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Engage Hiring Managers Like a Skilled Reporter

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An article on how Eyetracking Points the Way to Effective News Article Design (conducted by the Nielsen/Norman Group) got me thinking about how relevant this information is to resume design from the human reader’s viewpoint (i.e., when contacting hiring decision makers directly).

Newspaper techniques translated into career marketing terms: if readers need to navigate poorly presented, cluttered content (or meaningless, superfluous visuals that don’t support the text for that matter), you risk losing them from the start.

So what do you do when this describes your resume and it’s costing you interview after interview?

Long Story Short

According to the study, there’s a way to engage readers in your career story in half the time and make sure they remember about 34% more content.

Who wouldn’t want to make themselves more memorable to hiring decision makers, right?

Here are some key takeaways that take human reading behavior into account:

Simple Writing Tricks

  • Write tighter to shorten lines of text.
  • Compose compelling, well-written headline statements. (This Poynter’s Eyetrack III study noted that readers only read 2 to 3 words of a headline, so make your opening header a good one!)
  • Frontload your main points first, because readers do the same thing for body text.
  • Use subheadlines to categorize critical points into scannable information.

Basic Design Devices

  • Increase white space so readers aren’t hampered by clutter.
  • Create simple navigational structures for both written and visual content.
  • Change long paragraphed content to bulleted items. (BEWARE “death by bullets”; more than 5 bullet points defeats the purpose of this strategy.)
  • Bold important information. (NOTE: be strategic with your “to bold or not to bold” methodology; too much and your reader is faced with even more clutter.)
  • Use relevant visual cues that support the most important written content. (CAREFUL: incorporating “dead weight” visuals can do much more harm than good. Leave it to a career marketing professional if this isn’t your forte.)

The Nielsen study also relayed that these strategies increased reader comprehension 12% and provided a more satisfying reader experience.

Big win right there just to keep your resume in the running.

Have a long, hard look at your resume. If it’s not getting you the results you want, it may be time to think like a skilled reporter and rewrite and reformat it from the hiring manager’s perspective.