Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Person Reading Your Resume Will Spend Six Seconds On It!

One of my most popular Ad Age articles was entitled, “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Your Résumé”.  I wrote it because I knew how hiring managers and corporate recruiters use résumés.  Recently, I was proven right by an article which appeared in Business Insider.  

It seems that The Ladders has conducted a study on recruiter’s decision- making behavior.  They reported that the average time spent on a résumé is six seconds.  That’s right.  Six seconds.  

The research indicated that what recruiters look at is name, current title and company, start and end dates, previous title and company as well as previous company start and end dates.  They also look at education.  This plays directly into my advice: all anyone wants to know is where did you work, how long did you work there, did you get promoted and what did you do there.  I recently received a résumé which, in an effort to keep it to one page, had so much information on it as to become completely unreadable - it was typed in (literally), eight point type, the margins stretched to the boarders of both sides of the paper and, in fact, the bottom was so tight that the last line of text did not print.  What does this say about the candidate?

Résumé writers, including professionals who charge for this service are wasting your time and money if they are putting down all the things which you have accomplished and achieved.  Yes, a good résumé should have a couple of those points, but they should not detract from the important information.  Most people spend an inordinate amount of time describing their job functions.  If you are an advertising account person looking for another advertising job, it is unnecessary to put down that you are the liaison to the client or that you work with creative – virtually everyone who sees your résumé will know that these are the things that you do.  Much more important, for instance, is that you have supervised the production of ten television commercials from concept to production or that you developed a new strategy for your client's advertising.

Remember, a résumé is an ad for yourself.  Your résumé will mostly be used as an interview guide so put down things you want to talk about so people will ask you about them.

One of the things that I found really interesting and revealing about the Ladders research is their admonishment that a résumé should not contain distracting elements – like client logos (I see this all the time).  Those elements actually detract from reading the relevant information on a CV.  The research was based on 30 professional recruiters and examined and tracked their eye movements over a ten week period.  It shows two different résumés and how they are viewed.  The simple one fared better.

When creating your résumé, take heed.


  1. Great insight Paul, as always.

    I think one of the biggest challenges most people face is writing a resume that meets the very different challenges faced by human and electronic readers.

    A human reader, as you point out, spends 6-10 seconds scanning the high points. For them, a clean, short resume works best.

    A computer screener looks for key words and phrases. A long, keyword dense resume works best to clear this gauntlet.

    Of course, no one should have just one resume, but too ofter, you've got to pick just one for any given role. Hopefully, you'll be able to pick the right one!

  2. @Mallthus: You are 100% right. However, in advertising, I am not aware of any ad agency that uses key word resume readers. That is only used by big business and the large, multi-office recruitment firms.

  3. I see HR people on the train all the time...going through a stack of resumes. 6 seconds is likely a lot! The key is to create resumes that stand out, that are relevant, compelling and flag experience that is desirable. Trim the fat. Focus the substance.


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