Research Shows How Recruiters Scan Resumes

John Krautzel
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A 2012 research study conducted by The Ladders, a job-matching service based in New York City, revealed that employers take an average of six seconds to evaluate a job candidate's resume. The study showed that they zero in on only four main areas of interest during a resume scan. Read on to discover what these areas are and how you can leverage them to boost your resume's appeal.

Hot Spots

The study used eye-tracking technology to record employers' eye movements during resume scans both online and on paper. The data, which were collected over a period of 10 weeks, were compiled to create a heat map of the most looked-at spots on resumes. The "hottest" spots, as visually indicated by the map, were the candidate's name, education, current title and company; current position start and end dates; previous title and company; and previous position start and end dates. According to the study, employers spent 80 percent of their resume scan time on these areas. Employers were also shown to scan for keywords that matched the job description.

Layout Matters

The Ladders' study also revealed the value of a clean, simple layout. Resumes that were compiled and formatted professionally had 60 percent higher usability than resumes that were created by the job seeker alone. This is likely because the professionally formatted resumes were more streamlined and concise, making them easier to read. They had more white space and better organized information as well. Layout is important because employers want and need to find information on employees quickly during a resume scan, and a clean resume format helps them do just that.

Making Your Resume Six-Second Ready

There are some simple steps you can take to edit your resume for the six-second test. Format your resume so that hot spot items — name, education, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, and previous position start and end dates — are plainly visible and easy to read. Make position titles descriptive, and briefly outline your accomplishments at each job. Include job description keywords where appropriate. If possible, have your resume formatted professionally. If you must create the resume yourself, use a clean, simple layout, include plenty of white space and eliminate unnecessary items such as photos, details about your personal life, and nonessential contact information such as Facebook or Twitter URLs. Have a colleague or friend perform a preliminary resume scan to check for readability and ease of use.

Employers have developed a protocol for extracting vital information about a candidate as quickly as possible during a resume scan. To make sure your resume gets noticed, make the vital details of your work history, education and accomplishments impactful and easy to read. Some fine-tuning can help ensure your resume passes the six-second test with flying colors.


(Photo courtesy of phasinphoto at


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