Human beings have always had small attention spans— that’s why the 10-minute timer trick works so well. In this ever-connected world of constant stimulation, they are decreasing even more (most people’s concentration starts to wane after eight seconds.) This means you only have a few seconds to wow someone and make your case, which is why having a strong elevator pitch on deck is so important. In fact, Ladders launched a study in 2018 using eye-tracking software that found that recruiters can make up their mind about a job candidate in only six seconds!
The study found that recruiters look at your current title and company on your resume then your previous one before moving to the right to see the dates of your jobs to make sure you have made a steady progression. Then they flip their eyes to the bottom to look at education requirements. It truly only takes a few seconds for them to sum you up. So you better make sure that resume is in tip-top shape.
Here are a few ways to tackle this and make sure a recruiter holds on to your resume.
1. Give them a connection story
When someone asks what you do, don’t just say, “My name is Rob, and I’m a cyber security engineer from Charlotte, North Carolina.” Instead use a connection story, which “gives somebody a true glimpse into who you are,” explains Amanda Marko, a strategic communications consultant, in Entrepreneur. Were you always running lemonade stands as a kid? Link that to how you knew from an early age that you wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Stories are also important when it comes to your resume. “No matter the level of the candidate, [from] someone just out of college or a very senior executive, it’s okay if someone works in various industries and jumps around a bit and gains different experiences,” says Eva Freidan, a product leadership recruiter at Facebook. “But at the end of the day, what is the common thread throughout this person’s career?”
2. Add a unique detail
A Stanford research study reported by Forbes showed that statistics alone have a retention rate of 5% to 10%, but when coupled with anecdotes, the retention rate rises to 65% to 70%.
Maybe highlight something about the characteristics of your generation on your resume. Amy Grat, CEO of International Trade Education Programs Inc., says that Gen Xers are thought to be self-reliant and entrepreneurial. Those are some very strong traits to point out to potential employers. Being detailed about what motivates you can also help you stand out.
3. Don’t use jargon
This is all about knowing your audience. Unless the person you’re talking to also works in your industry and knows your job inside and out, leave out the super-technical or industry-specific terms. It will make what you say clearer and stick in their mind that much better.
In general, you should stick to highlighting important key skills on your resume. “When I look at a CV I immediately look for words that relate to the role I am working on,” says Sarah Rawcliffe, a talent manager at Get My First Job. “For example, for a childcare role I would want to see a placement [at a] nursery, work experience in primary school or even babysitting for a family friend, anything that shows some kind of interest in the industry they have applied for.”
4. Find common ground
Think of what you remember after having a conversation with someone. (“We went to the same college!” or “Turns out we live in the same neighborhood!”) That’s because common factors unite us, so it’s memory gold. If you stumble upon something you have in common or know from social media (without getting too creepy) that you both love Scandal, for example, say so.
5. Compliment them
Plain and simple, people will remember how you made them feel and most people love a good compliment. Guarantee the warm and fuzzies by offering a real, genuine compliment. (So if you’re notorious for your bohemian outfits, maybe don’t try complimenting someone on their pearls and cardigan—they probably won’t buy it.) Aim for work-related compliments—great job on that presentation, insightful commentary in that meeting, you get the picture.