How can you upgrade your resume and get better results in your career and future job searches?

Resume effectiveness  is what this series of articles is all about! Having a full-time career coaching business for 12+ years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes and rewritten hundreds of professional and executive resumes. I believe I have seen all of their typical shortcomings and want to share how to upgrade your resume. An upgraded resume can accelerate your career results and improve your future job search strategies.

A key point for resume writers

As I mention in Chapter 6 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!),

 …  “do not write your résumé in a manner that is most pleasing to you. It is important that you write your résumé in a manner that will be most pleasing to the people who will be reading your résumé.”

Can your resume pass the “15 second skim test”?

A good place to start in upgrading your resume is to consider what I term the “15 second skim test”. When you submit your resume for a published job, recruiters and other reviewers can be faced with 200 or more submissions. This drives reviewers to set a fast pace that typically gives each resume 10-15 seconds on their first pass, after which they decide if yours should be trashed or set aside for further analysis. For this reason, it is important that you compose your resume in a manner that maximizes your odds of passing this first phase of review.

Three steps to a better resume

Here is a two-part exercise that can help:

1.  The Timer Test

Start a 25 second timer (you are slower than a professional) and skim your resume. Circle all the items you noticed during the 25 seconds.

2.  Question Test

Consider the following questions that alert you to information most reviewers are seeking during their 10-15 second resume review:

  • Does the layout allow them to easily define your work history (job titles and years of experience) in a general sense?
  • Does the layout allow them to easily define your key educational accomplishments, such as the college degrees, you have earned?
  • Do the remaining contents that are most likely to be identified tend to paint a positive picture of you as a person with relevant accomplishments?

3.   Revision

Take action and upgrade your resume considering the following suggestions:

  • Section Headers:  Use bold text, font size, capitalization, and underlines to create sectional headers that aid the reader in jumping from section to section.
  • Job Titles:  Bold, and consider italicizing, all your job titles and left-justify them so they are easy to find.
  • Dates:  Right-justify your dates of employment for each job title with each company.
  • Education:  If you have more than five years of post-undergraduate professional experience, place your educational credentials after your work experience.
  • Results:  Ensure that some of your key quantified results are in bold text so that they jump out from the other text.


If you will review your resume and make it more successful in passing the “15-second skim test”, you will increase your odds of success competing for published jobs, and, that is a good thing!

Future posts in this series will examine additional resume shortcomings and offer more resume writing suggestions. Stay tuned!

Richard Kirby, CMC, Atlanta Premier Executive Career Consultant

Atlanta executive career consultant Richard Kirby of Executive Impact has over 12 years of successful experience mentoring professionals and executives through successful career transitions and life-changing job searches. His methodical career change programs start with career assessment testing, followed by career options identification and analysis that defines short-term and long-term career goals. Testing and analysis form the foundation for subsequent resume writing, career marketing plans, networking strategies, and job interview enhancements. To learn key strategies for proper career planning, grab a free excerpt from his eBook Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!)

Richard Kirby – who has written posts on Executive Impact.

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