6 Seconds – Does Your Resume Have What it Takes
You might think there are only two kinds of resumes: bad and good. But in reality there are a wide range of resume qualities. What’s the difference between them? One word – “Readability”.
Readability is the key to success for any resume. Research indicates hiring managers only look at resumes for 6 seconds before deciding to either keep reading or move on (Source). I have seen this happen in my own experience, and have spoken with others who have been part of hiring processes that have also seen this occur. Knowledge that your resume might barely be glanced at is discouraging, but it makes sense when you think about it. Hiring managers often must look at dozens of resumes a day. It’s not in their best interest to spend time on a resume that does not make a good impression. With that insight in mind, the question is: what kind of impression does your resume give in 6 seconds?
Here’s a strategy that, as rude as it sounds, actually works: treat hiring managers as if they are the laziest people you have never met. Hiring managers work just as hard as the rest of us, of course, but I have had great success when I imagine that they are total slackers. Hiring managers do not want to read a whole paragraph, but they will read a bullet point. Lazy people don’t want to read multiple pages, but they do appreciate a focused and concise one page resume. They don’t want to read a page full of words; they appreciate white space.
When you adopt this line of thinking, you can start improving your resume so it will pass the “6 seconds test” with flying colors.
What is the 6 seconds test?
I’ll walk you through it so you can try it on your own resume. Set a timer for 6 seconds and try to read as much of the resume as you can before the timer beeps. It’s really hard. You may have to try it a couple times. Here’s what you, and hiring managers, do:
- Read only the first word or two of each point
- Look for numbers
- Look at job titles
There is not enough time to do more than that, is there? Just because the hiring manager couldn’t read your whole resume in 6 seconds doesn’t mean will keep it for longer than that. It is in your best interest to write your resume as if you only have 6 seconds to grab attention.
If you’ve been following along with your resume, I’m sure you’re saying “Gah! My resume is boring and no one wants to read it! What do I do to change it?” Or maybe something slightly less dramatic… Either way, here’s what I would do:
How to Pass the 6 Seconds Test
The first thing I do to get a resume to pass the 6 seconds test is to evaluate each bullet point. Often, this requires a lot of editing and deleting. Sometimes things can stay the same. Most of the time the bullet point needs to be changed significantly. Follow these 3 rules and you’ll know what exactly what to change, delete, or add:
- Does it grab attention?
- Does it have a result?
- Is it unique?
If the answer isn’t a “yes” to each of these, the point needs to be changed or eliminated. Let’s look at an example of a point that failed this test:
- Wrote resumes for 150+ customers
See how this point is relatively bland? It doesn’t say anything about the level of skill attained or a result of the work the person did. It is just a basic description of a task completed. Boring!
Here is what can be done to improve this point:
- Forged in the fire resume writing abilities that used the 6 seconds rule to achieve 100% job placement with all 150+ customers
This point is bold and attention grabbing, while also including the results of the person’s efforts. It’s unique because of how it starts, but also because it lists the way the result was achieved: by following the 6 seconds rule when writing resumes.
Let’s compare the before and after further. When skimming over each of them, you are going to read “wrote resumes” and “forged in the fire”. Which phrase will better engage the reader and leave a lasting impression? If you put this kind of effort into your bullet points, you can keep your resume in the hands of hiring managers longer than 6 seconds.
Making resumes readable in 6 seconds really is an art form. It takes creativity, cleverness, and a wide and unique vocabulary. For examples of resumes that pass the 6 seconds rule go to CareerLaunch’s resume example page.
About The Author
Founder and CEO
Jason started CareerLaunch after spending too many years in jobs that didn’t inspire him. When his application to star in the much anticipated Friends reboot was rejected, he began searching for work that meant something—and so, CareerLaunch was born. His expertise, passion, and personal drive keep the wheels turning and CareerLaunch growing. Jason is the go to for career development, job search, and interview advice. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.