The 6 Second Resume

Many resumes end up at the bottom of the pile or in the shredder. Some reasons for this might seem like no-brainers to most of us—such as a candidate misspelling his or her own name—but other reasons might not be immediately apparent. A new study from The Ladders is using advanced technology and scientific methods to shed some light on recruiter decision-making.

Through a technique called “eye tracking”, researchers were able to determine how long a recruiter scans a resume before making the initial up-or-down decision that determines whether the candidate advances to the next round in the hiring process. What were they focusing on?

This study offers valuable insight into recruiters’ real world behaviors. Thirty professional recruiters took part in the study during a 10-week period. The eye tracking software recorded and analyzed where and how long a recruiter focuses when digesting information or completing activities.

Some questions immediately arise. Do recruiters perceive a professionally written resume the same way a job seeker does? How long did recruiters actually spend reading each resume? Recruiters report spending an average of 5 minutes reviewing each candidate’s resume. Is this true?

The study also analyzed what type of information was most important to recruiters. Based on the results of the eye tracking, would it be better to highlight duties and responsibilities at the most recently held position, or a brief summary of many positions held?
“In the short time that they spend with your resume, the study showed recruiters will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education.”

As it turns out, recruiters take an average of only 6 seconds to review each resume! The bottom line: make the most of those precious seconds by making those fields listed above easy to find and easy to read. (And you’ll stay out of your own way next time you’re in line for a position.)

The two resumes below include a heat map of recruiters’ eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format. As you can see, the recruiter didn’t even bother to get all the way to the end of the first resume!

With such critical time constraints, you should make it easier for recruiters to find pertinent information by creating a resume with a clear visual hierarchy and don’t include distracting visuals since “such visual elements reduced recruiters’ analytical capability and hampered decision-making” and kept them from “locating the most relevant information, like skills and experience.”
Does your resume pass the 6 second test? Why or why not?

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