Six Seconds of Fame

Recently, posted an article summarizing and illustrating an Eye Tracking Study that demonstrated Recruiter decision making as it pertains to resume reading. Like them or hate them, Recruiters are probably here to stay, and in most cases, the gatekeepers, or vehicles that help or hinder your journey toward your dream job, so unlocking the mystery of a recruiter’s mind as it relates to resume reading is a key element to your success as an applicant.

In TheLadders article provided specific data on the following key elements:

  • Individual resume and online profile details viewed by participating recruiters
  • Specific items that captured recruiters’ attention during reviews
  • How long Recruiters spent viewing each item
  • How quickly their eyes moved from item to item
  • What content was overlooked.

In a self-assessment, many recruiters claimed to spend five to six minutes with each resume, but in fact the study indicated five to six seconds was closer to the truth. Also, most recruiters followed a very specific path, like a visual roadmap, scanning the same areas of the resumes they reviewed. When resumes were professionally written, or well organized, their gaze trace was almost identical to one another, as opposed to looking at disorganized resumes which yielded differential and erratic eye movement.

So what information was absorbed in these six seconds? Name, current title/company, previous position/company, previous position start and end dates, and education. Beyond that, buzzwords were absorbed, but rarely summaries or lengthy descriptions, and never clutter.

There is some good data to be taken from this study to help your resume be seen by the decision makers.

Be Brief.

Where it’s not necessary to keep resumes to one page, they should never be longer than three. I’ve coached college grads on resume writing and am amazed at how stressed they become about needing to keep it to one page. Resumes are no longer read in print form, so scanning two pages on a computer is not really an inconvenience. If that’s what it takes to demonstrate your experience, go for it, but make sure it is in line with how much experience you have, and never exceed three pages.

Get Buzzed.

Most recruiters aren’t technical. We talk the talk, but that’s where it ends. When I look at a resume, it should be clear in less than 2 seconds what it is you do. Developers should include specific coding languages and technologies, everyone should include titles, and the words shouldn’t be written to go above my head.

Be Relevant.

Including every single position you have ever held is not necessary. Choose the ones that are relevant in some way to the position you are targeting. For example, if you are applying for a Java Developer role in 2013, we don’t need to know you worked as a clerk at Men’s Warehouse in 1996.

Don’t include information just to include it.

If your “objective,” or “summary” is just there for the sake of being there, delete it. Repetition isn’t always a bad thing, but that is one of the first things that someone will see, so make sure it is thoughtful, concise, and includes hard facts about your technical skills, not just generalities about how you are a team player.

Speaking of team players..

Adding fluff about working well with others, learning fast, etc. are not necessary. They are clutter and take away from time that could be spent learning other important facts about your experience. Remember, you only have six seconds!

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