There’s no worse feeling than spending hours crafting the perfect resume, sending it off to the hiring manager, and getting a rejection email almost immediately. How can they possibly make a decision so quickly? After all, if a resume took you hours to write, surely it must take the recruiters at least a few minutes to read… right?
Not necessarily. With rapid advancements in hiring technology (including Applicant Tracking Systems), the modern application process looks very different than it used to. You may only get a few seconds to impress the hiring manager with your resume. Here’s how to maximize your time and make those seconds count.
How long do hiring managers spend reviewing resumes?
Hiring managers look at resumes for an average of 7.4 seconds, according to an eye tracking study. The study, conducted once in 2012 and again in 2018, used sensor technology to analyze which parts of a resume recruiters focused on and how long they spent on each resume overall.
Why do hiring managers spend such little reviewing resumes? Because they often receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for each job opening. With such a large volume of resumes to review, hiring managers must be able to quickly scan each one to determine whether the candidate is a potential fit for the role.
Similar studies indicated that a whopping 80% of resumes don’t make it past an initial screen.
Want to make it into the 20%? Here’s how:
How to make the most of your 7 seconds
What do employers look for in those 7.4 seconds? Follow these tips to make sure your resume stands above the rest.
Keep the format simple
Recruiters prefer modern, single-column templates with clear section headings and standard fonts, in reverse-chronological format. Plenty of white space helps, too, since it makes your resume easier to skim.
How To: Download a free ATS resume template and skip the formatting woes.
Know how recruiters skim
The most common reading pattern looks like the letter ‘F.’ Recruiters skim the top of your resume for essential information, down the side for section headings and bullet points, and then across any lines that seem particularly relevant. That means any information you want to stand out should be at the top and left-hand sides of your resume.
How To: Learn more about how to write impactful, easy to skim bullet point accomplishments.
I would recommend uploading your resume to the tool below to find out if your bullet points are impactful and easy to skim. It is a good litmus test to determine if your resume checks all the boxes from a recruiter’s perspective.
Limit your resume to 1-2 pages
Single-page resumes are easiest to skim and recruiters don’t spend more time on longer resumes. Adding more pages doesn’t necessarily strengthen your candidacy; it may just waterdown the strongest parts of your resume.
How To: Read about the optimal resume length in 2023 + tips on how to cut your resume down to size.
Whether your resume is being scanned by a computer or just a busy hiring manager, they’ll be looking for essential job-related keywords. Make sure to include any must-have skills explicitly mentioned in the job ad, including the job title itself.
How To: Browse our database of hard skills and keywords by industry or job title if you’re not sure which skills to prioritize.
You can also use the skills search tool below to get a list of skills and keywords relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Remove the clutter
Not everything you’ve ever done needs to go on your resume. A good resume should be targeted to one specific job, which means getting rid of anything that isn’t directly relevant to the job (no matter how impressive).
How To: Upload your resume to a free ATS checker to see how well it matches the job description.
Avoid common mistakes
Here’s what the least successful resumes in the eye-tracking study had in common (or, what not to do):
- Cluttered layouts with small margins, multiple columns, and little white space
- Missing or hard-to-find section headings and job titles
- Long paragraphs or sections of text
- Keyword stuffing and other outdated “resume hacks”
How to get more than 7 seconds
Not content with just a few seconds? Here’s how to make sure recruiters give your resume the VIP treatment.
- Network. Hiring managers are willing to invest more time on screening your resume if you’ve cultivated a connection beforehand. Reach out to alumni from your school who work at the company or attend networking events in your field.
- Follow up. Sending a quick thank you email or even following up with a phone call can reinforce that connection and create a positive impression.
- Apply early. Don’t wait until the last minute to send in your application. Many job openings have rolling deadlines, which means hiring managers will review resumes as they come in.
- Tailor your resume. Most recruiters can tell in just a few seconds if you’re likely to be a good fit. Using a resume title, choosing relevant accomplishments, and including must-have skills can boost your chances of getting a second read-through.
- Keep it simple. Avoid the temptation to cram as much information into your resume as possible. More information just means less time spent on the most important bits. Think about what you really want recruiters to know and make sure that information stands out at first glance.
How long different hiring managers spend with your resume: a breakdown
- ATS resume screening: <1 second
- Pre-screening by a human recruiter: A few seconds to a minute (depending on the factors listed above)
- After shortlisting for an interview: 2-3 minutes
- During the interview: 20 minutes
- At the final offer stage: 15 minutes
Examples of skimmable resumes
Now that you know what hiring managers are looking for in a resume, here are some examples of how to put it all together. You can download all of these skimmable resume templates (and more) from our professional resume templates page.
Why it works: This classic resume uses a simple, easy-to-read layout that’s also ATS friendly.
Why it works: The modern layout and resume summary make it easy for recruiters to see important information at a glance.
Why it works: This resume does a great job of highlighting key accomplishments from specific projects, which you can easily customize to fit the new role.