New Study Confirms Employers Spend Mere Seconds Skimming Your Resume (and How You Can Hold Their Attention for Longer)

An updated study has determined precisely how long employers spend evaluating your resume – and what you can do to keep them reading longer.

The executive recruitment website, The Ladders made headlines back in 2012 with their revealing eye-tracking study of how employers read candidate resumes. Their software tracked where recruiters looked first and how long they spent on each section of a resume before deciding to move on or flag it for further scrutiny.

All told, in the original study, employers spent an average of just six seconds on each document before coming to that crucial decision. Lat week, the same team released an updated version of the report. Perhaps reflecting lower unemployment rates, and therefore fewer applicants, employers are spending a little longer on resumes in 2018 than they were six years ago. However, you still don’t have much time to make an impression.

Employers are now spending an average of 7.4 seconds on their first read of a resume.

Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella explains the change, “Unemployment is at unprecedented lows in the current job market, and the findings of this new study underline the extent to which resume-skimming behaviors impact not only a job seeker’s chances of being noticed, but also a company’s ability to spot qualified candidates.”


The information that recruiters scan for in those six or seven seconds:

  • Your name
  • Your current job title and employer
  • The start and end dates of your current job
  • Your previous employer and job title
  • The start and end dates of your previous job
  • Your education

In that first glance, everything else on your resume is just extra information that employers may or may not glance over for keywords related to the skills they’re looking for.

Fortunately, the study also found similarities in the resumes that received the most attention, offering some insights into how to keep employers’ eyes on your page. The research found that top-performing resumes have several key common traits. Those include:

  • Simple layouts with clearly marked section and title headers, all written in a clear font.
  • Layouts that took advantage of F-pattern and E-pattern reading tendencies, with bold job titles supported by bulleted lists of accomplishments.
  • A detailed overview or mission statement, primarily located at the top of the first page of the resume.

Worst-performing resumes also shared similar qualities. Those include:

  • Cluttered layouts characterized by long sentences, multiple columns, and very little white space.
  • Text flow that did not draw the eye down the page, lacking section or job headers.
  • A reliance on keyword stuffing. You know your resume needs the relevant keywords that employers are looking for, but jamming too many in without context is just taking up valuable space and harming your readability.

Like it or not, the point of the initial quick skim of the resume is to filter out candidates who don’t seem like a good fit and to narrow down the potential candidate pool to a shortlist for closer review and potentially an interview. Understanding what employers are looking for and making that information easier to read is the quickest way to improve your chances of being selected.

Cenedella concludes, “We hope that job seekers will use the points found in the study to improve their resume in a market that currently favors the candidates.”

Source: Ladders Updates Popular Recruiter Eye-Tracking Study With New Key Insights on How Job Seekers Can Improve Their Resumes

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