You've spent hours writing your resume, and you think it's pretty good. So when you submit it to apply for a job, the hiring manager should spend time reading every word to decide if you're the best fit for the role. Right?
The truth is that hiring managers get 250+ applications per job posting, and they may be in charge of filling multiple positions. They don't have time to read every submission, so they rely on ATS scans and the 6-second resume test.
That’s right: research suggests that most decision makers spend an average of six seconds scanning a resume. And if you can’t pass that resume 6-second test, you likely won’t receive an interview. In this post, we’ll give you the tools you need to pass that test with flying colors.
What is the 6-second test?
Basically, it’s a term that refers to one simple truth: your resume needs to quickly capture a hiring manager’s interest. Studies suggest that most decision makers only need about six seconds to make that decision. If your resume passes that resume 6-second test, they may read the entire thing. If not, the resume goes into the rejection pile.
The test is simple, of course. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to initially skim resumes rather than read them in-depth. That skimming enables them to quickly determine whether you’re likely to be a good candidate for the job. As you might expect, this process relies on overall impression rather than careful analysis of the resume. In other words, the decision maker is looking for a sense of whether you’re a good fit. The finer details often get sorted out later.
But is it true that recruiters reject a resume is 6 seconds? Not always.
Different recruiters and hiring managers may take different approaches to the process. The resume 6-second test is an important consideration, however. Being aware of it can help you to focus on creating a resume that is clear, concise, and compelling for the reader.
What can decision makers possibly learn in 6 seconds?
A lot! If your resume is well-organized and places key informaiton in the irhgt places, that hiring manager can check your basic qualifications in just a few seconds.
A quick scan will show that you have the education, experience, and skills needed to perform the job as expected. Once you understand what a decision maker is looking for in that scan, you can better ensure that your resume provides that information in a clear, concise way.
Passing the 6-Second Resume Test: 10 tips
There are some specific things that you can do to improve your chances of passing the resume 6-second test. Below are some tips that can help you to capture that hiring manager’s attention:
1. Make it easy to skim
Use one of the common resume formats. Don't use blocks of text, and don't use creative graphic resumes. Place the most important information at the top in your resume headline, professional summary, and core competencies section.
Use keywords from the job description, and section headers that are easy-to-understand. The right headers will make it easier for decision-makers to find the information they’re looking for.
Your resume needs to be scannable. That means that it needs to be able to pass the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) screeners and overcome the resume 6-second test.
Most companies today use an ATS to automatically screen resumes. These scanners reject nearly 75% of candidates and it's often due to not having an ATS optimized resume.
2. Formatting matters
Forget those creative, graphics-heavy resume formats. The idea is to convey as much information as you can in the clearest way possible. Choose a resume format that is uncluttered, using black ink and simple fonts. Don’t dress it up with graphics or anything that might detract from the information decision-makers need to see.
3. Choose the right tone
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to get too creative with the language. You want to focus on clear, active sentences that convey the value that you can bring to the organization. Don’t get overly wordy or slip into a more conversational tone. Be simple, direct, and to the point.
Use keywords, stay consistent, and use a professional font on your resume.
4. Focus on achievements
Achievements on your resume help to quantify your value as an employee. They demonstrate qualifications and show that you’re ready to contribute to the company’s bottom line. Be sure to include easy-to-understand achievements in your resume.
5. Use bullet points wisely
When you create bullet points, use them for the most relevant details. Always put the most important detail in the first bullet point of any section. Remember, the hiring manager is skimming the resume. That means that the first point may be the only one he or she reads.
6. Use quantifiable data to show your value
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Words are one thing, but numbers stand out on a resume and capture attention. For example, consider these descriptions:
Led company’s effort to cut costs and integrate technologies to streamline sales processes, which increased revenue.
Managed task force charged with applying advanced integrated technologies to streamline ABC Corp’s sales processes. Efforts cut costs by 12%, improved customer contact rate by 15%, and increased sales revenue by 21% in first quarter.
The first example makes a claim, without any quantifiable data. The second not only claims value but backs it up using real numbers. Those numbers will be noticed when the hiring manager skims your resume. More importantly, they help to further the narrative that you’re a job candidate who brings real results!
7. Keep it concise
It is impossible to overstate the importance of limiting your resume’s length. Remember, the longer it is, the more difficult it will be to properly skim. Focus on concise descriptions and examples – just enough to properly convey your experience and qualifications. Which leads us to…
8. Stick to relevant information
Don’t include anything that may be considered irrelevant to the position. Focus on education, experience, skills, and achievements that are directly related to the job you’re trying to get. Irrelevant details will just add length to your resume and make it more difficult to skim.
9. Put first things first
Since you only have six seconds to capture attention, make sure that the hiring manager sees the right information at the top. For example:
Contact information. Include your name, location, phone, and email address at the top of the page. If you have educational credentials, it can often be useful to include them here as well. That is a quick and easy way to convey those qualifications right away.
Include a skill summary early in the resume. With only six seconds to work with, it’s important to ensure that the skills on your resume are prominently placed for maximum effect.
Craft a great resume headline. This isn't your job title: it's a quick, punchy statement about how fantastic you are. Take the time to nail your resume headline.
10. Include a cover letter
If you pass the 6-second test, your cover letter will be the next thing employers look at. Customize it to fit the position, so that it doesn’t look like a generic presentation. The fact that you took the time to create that cover letter will speak volumes about your desire for the job. Moreover, the cover letter provides an effective way to personalize your resume presentation. You can also use it describe your skills and job-related passion.
The good news is that passing the resume-6-second test gets you that much closer to the job you need. If you can make it past that initial screening scan, your resume will then be reviewed in greater detail. And if you’ve done your job properly, that reading may lead to an interview, and a potential job offer.
Of course, none of that will happen if your resume is rejected during that first skim. So, focus on capturing the right kind of attention right away, and you improve your odds of landing the interviews and job you deserve.
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.