Your Resume Only has 1 Chance at a First Impression with HR

CNA job candidates that really want to get a great nursing assistant job understand that submitting a great resume is vital to getting an interview. And we think you already know this. After all, why else would you be reading our series on CNA resumes and cover letters?

But did you also realize how important the first impression HR has of your resume is? Well it is. And if your resume doesn’t make a great first impression on HR, you risk not getting an interview for that CNA job you covet so much.

CNA job candidates spend a great deal of time, effort and resources on their resumes. So you would think that the people reviewing their resumes to determine if they deserve an interview would show some respect and also put some time and effort into reviewing all the resumes that are submitted. But unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that HR reviews resumes very quickly. And we mean quicker than you probably even realize.

Studies have been done to try and determine how long HR looks at resumes, and the average length of time has varied from a little under 1 minute on the high side to only 10 (10!) seconds on the low side. If you want more information just google “how long does human resources review resumes”. Or don’t. Because it will probably upset you knowing that they invest such little time in most resumes and applications that get submitted.

HR and hiring managers have limited time

So what’s the main reason that most resumes get reviewed so quickly? The same reason you can’t get everything done on your to-do list: everyone has a limited amount of time and you must prioritize how you spend your time.

Reviewing resumes and hiring qualified nursing assistants is an important part of HR’s job, but it is certainly not their only job responsibility. They also have to do things like training and development, compliance, compensation and benefits and many other job duties.

Needless to say, recruiting new employees and reviewing resumes is only 1 part of their job. It’s a very important part of their job, but unfortunately at most companies HR is not able to devote as much time to reviewing resumes as they’d like because they just don’t have the time to do so.

So how does HR combat having limited time to review the resumes of candidates? They try to be more efficient by limiting the amount of time they devote to some of the resumes. They can’t review every resume with a fine-tooth comb. And unfortunately, that means they might spend only an average of 30 seconds reviewing all of the applications that were submitted.

There’s good news, and there’s bad news

You’re probably thinking to yourself “30 seconds! How am I supposed to impress HR and get an interview if I only have 30 seconds? That’s not long enough to tell them about my amazing work experience and CNA qualifications!” Take a deep breath. There’s some good news and maybe a little bad news.

First the good news: these studies are averages. Think of it like this: say 20 CNA candidates apply for the job and 18 of the resumes are terrible. The person reviewing the resume only spends 10 seconds on the 18 bad resumes because it is so clear that they are unqualified or just have a very bad resume. But they spend 5 minutes on each of the 2 good CNA resumes.

The average is only 39 seconds/resume, but in reality they spent 5 minutes on the resumes that actually passed the initial eye test. That is a big disparity between the average of 39 seconds and 5 minutes for the quality resumes. Make sure you are one of the resumes they review for 5 minutes, not 10 seconds!

We can’t overstate this enough: the first impression your resume makes on the person reviewing your resume is essential. Because if your resume doesn’t make a good impression, they will just quickly move on to the next CNA resume. Trust us, there are usually several qualified candidates with great resumes for every CNA job opening.

There’s more good news though: you already know what HR is looking for in the ideal CNA candidate for the job! The job posting is essentially a cheat sheet that you can use to tailor your resume to demonstrate that you are one of the best candidates and you deserve an interview.

So what’s the bad news about how quickly HR reviews CNA resumes? It’s a lot of pressure to make sure you’re in the 5 minute group and not the 10 second group. Some candidates get so stressed and think that there resume is too boring and this might cause their resume to get passed over. They forget to stick to the fundamentals and basic purpose of their resume and start making mistakes that we have previously talked about like…

They give a biography

Instead of sticking to the agenda and showing they deserve an interview, some candidates get nervous and throw their entire biography on their resume hoping that something will catch the person reviewing their resume’s attention. This doesn’t work. It comes across as unorganized and makes it difficult on the person reviewing your resume to figure out whether you’re qualified or not.

They go overboard on the formatting to make their resume stand out

Some candidates start thinking to themselves, “okay my resume is just too boring, I’ve got to make it standout someway or I’ll never get an interview.” As we’ve previously discussed, using unorthodox or fancy formatting will make your resume stand out, but not in a good way. Focus more time on perfecting your content and less time on making the format fancy. Formatting your resume is very important, but you shouldn’t over complicate it. Stick to the basics and you’ll be good. Great content is where you get the best bang for your buck!

They don’t tailor their resume for the CNA job

When you are younger and applying for a summer job, you can use the same resume for any job you apply for. However, you should not be doing this for CNA jobs you apply for. First of all, you need to be using the right verbs, adjectives and other wording to make sure your resume is tailored for the CNA position. Otherwise, how are they going to know you are the right fit for the position?

Secondly, you should try to tailor your resume specifically to the CNA job you are applying for. For example if you are applying for a CNA job at a nursing home, you might want to make some small changes from the resume you submitted for a CNA job at a hospital so you can better explain why you’re the right candidate for this specific job. Most of the content will remain the same, but there should be some small changes. And most of the time you can make these small changes just by using information from the job posting. We will cover this topic in much more detail on another post.

Think of your resume like an elevator pitch on paper

An elevator pitch is a hypothetical scenario of when you get in the elevator with someone, and you essentially want to sell them something. It could be a product. It could be your company. Or you could be selling them on you.

The whole point of the “elevator pitch” exercise though is to be able to make a quick sell because you are in the elevator with them, so you know you have a very limited amount of time. That’s why you need to make the time count. You may only have around 30 seconds, so you need to quickly get your message across, impress them with your first impression and essentially make a quick sell.

Well your resume is essentially a written version of your elevator pitch for the CNA job you’re applying for. Remember though, at this stage of the hiring process you’re not selling them on giving you a job offer, you’re just selling them on giving you an interview. Remember that your goal is just to the interview for now, and that should take a little stress off of you.

Your resume only gets 1 chance at a first impression so make it count, but don’t stress about it!

It’s true that your resume only gets 1 chance at a first impression. But the good news is that this first impression happens in a controlled environment. You have complete control over how your resume looks and the content that is on it when you submit it for a CNA job. You already know what is going to be on the test, unlike the job interview where you aren’t sure what questions they are going to ask.

So make sure you don’t risk losing an opportunity to get an interview by submitting a less than stellar resume. Format your resume properly, make sure the content is excellent and specific to the CNA job, and you will get selected for interviews. And if you don’t get selected, don’t sweat it. Move on and apply for another nursing assistant job. When the right CNA job comes along, we know you are going to show them you’re the right nursing assistant for the job!