Why Your Resume Fails the 10 Second Rule

trash-can-fullFor the initial review, prospective employers are of the mindset “cut to the chase and make it simple.” Failing to do so will lead to failing the 10 second test.

The first thing a prospective employer is going to read on your resume is the top quarter of the page. Peak enough interest there and they will then scan the rest of your resume to determine if you go in the keep or go pile.

What is it that they are looking for in that top quarter? The answer to two questions:

What do you want?
What can you do for me?

If you fail to answer two questions, or make it difficult for the reader to find the answers in your resume, you get assigned to the no pile.

What Do You Want?

Put simply – what job are you applying for? Too often job seekers use a one-size fits all resume. The problem with this is twofold: one resume does not meet the qualifications for every job and using the same resume does not synchronize with an exact position.

State simply and early what position it is that you are targeting. The reader does not have the time or inclination to make the determination as to where you fit in the organization. They may have advertised for many different positions at the same time, so make it easy for them to know exactly what you are going after.

How to answer this question:

1. If you are applying for an Operations Manager position and have held this same position then use Operations Manager as the title for your resume, right underneath your letterhead.

2. Use the position title in your opening statement. “Operations Manager with 15 years’ proven success in….”

3. If you have not held this position title in the past or the desired position title is vague but have relevant experience, make a broader title statement. “Senior Management – Operations”

4. Use a tag line to expand upon and align your experience. “Executive Leader Proven in Improving Efficiencies and Production in Operations, Finance and Inventory.”

What Can You Do For Me?

This is the most important question that the reader has and it is vital that you answer this question first and foremost. The job market is not like the stock market in that past performance is not an indicator of future success. If you have provided value for another organization, odds are you are going to be able to transfer those skills to a new company, team and their clients.

How to answer this question:

1. In your opening statement make it clear who you served, how you served them and the value they received from you doing what you did.

  • Who you served can include specific or general industries, teams, clients or products.
  • How did you serve them incorporates your skill set both technical and soft skills.
  • The value the received is the win, increase revenues, expand territories, improve efficiencies and the like.

2. Incorporate the above points into your bullet points to demonstrate your worth.

3. Utilize key words for an Areas of Expertise or Proficiencies section. Zone in on the key words from the job posting and industry specific words. A great tool to determine the key words in a posting is www.TagCrowd.com. Copy the job posting and paste it into this site and it creates a visual word cloud to easily see the most used words.

Make It Easy to Find the Important Information

This is the visual aspect. It is human nature to be drawn to things that we find attractive. The key to an attractive or eye catching resume is balance.

How to visually improve your resume:

1. White space – Too much looks like you do not have enough value to fill a page and too much makes it difficult for the reader to read. A good rule of thumb is margins should be between .5 – 1 inch with the majority of the font between 11-12 point.

2. Spacing – Make sure there is a visual space between sections, headings and positions.

3. Titles – Use a larger font and bold for section headings and the title under your letterhead if using one. Borders are also recommended for a visual break.

4. Take it easy on the creativity – using a mishmash of different fonts, unique bullet points and overdoing the bold and italic throughout the resume may be immediately eye catching; however, someone has to read it in more detail and all of those visual differences may make it a strain on their eyes.

5. Create a letterhead – This is your personal branding statement, it is about you and therefore your contact information should be clear, visible and stand out from the rest of your text.

One caveat here: when applying online the company may utilize an ATS system – Automatic Tracking System – a scanning software of resumes to quickly determine the compatibility between your resume and the position. Some of these systems are key word driven, others are more advanced and able to determine context.

The original systems were only able to read only characters that appeared on your keyboard and would misinterpret any other formatting. (This of seeing an article title that has “&amp” in the middle of it.) To be safe, format your resume in an ATS friendly version removing borders, shading and non-standard characters. For tips on formatting resumes for ATS systems, click here: 15 Resume Tips to Hate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) a Little Less.

Tweaking your resume with these three key points in mind may just give you the edge to stay in the “yes” pile, rather than being relegated to the “no” pile.


Every Failure Has the Opportunity to Present in its Equal a Success

The Difference Between Failure and Failing


Fails are proof you have tried something new, gone outside of your comfort zone or on the path of discovery.  Failing is a part of every day life.  Failure is the speed bumps that help us correct our path.


Fails are not necessarily a bad thing, I happen to think it is a great opportunity.  Thank goodness I have had the fails that I have for that has helped me improve, grow and gain greater value.  Had I succeeded then I might have stayed at a status quo.


That would have meant stagnation.


Had I stopped trying and not worked through the fails, then I would have had a failure.


Failure is not trying.  Failure is giving up.  Failure is accepting status quo in order not to move forward.  Failure is not fun.


However if you utilize a fail as it is truly presented – as feedback, then you really do not have failure.  You have opportunity.


