Response to Wall Street Journal's "Does Your Resume Pass the Six-Second Test?"

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

These are the ECO's comments written by Jen Jones, Director, Edwin T. Burton Economics Career Office

Yes, this is about right. I take about 30 seconds for a first pass at a resume, before screening the finer details. If I'm familiar with an employer and job description, my thorough review (before comments to the student) will be about 2 minutes, and if I'm unfamiliar with the employer/job description my review may take 3-4 minutes as I toggle between the job posting and the employer. I use the analogy of selling a house and staging a home.  The exterior of the house and the property is curb appeal and most recruiters are seeking curb appeal before they get deeper. So, the top 1/3 of the resume needs to draw attention for super competitive industries/employers. The curb appeal definitely consists of key words from the job posting, relevant experience/skills, industry/job function industry language, and demonstrating excellence. (For students the latter includes GPA, test scores, honors awards, and leadership.) Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) make this process trickier because we don't know the algorithms that are used, but keywords remain a best practice.

Forget the Professional Statement

Yes, especially for students. It's unnecessary and squanders the most valuable real estate. I discourage using a profile or objective statement entirely, even in cases when a student is pivoting away from their major in their job search. The college resume is already structured to highlight relevant experience that diverges from one's major using Relevant Coursework as a category for example, and others. I could be persuaded against this, but likely this would be only for a non-traditional student, i.e. for someone who had military service or worked for several years before pursuing their undergraduate degree.

As for replacing the professional statement with a list of skills - not for everyone. For our students, Education should be listed first to be clear that they are seeking entry-level employment. If a student has worked full-time before attending college or has military service experience, this will come in their experience section, or in a skills section immediately after their education. This is where I've seen and encouraged the most significant formatting changes in recent years - including the Skills section before Experience. When a student has very strong, unusual, or relevant technical skills it may be worthwhile including those in the top 1/3 of the resume rather than lower.

Don't Be a Jack of All Trades

I agree on principle, but for students applying for their first internship or micro-internship, a thematic resume may be more difficult to create. Recruiters understand this. But, often, we can find a thread of interest to convey on the resume. By fourth-year students should be more successful in customizing their resumes for a couple of different job functions or industries/conveying their experience with a clear theme that is relevant to the job at hand. If not, that's an important conversation to have with a career advisor.

Use Numbers

Yes, Yes, Yes! I spend a good deal of time quantifying students' accomplishments with them. Think beyond responsibilities and include results and achievements. With finance-related roles or summer internships that led to easily recognizable quantifiable outcomes, this is easy. But this is more challenging for second and third-years especially, who are coming from less professional roles. Simply changing their ice cream shop experience from "served customers ice cream" to "served 75 customers an hour and upsold toppings by ~50% increasing nightly revenue by 30%" reveals a lot of info about the pace, volume, understanding of profit and the market, and likely can lead to great conversation about profitability and running a business.

Make Your LinkedIn Profile the Priority

I disagree with this, but only for students. For more experienced job-seekers this makes sense, and for recently-graduated students. If students are applying for their jobs through LinkedIn, then their profile ought to be solid and descriptive. I also do not like the "Open to Work" tag because I'm not sure that the signal is perceived the same by everyone. We have a wonderful AI tool in Handshake called Aspire, which helps students build a great LinkedIn profile. 

do recommend that every job-seeking/graduate school-seeking student should have a LinkedIn account to conduct research and network. 

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