Packaging is Everything!
If you clicked through the quiz, you’ll have learned that employers tend to review CVs quickly, spending just a few seconds with each application before sorting it into the “keep reading” pile or discarding it. According to an eye tracking study done by Ladders Inc, employers spend 7.4 seconds on average reading each CV. This average doesn’t represent all companies, employers, or fields – there are employers who spend quite a long time thoroughly reviewing each application and there are employers that make their decisions even more quickly – but even for those employers who are spending much more time with your resume, first impressions matter quite a lot. Research in behavioral science has shown that the first impression that we get is extremely important in decision making. While robots are designed to process information logically and methodically, humans are not. In fact, the human brain is wired to jump to conclusions, and will quickly establish an overall impression of a new person in as little as a tenth of a second. Researchers refer to this as the first impression bias, and it plays a large role in the hiring process. Along with this, our brains are more likely to remember the first information that we encounter, and this information can have an outsized influence on our evaluation of a candidate. In those first few seconds, the person reviewing resumes has already developed an idea of who you are – before they’ve finished reading what you’ve written. If you’d like to get an idea of how much time that is and how much they really take in from your resume, try timing yourself while reading a sample resume. Use the stopwatch on your phone. See how long it takes you to read just the highlights. You’ll likely find that you can’t take in very much information in 7.4 seconds. So if they’re not deciding based on your qualifications, what information are they using?
Imagine yourself in a library or a bookshop, looking for a new book to read. You might find yourself reading the inside flap, or back cover, or even paging through a book before you take it home – but how do you decide which books to pick up and flip through? We sometimes get recommendations from others, or look for authors that we’re already familiar with, but we also use the cover art and design to help guide us. If a book cover looks similar to the cover of books we’ve enjoyed in the past, we’re more likely to pick it up. It’s a bit like the role that clothing plays when you meet someone for the first time. Just like wearing the right clothes to an interview can help you be more successful, dressing your skills, knowledge, traits, and experience in the right formatting can help your resume make it into that “keep reading” pile.
A well-formatted resume is easy to read. It has a simple, uncomplicated layout, and the reader should be able to quickly find the most important details. Headings and titles should be clearly marked, and descriptions of . “F” or “E” formats perform really well in Germany, as do resumes that don’t have a lot of graphics or extra design elements. It should have evenly-spaced text and be easy to read, in a font that’s legible and not too small. Use consistent fonts throughout the whole document, and make sure that elements are formatted consistently as well. If you’ve listed the dates of a previous job in MM/YY format, make sure that you use the same MM/YY format elsewhere. Typos and extra spaces or line breaks can create a chaotic or unorganized impression.
A simple way to make sure that you follow all of these rules is to use a template. However, you’ll need to be careful if you’re applying at a German company. Many of the resume layouts you’ll find on the internet are not designed for the German job market. If you’re applying in Germany and need a German-style layout, take a look at Xing’s resume builder at lebenslauf.com. Resume builders are great as they allow you to make small changes to your resume without a lot of additional formatting. If you’re applying for a job in the international job market, you can take a look at resume.io or resume.com. Don’t use the Europass layout, as it tends to receive negative feedback from hiring managers. Again, avoid anything with lots of designs or colors. Keep it as simple as possible!
In the next article, we’ll talk about what goes in the resume.
Do I need a cover letter?
Finding an Internship in the Corona Pandemic
Building your network and your knowledge about the job market in your field is always a great way to boost your internship search. An informational interview is a great strategy to find out more about working in your field and to expand your network. Remember, in an informational interview, you never want to ask for a job or an internship (don’t do it!). Reach out to professionals in your field – you can find them in alumni networks, linkedin, or xing – via email (it works best if you use your university email address) and ask them if they’d mind answering a few questions and helping you learn more about the career path they’ve chosen. You can start with questions like:
- What internships did you do while you were a student and how did they prepare you for the job you have now?
- What do entry-level jobs in this field look like and what are the most important qualifications?
- What one thing do you know now that you wish you knew as a student/young applicant?
- What skills/knowledge are most important for the job you have today?