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When it comes to job hunting, I was shocked to learn that most recruiters and hiring managers only look at your resume for an average of 6 seconds.
Yes, only 6 seconds.
6 seconds is not a long time by any means.
It’s probably taken you about 6 seconds to read this far.
So as you can see, your resume has to accomplish a lot in a very limited amount of time. Otherwise, it’ll end up in the “no” pile – even if you are the perfect candidate.
You can easily spend days perfecting your resume with the expectation that it’ll be properly reviewed by a professional on the other end. Finding out that all you may get is a 6 second glance is, understandably, incredibly frustrating for anyone trying to find a new job.
We have technology to thank for that.
As a job seeker, applying for jobs has never been easier. With a few clicks, you can apply for dozens of jobs in a matter of minutes. But that comes with some obvious disadvantages, too, as it means everyone else can also apply for dozens of jobs in a matter of minutes. So a job vacancy that used to get 50 applicants, could now be getting 500 instead.
From a recruiters stand-point, 6 seconds per resume is about all the time you have to trim that stack of 500 resumes back down to a more manageable number.
The increased use of technology also means many recruiters are relying on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to do the initial screening for them.
Meaning not only do you have to worry about getting your resume passed the 6 second glance test, but also any automated ATS the company might be using.
Searching for a job is already stressful enough, isn’t it?
So what can you do?
Well, I made this handy little one-page Resume Checklist for this exact situation, which you can access for free!
But I’m also going to elaborate and explore the points included on the checklist in more detail with this post.
How to Get Your Resume Past the
6 Second Glance Test
To help your resume get past the 6 second glace test, make sure it meets the following criteria:
The First Impression
– Looks professional and clean
– Looks original and not based off of a template
– Inviting to read, with clear sections and ample white space
– Includes a qualifications or highlights section at the beginning
Your first impression is critical when you only have 6 seconds. You want to have a clean and professional looking resume, but you also don’t want it to look like every other resume out there.
I work in a career center where we have about a dozen or so resume templates available on our computers. They are incredibly helpful for creating a new resume or trying a different style of resume, but it can mean that people walk out of our doors with a resume that looks almost identical to the resume of the person before them.
Hiring managers should be focusing on the content of your resume, but they may not. If you use a popular template, your resume could potentially be mistaken as a duplicate, or it may suggest that you are boring and lazy.
Templates are a great starting point, but adding a bit of your own originality will help your resume stand out. You don’t want to go overboard with colours and fonts and formatting, though either. Simple changes are all you really need.
What you put at the top of your resume (after your name and contact information) should be your best qualifications or highlights, as this is the first part of your resume’s content that will be seen. So make it easy for recruiters to see right from the start why they should keep reading!
– Visually appealing and polished looking
– Bullets, bolding, capitalizations and lines guide readers’ eyes and highlights important content
– Margins, spacing and font sizes are consistent
– Font sizes are easy to read and are not too big or too small
– Balance between text and white space
– Second and subsequent pages include the page number and a header with your name and contact information
The appearance of your resume is important, as you want to make sure it’s scannable. Use bullet points, bolding, italicizing, CAPITALIZATION, and lines to help highlight and guide the reader’s eye to the important content you want them to see. Like your job titles, achievements and credentials.
Only use one or two different fonts and different font sizes, and be consistent with them. Make sure the font you choose is clean and legible (such as Arial, Calabri, and Helvetica) and the right size (typically between 10 – 12 point font for your content, and no bigger than 16 point font for headings).
I mentioned leaving white space in this section as well as in the First Impression section because it really impacts the overall look and design of your resume. You should leave enough white space to create balance and make your resume visually appealing.
No one wants to read a wall of text. Breaking your content into sections and paragraphs makes it significantly more legible, and less cluttered or chaotic.
But you don’t want to over-do the white space, either. Too much white space makes it look like you don’t have the education, skills or experience needed for the job.
Margins are also important, as many printers/photocopiers will cut off parts of your content if the margins are too small.
If your resume is 2 pages or more, make sure you include the page number, your name and either your phone number or email address in the header or footer of the subsequent pages. That way if the recruiter has a paper copy of your resume, they can easily identify whose resume it is and what order it belongs in if the pages were to get mixed up.
– All sections are clearly labeled
– Sections are arranged to highlight your strongest credentials
– Work history is listed with your most recent experiences
How you break down your resume into sections will depend on your personal history and what you want to highlight about yourself for the specific job.
In general, you will have sections for your contact information, highlights or summary of skills or qualifications, education (including training and certificates), and experience (work history, volunteer work, etc.). But your resume may have more or may have less.
The important thing is to arrange the sections so that your strongest credentials and attributes stand out.
