Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Get Your Resume Noticed in 15 Seconds or Less

Make your resume stand out from the competition with these quick fixes

You may spend hours (or days) writing and agonizing over your resume, but once it gets in front of a recruiter, HR staffer or hiring manager, each will spend just 15 seconds deciding whether to pass on or pursue you as a candidate.

Since your CV will get attention for less time than it takes to order a cup of coffee, it’s essential that the document include the key components to boost your chances of getting called in for an interview. Before you apply for another job, retool your resume to do the following:

1. Emphasize Relevant Experience

Too often, an applicant will give equal space every position he has held, even those that don’t relate to the job on the table. “The person reading your resume needs to know what you do, where have you been and how you got there,” advises David Gaspin, senior director of talent and human resources for tech consulting firm InRhythm.

It’s a point that’s particularly valid for career changers looking to break into media, or media professionals looking for a change. “If you’ve had three different careers in your lifetime, and you’re applying for a job that matches one of them, highlight that one,” says Gaspin. “I’m not interested in your nursing career if you’re trying to be an editor.”

2. Focus on Results

Founder and chief talent officer of .comRecruiting, Jane Turkewitz, says that effectively communicating accomplishments in past positions is a major struggle for some applicants. “The biggest thing people need to do when they write their resumes,” says Turkewitz, “is figure out how to tell the story on paper that shows that they’re better than the guy next door.”

Don’t describe your previous job duties; show what you did with them, using metrics that matter. “If you just say, ‘I write merchandising proposals, I do promotions, I create events,’ it doesn’t mean anything,” says Turkewitz. “What I want to see when I’m hiring somebody is ‘I created an event program for this client that brought in an extra $2 million of business.’”

3. Use Keywords and a “Screener-Friendly” Qualifications Summary

Many large companies rely on applicant tracking systems to pre-filter resumes. Others task screeners, real people who quickly sift through resumes, to find those that best match job specifications. Either way, if your resume doesn’t include the words these systems are scanning forsay,  “social media manager” or “content producer”it may get overlooked.

A well-written qualifications summary at the top of your resume, a few brief sentences outlining why you are the best person for the job, can catapult your resume to the top of the pile. “This is an opportunity to showcase your accomplishments,” says Sharlyn Lauby, author and publisher at the HR Bartender.

Also avoid repeating the same skills in every position you’ve held. If you managed the Twitter account at more than one company, only list it at the most recent position where you worked. “Err on the side of listing a few things of pure awesomeness,” says Lauby. “In an interview, you will get asked about them and you can knock the socks off a recruiter.”

4. Be Creative—Especially If It’s a Job Requirement

For many media positions, such as those in graphic design or fashion editorial, you’ll likely use the right side of brain more than your left. Why not give your future boss a preview of your mad creative skills with your resume itself?

Gaspin recalls a memorable resume with headings renamed to fit a design position. “Instead of ‘Experience’ and ‘Education’, his headings were ‘Making,’ ‘Thinking’ and ‘Learning,’” he says. “He thought about how he was actually putting himself across.”

Before you get too liberal with your resume, research the company as well as the position itself to gauge whether a form-breaking CV might go over well. And no matter how unorthodox you decide to make your resume, it should always remain appealing to the eye.

5. Cut the Fluff

You only have so much space on your resume to fill with your work experience and accomplishments, so don’t waste it on irrelevant information—high school jobs, college club memberships, the meaningless phrase “references upon request”—that won’t help you stand out from the competition!

If you’d like your resume to stand out even more, consider getting the help of a pro. Mediabistro’s Career Services offer everything from a quick resume edit to several sessions of career counseling to tackle your CV, networking skills, career transition and more.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get our best career advice and job search tips.


Be Inspired, Get a Media Job, Get Hired, Productivity, Resumes & Cover Letters