How To Maximize Your Chances Of Surviving The 6 Second Resume Glance

Creative Commons


Creative Commons

April 15, 2024 at 4:27PM UTC

If you’re applying for a job, you’re probably spending a lot of time updating your resume, scrubbing your social media profiles and actually searching and applying for roles. In other words, you’re focused on yourself and your job-seeker profile (in addition to searching for jobs).

While all of that is logical, it’s also a good reality check to think about what you’re doing from a recruiter’s point of view. Recruiters are some of the busiest people we’ve ever met. Their jobs are to funnel thousands of resumes down to a candidate slate of digestible size to a hiring manager, and kick off the interview process with those who’ve made it that far. In other words, there’s a reason they aren’t exactly the easiest people to reach. They are a human filter, a scheduler, a diplomat, and an interpreter of a hiring manager’s wishes, all wrapped up in one package.

Sifting through resumes or searching through candidate databases has gotten easier with technology and filtering tools, but resumes still need to ultimately be considered and reviewed. According to a 2012 study published by the job listings site, The Ladder, a recruiter spends about 6 seconds glancing at a resume before deciding which pile it goes into. The Ladders even went as far as following the eye movements of recruiters reviewing resumes with eye-tracking software to see where recruiters spent those precious 6 seconds.


One resume expert, Christopher Fields, agrees that a resume’s “scanability” is key and suggests that a resume includes verbatim words mirroring the job description which will be more likely to stand out to a recruiter. In short, 6 seconds is just functionally long enough to form an instant impression and engage in some pattern recognition. It also explains why it’s common advice to hear that you should have multiple resumes — tailored to different job applications — even if it’s for the sake of matching some keywords.

Another recruiter, Becky Carlson, who has worked in-house as a recruiter at companies like Amazon and Microsoft says that int he 5-6 seconds they scan a resume, they are looking for “what companies they have worked at, languages they have coded in, and years of experience they have with them. Anything quickly that can set them apart….I don’t have time to get into all of the bullet points. Managers can do the digging, recruiters don’t.”

Practically, in terms of styling this means reasonably big font (no 8 points), bold font for important things like the companies where you’ve worked and intuitive, linear formatting down the left side of a page. In terms of content, look at the job description and make sure your resume’s wording matches theirs as much as possible.

Remember, a recruiter is looking to match their mandate (to fill a job by someone who has A, B and C experience) with a piece of paper with a lot of keywords that match A, B and C. When you think about it this way, it’s really not shocking or negligent to spend 5-6 seconds reviewing a resume. It certainly takes a lot longer than 5-6 seconds to decide to hire someone, but not much longer to figure out whether one should disregard resumes where A, B and C don’t exist (or are simply too hard to see).


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