Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So... Most of My Resume is Pointless

The fall semester brings with it the PTM Professional Practice class and the jumping off point for that class is a professional resume.  I like to think I know what I am talking about.  I have 20 years of revisions on my own resume with advice from a good stock of mentors.  I must see a dozen resume articles per week doing the Greenpage.  The last revision I made to the resume section of the class was to start the students into Infographic Resumes.  I've been toying with the idea of video resumes.  But really what I want to do is come up with something interesting on traditional resumes.  Today I think I came up with something.

If you search the tubes for articles on how long recruiters spend on each resume you may discover that (when it is a living breathing person at all) the total time before decision could be as little as 6 seconds.

Based on that I thought I would do an experiment.  I printed up 10 copies of my most recent resume (2012, oops) and set off around the halls of Purnell.  I recruited 10 people to give me 10 seconds each.  I decided I wouldn't use 6 seconds because when I piloted it in my office I only saw one entry in 6 seconds.  I gave each person a short set of instructions - I wanted to make sure that they knew it wasn't supposed to be a speed reading test - the resume and a highlighter.

Then I counted to 10 while they marked up what jumped off the page.

After I had all ten marked up pages I went back to my office and converted the stack into a composite heat map.  Here's what I found:

It's a small sample size, but I think it is representative.  Given a very short exposure time almost nothing on the page turns out to be significant.

It does make sense that since people read top to bottom and left to right that the things called out by the most people are the things on the left margin and toward the top of the page.  I have a separate markup showing the things I most wanted people to see and it turns out that most of those things are items identified by the trial.  But there were 3 or 4 things I valued as very important in those black blobs in the bottom half of the page.  So I guess in the next revision I need to find a way to move those things up and left.

Two other fairly interesting take aways:

1. People don't read too far into blocks of prose.  In the top section of the page it seems clear that once someone sees what the gig is they move on to the next gig rather than read the details.  This is obviously a speed reading thing, but if the "fit/no fit" decision is made at that speed it would be worth thinning out those blocks and making for damn sure the highlight is at the beginning of the block.

2. The readers appeared to see the headings of the lower sections but not the contents.  In terms of job seeking, the headers are useless.  It's the content under the header that matters.  So a rule of thumb for composition would seem to be that what goes against the margin ought to be content rather than organizational text.

With this under my belt I think I have a new assignment.  Tomorrow we're going to do a round robin of mark ups in class and then I'll have each student tabulate their personal heat map.  Then I am going to have them match the results against what they were trying to get across.

I'll let you know if it works out!

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