Resume selection

Your resume has less than 10 seconds to avoid rejection: what employers look for

Peter Harris|

While the job market remains competitive, employers often receive many more applications for jobs than they have time to give the attention they may deserve. As a coping mechanism, recruiters have developed the ability to filter through resumes and divide them into a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ pile incredible quickly.

Research shows that recruiters spend an average of just six seconds scanning your resume for information before deciding whether you are a potential fit or not for the job they’re filling.

If you make it into the potential hire pile, then they may take a closer look at the details. However, if your resume doesn’t make it through that first six second scan, your chances are sunk. Using eye-tracking software, researchers at The Ladders followed where recruiters focused their attention in those crucial first seconds. For this study, 30 recruiters reviewed the resumes and online profiles of candidates over a ten-week period.

The information recruiters scan for in six seconds:

  • Your name
  • Your current job title and employer
  • The start and end dates of your current job
  • Your previous employer and job title
  • The start and end dates of your previous job
  • Your level of education

In that first glance, everything else on your resume is just extra information that employers may or may not glance over for keywords related to the skills they’re looking for.

How to make each one of those six seconds count

The best way to pass the resume first impression test is to make it effortless for employers to find the information that matters most to them. Have a clearly laid out document with bolded job titles in reverse chronological order. Use plenty of white space and have Work History and Education sections plainly marked.

Have a section outlining your skills in bullet points. You’ll want to have the relevant keywords included for resume search engines and applicant tracking systems, and these are the next things recruiters look for if there’s time left in their six-second scan.

Like it or not, the point of the initial quick survey of the resume is to filter out candidates who don’t seem like a good fit, and to narrow down the potential candidate pool to the few who receive a closer read and potentially an interview. Understanding what employers are looking for, and making that information easier to find are quick and easy ways to improve your chances of being selected.

And speed really matters when you only have six seconds to make an impression.

Source: The Ladders: Keeping an eye on recruiter behaviour [PDF]

Peter Harris
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Category: Resumes, Uncategorised
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