Technology now allows researchers to see what readers are actually viewing in a document. This is called eye-tracking and it shows what a reader views in a document and what they concentrate on. These studies are great news for job seekers (including teens, recent grads, and adults) because it shows what interviewers and employers look at, and focus on, in a resume.
Business Insider has an article on a study by The Ladders, and the results provide any job seeker a great tip when writing your resume: use the formatting tools of Word and design the resume with thought!
The article claims resumes get just 6 seconds of review. This seems quick, and I have seen other studies that put it at 30 seconds (this is the research I use with my college students). In either case, resume writers need to know that their resume will be skimmed as opposed to fully read (in most cases). Therefore, you need to use the formatting tools of Word to make sure the reader picks up vital information – and the study’s results back this up.
If you go to the link and scroll down, you’ll see two resumes and the eye-tracking “heat map” results of what was viewed by readers. If you look closely, the one on the right has a more comprehensive review – more heat spots spread throughout the whole document as opposed to the heat spot distribution on the left resume.
Why is that? Look at the formatting beneath the overlay. The left resume has a lot of large blocked bullets and minimal font formatting. The resume on the right has smaller bullets; uses sub-bullets, and has nicely formatted headings (shaded, upper case, and bolded).
What is the lesson then for your resume? Format it!
First, let’s look at bullets. The big block bullets on the left just don’t appeal to a reader and make it harder to skim for relevant info. Therefore, format your bullets into fewer lines (1 to 2 lines) and break the info into sub-bullets that are aligned a little more to the right than your primary bullets. This will make the info in these bullets easier to skim.
Second, per the study, 80% of time was spent on major headings and sub-headings (e.g., name, major headings such as job experience and education, and sub headings such as title/employer, school, major, etc.). The take away from this information? Format the fonts, the headings, and the relevant sub-headings so that these items contrast and stand out from the regular text – this makes it easier for the reader to spot this information.
Go back to the link and compare the two resumes. The plain font formatting on the left makes it harder to pick up information – and mush less desirable to read (which is why the heat spots disappear 3/4s of the way down the page).
Since regular text is a plain font, use some formatting for the other text. Consider bold for the headings and italics for the sub-headings. Or try shaded, bolded, all caps for the headings and bolded caps for the sub-headings. This type of formatting makes this information stand out for the skimming reader, and establishes an organizational hierarchy for your information – your reader can spot the major topic headings and the sub-topics under that heading.
In sum, use the formatting tools Word provides to create a resume that is desirable to read and easy to read – this will set your resume apart from the pack, and make it more likely you get your resume read and get it read comprehensively. If you don’t know the formatting tools in Word, Google your question. There are lots of great sites providing instruction on formatting in Word (or post it below, and I can try to answer you).
One last thing – the space bar is not a formatting tool in Word. Learn to tab and align.
Hope this helps in your job search – whether you’re PCSing or just looking for a change!
MOAA members also have access to resume critiques, as well as video conference or face-to-face interview preparation. Visit http://www.moaa.org/career for more info on these and other resources offered as a benefit of membership.