Can Your Resume Pass the 6 Second Test?

Posted by


You spent hours carefully preparing your resume. It’s fact filled with dates,  chock full of employment history, all youR chest-beating achievements, and every vital skill set you possess. You even added some social media contacts and similar extras to “round” you out as the perfect candidate.  Yes, your resume has everything you think it should have. And you’re sure it will be read from top to bottom without missing a beat. 


Whoa. Rewind. Today, with resumes pilling up on recruiters’ desks faster than letters to Santa on Christmas Eve,  it will have to stand up to the 6-second challenge.  Overworked  recruiters spend an average of just 6 seconds scanning resumes. This, according to a recent Ladders study, which revealed that resumes were ranked according to readability and the key content most sought by today’s recruiters. 


Factors that influenced readability included how well a resume was organized and its visual breakdown of information. Advanced "eye-tracking" technology showed that a recruiter’s eyes wandered needlessly and repeatedly over resumes that were overstuffed with information and poorly organized.  All the extra visual and mental work made these resumes difficult to assess. Professionally prepared resumes—those with better organization and less superfluous information—took less eye tracking and mental effort—and were thus spared from instant rejection. 

So what exactly do recruiters scan for in your resume?  The eye tracking technology revealed most of a recruiter’s time was spent in scanning the following areas:
  • Name
  • Previous position—start & end dates 
  • Current title/company
  • Current position--start & end dates 
  • Previous title/company
  • Education 

After that, recruiters simply looked for keywords that matched the job. The rest of the information was simply considered “background” to be evaluated later once the recruiter had filtered through the initial stack of resumes. But the critical  “fit/no fit” decision was made in just 6 seconds.  This is where professionally written resumes earned their keep, scoring higher in readability and surviving the critical first pass. 


Another eye-tracking revelation: If you’re supplementing your resume with an online profile, be aware that some of these profiles can be cluttered with ads and “calls-to-action,” which can distract and tire a recruiter’s attention.


In light of the 6-second rule, you might consider having your resume professionally prepared. Or at the very least, seek the advice of a pro on what to include and how to organize it based on what the eye-tracking system revealed as most pertinent.   



Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch