15 Seconds to Make a First Impression

Were you aware that recruiters generally take 15 seconds to scan a candidate’s resume?

In this initial look, they are deciding whether or not they should give you a more in-depth read, offer you an interview, and/or remove your application from the running. As such, it is important that you make the most of that one piece of paper. Here are my top five general resume tips I share with students when reviewing their resume:

Style and formatting are more important than you think.

As a former hiring manager, I was looking to learn more about an applicant’s education, relevant experience, and leadership roles in my initial 15 second scan of their resume. Make it easy for me to find these items on your resume by:

  • Keeping the length to one page.
  • Minimizing your font treatment (i.e. no Comic Sans) and keep the font size 10-12pt.
  • Maximizing your real estate by minimizing the amount of white space on your resume.
  • Being consistent with your bullet points and layout.
  • Making sure your resume is error free. If I see an error on a resume and I am weeding through a 500-person candidate pool, guess who is not getting offered an interview?

2)      Objective statements are a waste of space.

If you are applying for a position with my company, I know you are interested in working here, so I don’t need you to waste 2-3 lines on your resume reiterating this point. The only time I feel objectives are acceptable for undergraduate job seekers is when your major and experiences are not aligned with your professional/career goals and you are trying to help me connect the dots. If this is the case, I often tell students to craft a personal branding statement over an objective, as it speaks to your unique value and is less dated of a concept.

3)      Focus on your results and accomplishments.

The biggest mistake students make is writing job description bullet points. Telling me what you did at your internship or in your student group is good, but it only tells me so much. I want to know not only what you did, but what were your results, what skills did you develop, and/or what did you learn from the experience. I want you to take your bullet points from mediocre to competitive:

  • Mediocre: Responsible for chairing a student promotional committee
  • Competitive: Chaired a promotional committee of 15 students that resulted in a 30% increase in ticket sales

4)      Use strong (and varied) action verbs.

Let’s take a look at the above-mentioned bullet points. In the mediocre bullet point, the student started with “responsible for.” In the competitive bullet point, the student started with “chaired”–which is more powerful to you? A strong action verb sets the tone of your bullet point and is one of the first thing a recruiter sees when they do their initial scan. Be strategic with your word choice. Many college career centers have lists of action verbs to get you started–take full advantage of these types of resources on your campus.

5)      Customization is king.

Resumes are not one-size-fits-all. It is important that you customize your resume to the internship or job you are applying for. Are keywords from the job description present in your resume? Is the experience you are including on your resume relevant to the position you are applying for? It’s okay to have more than one version of your resume. For example, if you are a Business Management student interested in consulting, it would be recommended that you have a general business resume as well as a consulting resume (that lists all of your case experience).


Heather serves as a Career Advisor for Loyola University Chicago’s Career Development Center. In her role, she assists students and alumni with their overall career development through individual counseling, group workshops, and in the classroom via her Career and Life Planning Lab. Heather’s areas of expertise within the career space include networking, social media engagement, ePortfolios, resumes, and personal branding. Prior to working in Career Services, Heather worked for Sony Music in the areas of Marketing, Sales, and Promotion.She received her BA in Communication & Culture from Indiana University and her MA in Higher Education & Student Affairs from The Ohio State University – GO BUCKS! You can connect with Heather on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Your Second Chance to Make a First Impression
  2. Your Resume Has 6 Seconds to Shine
  3. The Impression That I Get

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