Confessions of a Hiring Manager: Why I Only Read Resumes for 6 Seconds

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Amid a sea of job applications, your resume needs to make an immediate impact to catch a hiring manager’s eye. We sat down with an experienced hiring manager to peel back the curtain on what really happens during those initial, critical seconds of resume review.

Here’s the inside scoop on making your resume not just seen, but memorable.

We appreciate you sharing your insights today. With such limited time per resume, what immediate elements catch your eye?

Hiring Manager: Thanks for having me. It’s all about getting straight to the point. A resume that’s around one to two pages typically hits the mark right out of the gate. You’d be surprised how many people still send in three or four pages, which just dilutes the impact of their qualifications.

That makes sense. In terms of structure, what setup do you find most effective in a resume?

Hiring Manager: Structure is crucial. It’s like setting the stage for a play — everything needs to be in its right place. Many resumes I come across miss out on highlighting their key skills early on.

I always recommend people lead with their strongest assets. Whether it’s technical skills for a tech job or project management for an executive role, make those skills impossible to miss.

And once the structure is in place, how should applicants handle the actual formatting?

Hiring Manager: Keep it tidy. A resume should be easy on the eyes, using professional fonts and adequate spacing.

I prefer a clean layout with no photos or quirky design elements. It’s amazing how many candidates try to stand out with graphics or unusual colours, but it often just ends up being a distraction.

man and woman interview

Rezzy: Speaking of standing out, how important are keywords in the resume?

Hiring Manager: They’re absolutely critical, but it’s not just about stuffing your resume with buzzwords. It’s about context. For instance, if we’re using software to screen resumes, those without the keywords we’re looking for won’t even make it to my desk. But more than that, the right keywords reflect a deeper understanding of the job you’re applying for. It shows me you know the industry and what’s required.

Let’s talk about personalisation. How do you view the balance between a tailored resume and one that’s too narrowly focused?

Hiring Manager: That’s a great question. Tailoring doesn’t mean rewriting your resume from scratch for every job. It’s about tweaking it to highlight how your experiences align with the specific job. It’s like telling me a story where you’re the hero who overcomes challenges similar to what you might face in the new role. If it’s too generic, it feels like you’re just sending out mass applications, which never leaves a good impression.

: How do you recommend candidates handle common issues like employment gaps or a lack of direct experience?

Hiring Manager: Those can be tricky, but they’re not deal-breakers. For employment gaps, honesty is the best policy. A simple explanation within the resume or cover letter can go a long way—maybe you took time off for personal development, or to care for a family member. That’s all valuable.

As for lacking direct experience, I look for transferable skills. Maybe you haven’t worked in our industry, but you’ve demonstrated problem-solving or leadership in another field. Highlight those instances!

What about the cover letter? How important is that in your decision-making process?

Hiring Manager: I’m glad you brought that up. Cover letters can be a tiebreaker. If I’m on the fence about a resume, a compelling cover letter that tells your story can tip the scales in your favour. It’s your chance to connect the dots for me, show how your experiences really align with what we need.

Do you think there’s a place for creativity in resumes, or should candidates stick to more traditional formats?

Hiring Manager: There’s a fine line there. For creative roles, a bit of flair might be appropriate, but for most positions, I’d advise keeping it straightforward.

The key is not to let design overshadow content. Your achievements should be the star of the show, not your ability to use fancy resume templates.

two women interview

Rezzy: How do you feel about candidates who follow up on their applications? Does that come off as pushy?

Hiring Manager: Not at all, it’s all in how it’s done. A polite follow-up email a week or two after applying shows initiative and genuine interest in the position. It can actually bring your application back to my attention. Just avoid multiple follow-ups or calling daily—that does start to feel pushy.

In the digital age, how crucial is a digital footprint, like a LinkedIn profile or personal website?

Hiring Manager: It’s increasingly important. A solid LinkedIn profile can certainly complement your resume. It offers a fuller picture of your professional life, endorsements, and even recommendations from colleagues.

As for a personal website, for creative or tech roles, it can be a fantastic way to showcase your portfolio.

Lastly, any final tips or ‘secrets’ you can share for someone who’s looking to really stand out?

Hiring Manager: My biggest piece of advice? Know your audience. Tailor your application to speak directly to the hiring manager’s needs.

And a little insider tip: if you can find out who’ll be reviewing your application and address them by name in your cover letter, it shows you’ve done your homework. It makes your application feel more personal and less like it’s just another one in the stack.

Thank you for sharing these valuable insights. It sounds like taking a thoughtful, tailored approach is key.

Hiring Manager: Absolutely, and thanks for the chat. It’s always a pleasure to help demystify the process a bit and hopefully pave the way for more successful applications.

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Melissa is a skilled resume writer passionate about designing visually striking and strategically effective resumes. Committed to helping professionals across Australia achieve their career goals, she transforms individual experiences into compelling career stories.

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