Passing The 6 Second Test

John Krautzel
Posted by in Career Advice

Research shows that when an employer is reviewing job applications, he spends approximately six seconds on each resume. Although this number may sound alarming, it is a helpful hint for job seekers. By altering the design and content of your professional resume to suit time-crunched hiring managers, you can increase your chances of passing the initial review.

Create an Information Hierarchy

In six seconds, an employer has just enough time to scan the content of your professional resume. Make it easier for the reviewer to grasp the highlights of your experience with a clear hierarchy of information. Use large or bold section headers to break up the page. Within each section, use bold text to highlight the most important details, such as job titles, company names or degrees. From there, use a combination of indented lines, bullet points and italic text to organize the information. When you look down the page, the most crucial points of your history should be the most visible.

Eliminate Unnecessary Words

On a one-page professional resume, every word counts. Help the employer scan your sentences quickly by cutting fluff and filler. Instead of writing a paragraph about each job, break your responsibilities and accomplishments into a bulleted list of three to five items. Keep each list item as short as possible; complete sentences are not necessary. As a general rule, take out any word that does not add to the meaning of the text. Shorter lines are easier to read quickly, and they make the resume look more accessible.

Use Numbers

Don't make the employer work to find key items on your professional resume — make the job easier by quantifying your accomplishments. In a sea of words, numbers automatically stand out. Start by replacing all numbers with numerals. Then, find ways to rewrite your existing sentences to add a statistic. Instead of, "Increased sales through referral program," write, "Increased sales by 25 percent through referral program." Numbers add substance to a general statement and provide proof of your abilities. They also make your application more memorable, which is essential during a tough job search.

Insert Relevant Keywords

Whether you are applying to a large company or a two-person startup, keywords can be a valuable addition to your professional resume. The right keywords can create a connection and make you more relevant. Read through the job description, noting any words that are used multiple times or included in the job requirements section. Include these words in prominent places throughout the resume. If appropriate, include other terms that are likely to get a response from the employer: insider jargon, key client names or common words from the employer's website, for example.

During a job search, every competitive advantage counts. By optimizing your professional resume to the habits of hiring managers, you can reduce the employer's workload and increase your chances of getting through to the next round of reviews.

Photo courtesy of Pham Tuyen Van at



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