According to a study done by Ladders.com, resumes, if read by a person, are read on the average for six seconds. These six seconds will determine whether someone else in the chain will get to read it for a little longer. You can't do much about the first filter since according to the Ladders.com study people tend to look at just these six things:
Previous position, start and end dates
Current position, start and end dates
But you do want to make sure that the second filter is reading your resume carefully. If he contacts you by phone, you can determine whether the employer is interested in knowing more about you and how you can potentially add value. I have had phone interviews and even face-to-face interviews where I was certain that the interviewers had not read my resume that carefully and the interview turned out to be a total waste of time.
So how do you avoid this?
A possible answer comes from the popular rock band, "Van Halen." They employed a clever trick that can be easily applied to your resume.
In the book, "Think Like a Freak," by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner, they write about this clever trick the rock band Van Halen used to quickly find out whether their fifty-three-page rider that was part of their touring contract was carefully read by the local promoter in the city where they were to perform. Van Halen was a very popular rock band in the 1980s led by their lead singer David Lee Roth. The band, developed a reputation for being very difficult to work with. One of the reasons was that they wanted everything followed as specified in their fifty-three-page rider which not only included technical and security specifications, but what food to serve on what days and how it was to be served. All of these specs were not that unusual for a popular rock band, but there was one specific request that was highly unusual (even for a rock band), which appeared on page 40 dealing with munchies, including the M&Ms: The M&Ms could not include any brown ones. Now we all know there is no difference in how M&Ms taste no matter what color it is, so what was the reason for this request? Were they simply being jerks or was there another reason for this unusual request?
As it turned out, the band was very clever with their unusual M&M request. They wanted to make sure that the local promoters carefully read the fifty-three-page rider. If the local promoter followed the instruction carefully and not included any brown M&Ms, then they knew that the local promoter probably carefully read all the other instructions. This meant that the band did not have to do a thorough checking of the parts related to delivering an excellent concert performance. If they found brown M&Ms, then they knew that they had a lot of work to do since their confidence level on the local promoter went down. Before leaving, the band would make a big mess in the room so not to arouse any suspicion for this unusual request. The band wanted to make sure that the media reported on the band living up to their reputation of being "rock's bad boys."
How can you use the Van Halen's trick in looking for a job?
According to research done by Ladders.com, most people take a look at resume for only six seconds. Assuming you did make it pass this first cut, you still want to make sure that there is something in there that will tell you that the entire resume was carefully read. You want to include something in it that is very interesting that they would want them to know more about. If they don't bring it up, then you know that your resume was not read carefully.
What do I include in the resume that is interesting?
I worked at Oracle from 1996 - 1999. At one large company event in 1998, after Larry Ellison, CEO, finished his speech, he opened the floor for Q&A. I think I was the third person to ask a question. When my turn came, I asked him "whether he was scared of Bill Gates on his destroying Oracle?" In the late 90s when Microsoft was very dominant. Bill Gates, CEO, early at Microsoft had written down an acronym BALONEY, representing companies he wanted to conquer. He had conquered 'B' in Borland, 'A' in Ashton Tate, 'L' in Lotus and the only one left in the BALONEY was Oracle. I thought the question was quite appropriate and somewhat ballsy, considering the setting. Larry took it well and did answer it and did not get me fired. The answer Larry gave that both he and Gates were are scared of each other, and that was a good thing for the computer industry.
I include this in my resume 3/4 into the resume, and ask "Did this question get me fired?" If the interviewers don't bring this up very early in the interview, then I know that the resume was not read that closely before the interview. Also, another reason for including this is that it allows me to tell a nice story and show my creativity.
My suggestion is to include something 3/4 of the way in the resume, so you know that someone read the resume carefully. If you get them with this, then you will have a good conversation and take control of the interview; you can even tell the story of Van Halen from whom you got this idea. Telling a story will make you interesting, so don't underestimate the power of telling a story. Though you may not be the most qualified candidate, but you certainly will come across as the most interesting. Given a choice, companies like to hire people that they find interesting and likable.
Why story is so important?
In order to separate yourself from the competition, you need a story that captures interviewers' attention and resonates with them. And you have to see it through from beginning till the end (getting the job offer). There is a plenty of science that backs this. According to science, stories tend to release oxytocin also known as the love hormone in our brain.
In the article in New York Times titled, "Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job and Stronger Start-Up," the writer Alina Tugend writes about an experiment conducted by Professor Zak. In the experiment, they drew blood from people before watching a video for a charity, and after. The results showed that the oxytocin count was higher after watching the video, and led to donating more money for the charity.
First, you have to craft a story.
The best way to do this is to follow what you learn in an English class as explained in the NYT article:
A. Scene setting
B. Rising action
C. The turning point
D. The falling action
Second, you have to tell the story in a honest and personal way while showing some vulnerability.
Keep the story consistent from the resume to face-to-face interview
One thing I like to advice clients is to take some risk in your resume. If the resume alone can get you the job, then why should someone even interview you. I like to think of the resume as a call to action for someone to pick up the phone and want to talk to you right away. Once they are talking to you, based on how well you tell a story over the phone, they want to meet with you face-to-face real soon. When you meet face-to-face, you want to tell the same story again with minor changes so that there is consistency in your message throughout the whole process. Note, a politician when looking to get hired by the people uses the same stump speech everywhere he campaigns with few minor changes. Why should you not do the same? They know that what works at one place will work at other places. There is too much uncertainty by being different. Like politicians, the rule to adopt is that if it got you this far, you don't want to change anything.
The main purpose of your resume, besides including the basics, is to close the deal to get someone to contact you immediately. Once you have a person on the phone, you have to close the deal to get them to meet with you face-to-face. Once they meet with you face-to-face, you have to close the deal to get a job offer quickly. This approach sounds simple, but usually ignored. You are looking for a job to close the deal, which is to get a job offer. You are not there to make friends; you are not there to get a date; you are not there to be a foil for some other candidates; you are there to win. You want to be consistent from start to finish.
Again, remember that there is only one story, and it has to start from the resume; it has to hold the promise. The resume has to be consistent with who you are, otherwise you will come across as inauthentic and eliminated from consideration sooner or later. You must have a coherent strategy of crafting a story and telling it to achieve your outcome. Would you hire you if you told a compelling story that was heartfelt?