career objective” can send your application straight to the “no” pile.

Studies show that the average recruiter reads the top quarter of a resume for anywhere from 5-10 seconds — usually six seconds — before making a decision about whether or not they want to continue with the applicant.

Five to ten seconds. That is all the time you have to make a first impression that really counts.

This is why it is imperative that the opening of your resume answer an employer’s most important question: What can you do for me?

To answer this questions successfully, the beginning of your resume needs to cover three things: the skills and qualifications that are important to the position, how you match these skills and qualifications, and how you will be valuable to the company.

The Skills and Qualifications That Are Important to the Position

Thoroughly read the job description and get as much information about the position and company as you can. Research, research, research. Identify keywords, key concepts, and key strengths. Integrate these into your resume’s opening statement and throughout the rest of the resume.

Your Matching Skills and Qualifications

notesIf you have performed the same job in the past and you are a perfect match for this opening, terrific! If you are looking to move up or over in your career and do not match the open position exactly, do not fret.

Look beyond the specific tasks of the role themselves and into the skills and abilities needed to accomplish these tasks. Then, emphasize on your resume the skills you have and how those skills will help you fulfill the responsibilities of the role.

Demonstrate Your Value

Although you might be tempted to highlight your years of experience, a degree, or even a title, these things do not equate to “value.”

Performing a job for a number of years does not mean that you performed the job well. Titles are often meaningless, especially if the company you previously worked for believed in bumping your title without changing your actual job. Certifications and degrees are great, but only if you’ve learned how to use those things to improve your performance at work.

Value is demonstrated by showing that what you did at a company made a positive difference. The difference could have been made for the benefit of the organization, the clients, your team, or just your individual position. Value is not always quantitative. Improving communication is not measurable by percentages, but it is definitely valuable.

When you can’t quantify your achievements, use accurate, descriptive words to convey the message: significant reduction, constant decline in costs, continual improvement in efficiency, etc.


Your resume should open with a succinct, short paragraph. Use your first 5-10 seconds of recruiter attention to tell the reader, “Here is what I bring to the table, what I have done before, and what I can do for you.” If you send that message, you’ll make the recruiter want to learn even more about you.

Read more in Resume Writing

Lisa K. McDonald, principal and owner of Career Polish, Inc., is a Brand Strategist, Certified Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. She works with individuals to move up or on in their careers by strengthening their brand, leadership and value; as well as companies strengthening their relationships, teams and brand . Lisa is an energetic speaker and facilitator on the topics of leadership, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence, LinkedIn and achieving success - that is desired, not expected.