For example, I have a B.A. Honours degree in Dramatic Arts. When I was applying for work in the arts, I made sure my education was near the top of the first page of my resume. But when I decided to move away from that and look for more administrative-type jobs, I moved my education to the second page instead. I still wanted my education to be included, but it wasn’t my strongest selling point anymore.
The expectation is that your list your most recent experiences and training first and work backwards chronologically.
The Actual Content
– Includes your career achievements
– Quantifies and highlights your success using numbers #, percentages % and dollar amounts $
– Describes your abilities using concise bullet points
– Includes examples to further clarify or explain points
– Each description begins with strong and varied action verbs
So far I’ve mostly talked about how your resume should look in order to pass the 6 second glance test, but now I’m going to focus on the content itself. Having a beautiful resume means nothing without it!
Try to quantify and highlight your success using numbers, percentages and dollar amounts wherever possible. Numbers and symbols like $ and % stand out within your text, so using them is a great way to draw attention to anything that you do want to stand out. People also understand numbers. Saying you trained 300 new hires is a lot different than training only 3.
For most people, work responsibilities will make up a large portion of their resume, which is great and is expected. But don’t forget about your achievements.
Which bullet point sounds better to you?
– “Successfully signed new clients” OR
– “Successfully gained 125 new clients within 6 months and increased sales by 26%”
Both statements only take up a line on your resume, but including your achievements with numbers to support it makes a much stronger impression.
For each of your bullet points, you want to include a strong action verb such as developed, operated, and established. But you don’t want to repeat yourself.
Again, you’re in luck!
I’ve compiled a list of 500+ Positive Adjectives and Descriptive Words that you can use.
– Information included is relevant to the position
– Key-word-rich, packed with appropriate buzzwords and industry vocabulary
– Applicable information such as awards and related affiliations are included
The content you include on your resume has to be relevant to the position. You want it to match the job ad or position description as best as possible.
It’s not uncommon to have a few variations of your resume that highlights your different skills or experience. Particularly if you’ve worked in a few different roles or industries.
Using myself as an example, I have 3 basic resumes. One targeted towards arts jobs, one for administration, and one for education (as I have experience in that as well). When I’m applying for a job, I pick whichever of the 3 best matches the job vacancy and make a few small changes to it.
You should also be making small changes or tweaks to your resume for each job you apply to. Sprinkle in the main keywords from the ad. (This is especially important to get your resume passed any applicant tracking systems.) Or perhaps reorganize your sections or bullet points to better highlight how you meet what they are looking for.
– Implies first-person voice with personal pronouns but avoids the use of “I, me and my”
– Content flows logically and is easy to understand
– Has no typos or spelling mistakes and is grammatically correct
– Past or present tense is consistently used
When it comes to the writing style and words you use, make sure your resume doesn’t have any typos, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. I suggest proofreading it using Grammarly – which is free – to help you catch any errors.
It’s okay to use terms like “I, me and my” in your cover letter, but avoid using them on your resume. Usually simply deleting these terms is enough, but make sure your statement still makes sense and is grammatically correct.
For example, in your cover letter, it’s okay to say “I successfully gained 125 new clients within 6 months and increased sales by 26%”. If you were to include this as a bullet point on your resume, however, you would take out that “I” at the beginning so that it reads “Successfully gained 125 new clients within 6 months and increased sales by 26%” instead.
Pay attention to the tense you use, as well. Generally, you should be using past tense for your previous jobs, and present tense if you are still working there.
Lastly, make sure your resume makes sense! It should have a logical flow to it so that a recruiter can easily follow your history. Your resume is a marketing tool, after all, so make sure it sells who you are in the best way possible.
Now Does Your Resume Pass the
6 Second Glance Test?
Alright. You’ve made your way through this post and the checklist, and you’re confident that your resume checks every box.
But how do you know if it will actually pass the 6 second glance test or not?
Print off a copy of your resume, and test it!
Give your resume to someone you trust, let them look at it for 6 seconds, and ask them what they thought.
What stood out most about it? What do they remember?
Can they tell what kind of job you’re looking for?
Does it align with the specific job you’re applying for?
Test it out with a few different people to get a better consensus. Make any edits or revisions you need to based on this feedback, and test it again until you feel it will pass the 6 second glance test.
More Career & Job Searching Resources
I’m going to assume that if you read this post, you are either a big fan of mine (thank you!!) and/or you’re currently looking for a job.
Either way, I now have a Free Career & Job Searching Resource Library that includes the resources listed in this post, as well as others that you hopefully find useful!
If there’s anything you’d like to see added to the resource library, or if you have any questions about the 6 second resume glace test, please contact me. I’m happy to help!
What tips would you suggest for getting your resume past the 6 second glance test? Is there anything I missed? Anything that you were surprised to learn? Leave a comment and let us know!
This post was proofread by Grammarly. Try it - it's FREE!