Can you pick a winner in six seconds?

On a recent trip on Southwest Airlines, I saw in their in-flight magazine an article about the fact that the average time spent by a recruiter reviewing a resume is six seconds. This statistic comes from a recent study by The Ladders which was conducted by using eye-tracking software to measure how much time a recruiter focused on the resume in front of them.

So, if you have six seconds to make an impression, what should you do? Certainly not try and be cute or crazy with your resume—you might get attention but you certainly won’t get the call for the interview (unless you are applying for a highly creative position, for example). No, what the best advice is for job seekers—be sure you customize each resume you send out to fit the requirements of the position and use as many key words in your resume as you can pick out from the organization’s job posting.

Most importantly is to highlight your accomplishments as they match up to the job requirements—be sure those accomplishments jump off the page so in those short six seconds, the recruiter puts your resume in the “pass along to the hiring manager” category.

And for those of you who are doing the hiring, check out The Big Book of HR where we outline a variety of strategies for selecting the best applicants from the many resumes you receive. While I don’t recommend just spending six seconds (but I understand why it is done), I do suggest that it takes some work to determine from a piece of paper who might succeed at your organization.

First you have to understand your organization’s culture, then you must understand the requirements of this particular position. And then, what skills/abilities/knowledge would someone need to have to succeed in the open position. Can you get that in six seconds—maybe—but it does take some work and some training to be a good recruiter.

As someone who has spent a lot of years in the staffing field, I believe there is nothing more important than bringing the right people into the organization so if you are a recruiter, sharpen your recruiting skills to where you make good matches between the candidates and the openings in your organization. And, if you are looking for a job, take some time to be sure your resume can get the positive attention of a recruiter to take the time to pass you along to the hiring manager as a possible candidate!


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