geralt / Pixabay

Even companies that write resumes know that writing one that gets read and gets callbacks is tough. Trying to boil work struggles and successes onto a few pages often results in a super wordy document that says too much, or doesn’t convey the story in a way that is easy to read.

Keeping in mind some simple numbers can help you write a clean, fast-reading resume that will stay out of the “Trash” pile and get noticed, not skipped over!

How to Write a Resume That Will Stand Out – By the Numbers

6… The number of seconds a first-time reader will take to skim your resume

This study by The Ladders dates back to 2012, but it rocked many who follow resume writing and reading trends. In a nutshell, researchers discovered you have a mere 6 seconds to make an impression.

In my experience, if the reader knows you, or got your resume from someone you know, you may get a bit more – maybe 15-20 seconds tops. Either way – not a lot of time.

This doesn’t mean it won’t get read more thoroughly, but here’s the thing… this is the amount of time they take to skim and *decide* whether to keep reading.

They’ll skim your most recent experience, your resume summary section, and maybe one or two other things, and then they’re either grabbing a cup of coffee and pulling up their chair to dive into every word you wrote… OR… they’re throwing your resume in the trash or pressing “delete” on their computer and never looking again.

1-2… Page length

A 1-pager is great, and is doable if you have less than 5 years of experience, or if you held the same role with one or many companies.

However, if you’re an experienced professional with 10 years under your belt, it’s okay to extend your resume out to 2 pages.

Longer than that? I’d try and avoid this, as you could overwhelm readers who have shorter attention spans, or are reviewing hundreds of resumes because they are looking to fill a highly competitive role.

If your resume is longer than this, try to cut out older information. Let’s say you’re a manager with 22 years of experience. Instead of starting your resume at your first job, start at your first management job.

Speaking of which…

21… Include your experience from this century, not the last one

20th-century experience is sometimes worth including, but not always.

Did you work for a company regarded as an industry leader? Did you hold a role that shows career progression in the industry or role you’re targeting? If yes, keep it. Otherwise, let it go.

Focus on more recent experience and you’ll be more likely to get the interview. This is what hiring managers and recruiters focus on! In their eyes, recent experience is more relevant and more convincing/impressive. It’s a mental bias that’s not always true, but it’s how they judge your experience.

2-3… Sentences per paragraph

It’s not easy to quickly read lots of lines of text . . . whether it’s 5 single-lined bullets or a 6-line paragraph. In fact – the smaller the screen, the tougher the read.

So if you want to write a resume that will stand out… keep your paragraphs to 3 lines maximum, and insert a half-inch of white space minimum in between each and every paragraph.

5… Bullets per job

Bullet points on your resume are one of the most powerful ways to get noticed and get hired. Especially if you’re tailoring them to match the job description. But there are some rules to follow.

Usually, 5 is the magic number. After 5 bullet points, the reader starts to lose focus if the list isn’t interrupted by a paragraph, another heading, etc.

If you can’t boil your experience to less than 5 bullets, try categorizing them with a few bullets under each sub-header.

And it’s okay to have fewer than 5 for some jobs. Maybe the first job on your resume only has 3 bullets, to make room for more detail in your more recent work. That’s a great idea.

The Key to Resumes That Stand Out: Keep it Simple and Easy to Read!

More words and many sentences don’t equate to a strong resume. Avoid long lists, long paragraphs, and irrelevant history, and your resume will be well on its way to getting past that skim read and into the keep pile!