The resume litmus test

Resumes & cover letters  

Writing a resume , Resume advice , CV advice , SEEK

Ever wondered what employers really think when they read your resume?

Litmus tests are traditionally used in chemistry, to test the acidity or alkalinity of a solution but one can put almost anything to a litmus test – metaphorically speaking – where something is judged wholly based on one, single decisive factor.

Are you ready to put your resume to the test like a prospective employer would? Use the criteria below as ‘make or break’ factors, and start taking steps to turn your chances of employment around.

  • Test 1: The language test. Resume writing has gone through a history of its own, as technology has shaped the way we digest information. Where once it was enough to use simple business speak such as “Performed multiple tasks…”, now employers want to see that a candidate has made an impact in real quantifiable terms, according to Joanne Besser, director of recruitment company Career Threads.

    To pass the language test, Besser suggests shifting your resume speak to more conversational, achievement-based language such as “Increased performance by X% by introducing…”.

    Almost all industries lend themselves to this language. A social media manager can quantify his or her success by increases in online engagement or sales conversion rates; a hairdresser can measure his or her success by a client feedback system or industry awards achieved; while a management consultant might demonstrate his or her positive impact by measuring the amount by which certain strategies have reduced a client’s expenditure.

    Putting it to the test. Replace some of the existing lines in your resume with some of this results-driven language, and in true quantifiable fashion, compare the employer response rate to previous job application attempts.
     
  • Test 2: The skim test. It’s no myth that most employers have very little time to read every job application they receive in detail, so making the most important parts stand out is your challenge as an applicant. Besser says that when putting forward a candidate for a role, her clients are usually most interested in a person’s achievements and experience, “not only where they worked or what their job title was.”

    Make sure your resume’s structure adheres to a hierarchy where the most relevant information shines the brightest. You could do this by listing your top four achievements under each job title and organisation (instead of listing every responsibility or task performed in a role), and listing the most recent or relevant roles up top.

    Putting it to the test. Have someone skim your resume for 30 seconds and tell you what he or she noticed or took away from it. If their response didn’t match your intentions, try amending your resume a few more times and asking the same person, as well as several more people, to perform the skim test again until you’ve got the answers you were hoping for.
     
  • Test 3: The screen test. Another example where technology rules, you may find it interesting to know that many large recruitment companies use an automated application tracking system (ATS) to review resumes which look for key words that relate to the job ad. This saves recruiters time as the system filters out the resumes that are irrelevant and needn’t be considered for the job.

    To ensure your resume passes the screen test, use key words from the job ad and insert them into your resume. Whether the employer or recruiter uses an ATS or not, using industry terminology will help portray you as a professional in the know.

    Putting it to the test. While you won’t be able to get your hands on an ATS very easily, you could ask someone to review the job ad and your resume alongside one another to see just how aligned they really are.

To pass any resume litmus test, Besser adds, “put yourself in an employer’s shoes and consider their mindset, time schedule and what they’re requesting in the job description.” Tick as many of their boxes, and you’re on your way to success.