Did you know that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected by countless publishers because they thought it was too long? They didn’t even bother to read the manuscript. Little did all those publishers know, they were missing out on the most lucrative book series ever. But as JK Rowling experienced, first impressions are vital, especially when your submission is among hundreds of others. When it comes to the job hunt, you don’t want to be rejected as many times as JK Rowling was (it won’t work out for you like it did for her), so you need to tailor your resume to the people who will be looking at it.

A resume is a recruiter’s first impression of your skills and experience. According to a recent study by TheLadders, employers and recruiters take an average of just six seconds to scan your resume. So despite your qualifications, your resume will be ignored if it is too long. Recruiters don’t have magic hats to sort through their resumes, so yours need to catch their attention–fast! Fortunately, we have some insight that will help you organize your resume in a way that’s scientifically proven to make your best first impression.

six second resume

The study followed 30 recruiters for 10 weeks and tracked how their eyes viewed resumes. The eye-tracking identified the most important aspects of a resume. The pictures below demonstrate the eye-tracking data from the study. The red and yellow areas are the most concentrated areas.

The study concluded that recruiters spend 80% of their time looking at 6 main areas:

  • Name
  • Current title/company
  • Previous title/company
  • Previous position start and end date
  • Current position start and end date
  • Education

Therefore, job seekers need to make those areas highly visible and easy to identify. The hotspots in the above pictures are left aligned and focused toward bold headings. The 6 main areas should follow the same pattern to make it easier for recruiters to identify.

It is critical to have a clear visual hierarchy that is tailored to the way recruiters analyze a resume. TheLadders’ study recommends following a grid-based design that provides a natural rhythm. The minimalist approach is imperative while creating a resume. Job seekers need to focus on important data and not clutter resumes with irrelevant information. Visual resumes, images, and infographics are great, but they belong in a portfolio, not in a resume. To enhance the minimalist approach, avoid big blocks of text and include white space for easier scanning.

TheLadders’ eye-tracking study revealed quality insight into the way recruiters review resumes. It is up to job seekers to create resumes that follow the now known restraints. Implementing these rules will help candidates standout. Job seekers have 6 seconds to convey their career in a resume. By following the hotspots from the study, candidates will be able to communicate the most important information in the most efficient manner.