To avoid fails or failure would be to know everything.  I have yet to meet the person that knows everything.  Although I have met some that think they do, but that is a different story.  We don’t know everything.  It is not our nature; it is not a one-stop shop.  We are continuing to learn, to improve to grow personally and professionally.


I absolutely love what I do, I love working with clients one on one and transforming their personal brand, creating resumes, LinkedIn profiles, coaching, giving seminars and workshops.  As long as I have been doing this and as often as I write, speak and coach I still learn every day.


I still have fails every day.  When I first started it would freak me out when I had a fail.  I took it personally seeing it as a negative.  Then I realized a very simple thought: you cannot learn multiplication without understanding addition, in learning addition you learn by mistakes.  I come from a very mathematical family so bear with the example.


When children lean addition the have to understand the concept, try it out, practice, miss some and learn from this.  Once they master addition it leads the way to subtraction, multiplication and division.  The world begins to open up from that one concept.


Think you have mastered multiplication?  Great, now it is time to move on to Algebra.  Got that mastered?  Awesome, let’s move on to Calculus.    Get the point?  It is a continuum.


If you had a phone interview and feel like you bombed it, stop beating yourself up and start looking at it as a learning opportunity.  Remove yourself from the experience and look at it as a postmortem.  Where was a fail, how could you have improved, what can you do differently next time, what lead to it and how can you avoid it the next time?


There – you have turned a fail into a positive.  You now know how to handle the situation the next time.  Next time you will improve on your technique, clarify your language or message.  You did not fail, you learned.


It is a simple concept but difficult to employ.  No one wants to admit they failed.  It could be seen as weakness.  Weakness is unwillingness to change, grow or learn.


I had to pretty much force myself into this way of thinking.  I’m an overly analytical person and my own worst critic.  Others may think I did a great job on a talk and I can tell you the five things I did wrong.  I always looked at it as a negative, very critical of myself.


So when I finally got that fails were opportunities, I had to practice.  This is yet another reason I love my dogs.  I could turn to them and say, “Well, that was a big ol’ fail.”   They would look at me with happy puppy eyes, wagging tails and I could swear I could read their minds saying, “Yes, but it is over – can we have a biscuit?”


If the dogs could see it was done and over and it did not scare them for life, I could too.  So I would dutifully hand out biscuits to the pups, write down the “fail” (remember the over-analytical part of me? It doesn’t give up lists or writing things down) and play devil’s advocate.


Was it really life-scaring?  How was it a fail, what could I do next time in that situation, how could I avoid that situation in the future and most importantly – what did I learn from this.


Then I would file it away as lesson learned and move on with my day.


I have failed many times in my life, I have failed daily – but I am not a failure.  Because with each one I have learned, gained understanding, appreciation and positioned myself to not make that mistake again.  That, my friends, is on the whole other end of failure.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist, Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer





Why Does It Take a Disaster?

open armsI woke this morning to a news report about the devastating loss of lives in Oklahoma, they began with the children. Immediately a quote from one of my favorite shows flashed in my mind: “the streets of heaven are crowded with angels…”

This morning I observed an enormous outpouring of sympathy, prayers and condolences on Facebook for the victims and survivors.

I imagine by this evening there will be an abundance of postings and pictures about appreciating what you have right now, live for the moment, tell those that you love you love them because tomorrow is not promised. All very valid.

But why wait until a disaster to remind ourselves of these things?

Because we get stuck in our own little, self-enclosed, safe world.

It is easy to tell the people we love that we love them and often say in as a casual, non-emotional, expected ending to a sentence. “…ok, I’ll talk to you later, love you.” Click.

When a disaster strikes it is easy for us to say, gee, I am so thankful for all that I have and I am going to make sure everyone I love knows how much they mean to me. But then life happens and the best of intentions are spread by positive quotes and happy pictures on Facebook.

The positive in this is, they know. Those you love, most of them, they know. You do show them, the way you talk to them, tease them, give them a hard time, check in on them now and then and can pick up just where you left off when it has been some time. They know.

It would be nice to give them a reminder, but they know.

It is the things left unsaid that are really the heart of this matter. The opportunities we let slide or didn’t fully pursue. The jobs we wanted to go after, the ones we wanted to love but were afraid of rejection, the new skills we wanted to master but didn’t want to look foolish in trying, the silliness we long to have but are too afraid of what others might think.

Why wait for a disaster to sit back and think, “I really want to do this, I should really get on it because life is too short.”

You think?

Go do it. Take the class, make the call, apply for the job and for goodness sakes go look foolish!

You may fail, you may be rejected, you may even get hurt a little – but guess what, you may not. You can succeed or you can fail, and if you fail then fail fabulously! Either way it is called living – and we need to do more of that.

“Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.” James F. Byrnes

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW