A recent study performed by The Ladders found that recruiters take an average of 6 seconds to make their initial ‘fit/no fit” decision.
The study used eye-tracking technology to assess how long recruiters spent on each resume and where they spent most of their time.
We always knew that your CV had a tiny window to impress a recruiter or hiring manager, this study demonstrates that you need to make sure your CV is as readable as possible. So how do you make the most of those 6 seconds?
Think about structure
The study found that recruiters spend 80% of their time looking at 6 data points; name, current title/company, previous title/company, previous start date/end date, current start date/end date, and Education. The rest of the time was spent scanning the remainder of the document. Getting the most out of those 6 seconds means helping the reader to find those vital data points as quickly as possible. Structure is vital; make sure that your CV is broken into clear sections with an obvious order. You want to create a document that can be understood at a glance, because that is literally all you have.
Headers and titles
Headers will be key to creating that clear structure. Part of The Ladders’ study required recruiters to rate CVs on a scale of 1-7 with the high scoring CVs commonly described as ‘easy to read’. In this instance, we can assume ‘easy to read’ means ‘easy to find key information quickly.’ Once you have a clear structure make sure your sections are marked with strong, clear headings that stand out from the rest of the text. Don’t just make headers bold; alter the font size, underline or find another way to make sure it’s easy for a reader to skip to the section they want.
The study also applied eye-tracking to recruiters reviewing LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn’s advertising, call to actions and profile photos created distractions that drew recruiters’ eyes away from the key data and as a result were found to be more difficult to read. You can apply this logic to your CV too. Cut down on distractions like photos, creative design choices or superfluous information. Recruiters review your CV to see if you are a good fit for the role they have on offer. Make sure they can make that decision without having their eye drawn to something irrelevant to the role.
Think about keywords
After recruiters review the key data points on your CV, they scan for keywords. What they are looking for here is evidence, beyond education and experience, that you are a good candidate for the role. They are scanning for success and achievement. Make sure that you highlight and sell your achievements on the CV. Mention successful projects and initiatives and use keywords like; ‘success’, ‘exceeded targets’, ‘growth’ and where possible include figures to back up these achievements.
Your CV is your first introduction to a new employer. It will be the main deciding factor in whether or not you are called for interview, and it will likely be reviewed at no more than a glance. Make sure you make every second count.