Job Search Checklist #8: The 15 second resume

Sep 13 2012 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

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Number 8 on your job search checklist – Create a 15 second resume.

What’s a 15 second resume?

After your resume passes the 6 second qualified/unqualified test (see “Job Search Checklist #6: The 6 second resume” at, it then has to pass a second test – the 15 second test.

Hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps spend an average 15 seconds to decide if you’ll get an interview … or get the trash can. So, a 15 second resume is designed to pass this 15 second test.

In 15 seconds the interview/no interview decision is based on a quick scan of your resume. Let’s be realistic, in 15 seconds, your audience can’t scan the entire resume and certainly can’t read your resume in any sort of detail. In 15 seconds, your audience is scanning what’s on the screen in directly front of them.

The on-screen realization is important, because many of the “tried-and true” resume techniques are based on a readers review of a paper resume. Even if you send yours in on paper, you should expect that it will get scanned and reviewed on screen. Paper resumes can’t be screened by ATSs and few companies or recruiting firms staff to read each of the average 1,000 resume per job. In addition, government hiring law compliance favors the use of automated screening, to show that interview selections are made by objective criteria.

Let’s discuss the15 second resume in more detail, to give you a better chance at passing this second test.

The 15 Second Resume:

An effective 15 second resume helps you pass the interview vs. discard test.

Just like your audience can’t actually read your resume in the 6 second test to judge if you’re qualified, hiring managers, HR reps and recruiters can’t read details in your resume within the first 15 seconds. So your audience is only really able to scan your resume to make the interview/discard decision.

The 15 second resume decision is also based largely on first impressions of being a superior candidate. Remember that employers receive an average 1,000 applications for each job they post, resulting in many qualified candidates. ATSs spit out a list of 50 or so candidates deemed qualified based on search criteria and visual screening confirms if a candidate is qualified in the first 6 seconds.

For the resumes that are considered qualified, the reader takes an average of an additional 7 seconds to determine if the candidate appears superior, or merely barely qualified. The superior candidates get interviews, while the barely qualified get cut.

To give yourself a better chance of passing the 15 second test, your first impression needs the following:

  1. Pass the 6 second qualified test: See “Job Search Checklist #6: The 6 second resume” at to learn how to create a resume that passes the 6 second test.
  2. Fit in the top half of your first page: You should assume that your resume will be read on screen, even if you delivered (or snail mailed) a paper resume. When scanning your resume on-screen, within the first 15 seconds, your reader will only be able to see the top half of your first page, at most. Your goal should be to get your reader to hit page down, concentrating on your resume longer and increasing your interview chances.
  3. Demonstrate that you are a superior candidate: Most resumes that attempt to show that a candidate is superior attempt this farther on in a resume. If the reason you’re why a superior candidate is buried on the second half of your first page or on page 2, your reader won’t see this within your first 15 seconds. You want to tempt your reader with your best stuff at the top half of your first page, so they’ll press page down.
  4. Know the hiring manager’s priorities: Few candidates make the effort to understand what the hiring manager truly needs, instead basing the resume on the job description. Demonstrating that you’ve already solved the hiring manager’s priority problems (or similar problems) makes you a superior candidate. But first you’ve got to understand what those problems are.
  5. Forget scattershotting: Most candidates try to list all their skills, basically throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping some of it sticks. This develops a first impression of having light knowledge in many areas – Hiring managers have Google for that … why would they need you?
  6. Summary sections don’t work:Hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps rarely read summary sections, skipping straight to the experience section – what your audience considers the facts of your background. Summary sections are viewed much like a cover letter … both are seller’s fluff that are ignored most of the time. Instead, have the detail in your job experience demonsrate that you’ve already solved your hiring manager’s priority problems.
  7. Don’t rely on the job description: The job description won’t help either – Meeting what’s on the job description makes you barely qualified, not a superior candidate.

Since you only have 15 seconds to show your reader that you’re a superior candidate that the hiring manager MUST talk to … make it count.

Ignore traditional resume advice about summary sections and scattershot approaches. They don’t work well with today’s hiring processes, instead giving the first impression that you’re a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

By controlling what your reader will see in those 15 seconds, you’ll make sure your audience can focus on how you’ve already solved problems similar to the hiring manager’s priorities … and make the first impression that wins interviews.


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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