You’ve Got Six Seconds

While surfing the latest articles at FastCompany’s Co.DESIGN site, I recently read about this fascinating study that tracks the eye movements of recruiters as they review resumes.  The study was performed by The Ladders, a job listing service that has historically targeted the $100k+ job, but has recently opened its doors to a wider variety of listings, beginning at $40k.

While you can get the full results by clicking the link, one of the conclusions they came to was that recruiters make a decision about whether a person is a good candidate for a job or not within 6 seconds.  That’s right – six seconds of scanning, and then the resume gets the nod or goes into that mysterious big black hole that job seekers dread.  This is just one study by one firm, but common sense tells me the results are probably pretty realistic.  Recruiters have to read (or, I guess I should say, scan) endless numbers of resumes, and I’m sure each one gets it down to a science, looks for particular things in particular places, and doesn’t even bother with a resume that asks them to work hard to find relevant information.  Think of it like any other kind of marketing – if you don’t capture the attention of your audience quickly, you’re probably not going to capture it at all.

As a hiring manager, I’ve certainly skimmed resumes in six seconds or less to make that initial determination of whether I’m interested in having a conversation with a candidate or not.  When I’m particularly busy, I don’t read the whole resume until right before an interview, and unfortunately, there have been some times where I haven’t had time to fully read a resume before a conversation at all.  The realities of how difficult it can be to make an impression and get an interview can be disheartening if you let them.  On the other hand, results of studies like these can give you just the kick in the pants you need to view your resume differently and see if it’s not something completely fixable, like formatting, that might be ruining your first impression chances.  Whether you’re looking for a job right now or not, take a look at your latest resume.  Does it communicate the right stuff in six seconds?

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