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The six-second resume

Resumes and Cover Letters


I’ve heard that employers spend only a few minutes reading each resume (even though I spend hours and hours writing it and making it match their job lead.) Is that true?


You won’t like this.

That resume that you spent many hours crafting and perfecting will probably get about six seconds of the hiring manager’s attention.

That assumes that it survived the Applicant Tracking System (a computer system that scans thousands of resumes, looking for the keywords for any given job lead. It finds those with the most keywords and passes them on to the human resources person or hiring manager.)

This information comes from a survey at BeHiring ( It found that, out of the six seconds the employer spends scanning your resume, four are spent on just four items: your job titles, companies you worked for, start and end dates, and your education. On average, you’ll only have two additional seconds to impress the employer.

Yes, it’s discouraging. But allowing yourself to be discouraged doesn’t help. It’s better to figure out how to get whatever attention you can.

You’ll want to be sure your resume contains the keywords from the job lead. You’ll find the keywords in the sections marked “Requirements” or “Qualifications” or “The successful candidate will ….” The more keywords you use, the more likely your resume will pass the Applicant Tracking System and make its way into human hands. The human will also be looking for the keywords, so this helps in the second stage too.

Make the most important information easy to find and easy to read. Use a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, that appear on virtually all computers in the United States. Use a big enough font (11-12 points) for an employer with aging eyes to be able to read it.

Proofread your information, and then get someone else to proofread it. The second set of eyes makes a big difference. A single typo may knock you out of competition for a job that would be perfect for you. At FCWS, feel free to ask the staff member at the Resource Desk to proofread.

Finally, be sure your LinkedIn profile is as nearly perfect as possible, and include your LinkedIn URL in your contact information. Then the employer has the option of finding more information there. Many employers actually start with LinkedIn anyway, and never post job leads to begin with.

Of course your resume deserves more than six seconds of attention. But employers get so many of them that there’s just no way to read everything. So do what you can to ensure that you get at least the little bit of attention you can.