Visual – how to decode a resume

Visual – how to decode a resume

It has been proven that hiring managers only look at a resume for an average of 6 to 8 seconds before deciding what to do with it. In that very brief time it is crucial to deliver a strategy of construction and phrasing that will give them an overall impression of professionalism and clarity of purpose.

How is it possible to convey this on your resume? In a word: specificity.


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  • A focused template: something that clearly separates sections like education and professional accomplishments.

  • No fancy graphics: Hiring managers dissuade applicants from sending overdesigned pieces with graphics or creative configurations. Though from your point of view these may seem “unique”, they are actually hampering the hiring manager’s ability to focus on your qualifications quickly.

  • Bullet Points: In your listings always use clear bullets. The only place to have a (short) prosaic narrative is in your opening summary of qualifications.

  • Leave out as much as you can: No need to have special skills, volunteerism, or tech skills unless they are imperative to the job. Also the “objective” section of a resume is obsolete – everyone knows that your objective is to get this job, it is a waste of valuable space.


It is always best to quantify your accomplishments. Adding numbers gives a concrete way to assess your skills, but also numbers are proven to draw the eye, giving readers a place to land during that essential 6 seconds. Do not worry if the number has to be approximate, as long as it is a useful metric.

The kinds of metrics you should consider are:

  • If you lead a team, how many people were part of that team?

  • What kind of budgets do you work with? What was the largest budget?

  • If you trained or hired other employees, how many?

  • How is the company doing compared to when you started? Can you put a number to their relative success?

  • If you run presentations or do public speaking, how many was in your largest crowd?


A hiring manager will see the same trite business-speak phrases again and again. Often well-meaning resume writers will include a descriptor like “detail-oriented” but the reader will interpret this very differently than what was surely the intent. “Detail-oriented” for example, makes a reader think you are not very creative. Instead, consider demonstrating how your attention to detail helped in your previous work. For example, if you improved workflow because you were meticulous that is admirable – how much did you improve workflow? Can you put a metric to it?

EBI created an infographic that will help you avoid phrasing that gives the wrong impression. Ultimately, it all boils down to that magic word: specificity.

EBI_How to Decode a Resume2.png

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