How Much Time Does a Recruiter Spend Looking at a Resume?

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion in the recruiting world about a studythat reviewed recruiters’ resume scanning behavior.

The recruiters in the study self-reported that they spent up to four to five minutes reviewing a resume. However the study found something very different — an average of six seconds were spent viewing a resume.

The study used “eye tracking – a technologically advanced assessment of eye movement that records and analyzes where and how long a person focuses when digesting information.”

Critical Elements

The recruiters spent 80% of this limited time on six key pieces of information:

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

Beyond those six items the recruiters in the study scanned for keywords to match the position they were seeking to fill.

Below are two resumes that were tested. The one on the left was prepared by a job seeker; the one on the right by a professional resume writer.

What does it mean for a cleared job seeker?

Don’t read too much into this very limited study. Beyond the cool technology and shocking six second review number, there are a couple key points to takeaway.

  • In addition to the data points above, cleared recruiters are looking for your security clearance. Make sure it’s at the top of the first page and easy to find.
  • Formatting does matter. Compare the two resumes above and what do you see? The one on the left is written in paragraphs like a novel. The one on the right uses bullet points, bolding and white space to good effect.
  • Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities, which makes for easier reading and less wordiness.

Whether it’s six seconds or sixty, recruiters are stressed for time so the more succinct and visually appealing you make your resume, the better. For more help on resume writing visit our resume reviewer at the next Cleared Job Fair or check out 6 Essentials for a Government Contracting Resume and Cover Letter.

If you only had six seconds, which of the above two resumes would you rather review?

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Kathleen Smith

Thanks Andy! Unfortunately too many job seekers spend “a lot” of time on their resume but not on the research to tell them how to best write it for themselves. Even though the example shows that the professionally written resume was viewed more closely, I tend to advise people to write their resumes themselves. We tend to outsource too much of our lives.

It is also discouraging that once a job seeker has worked on their resume, they think they are done with their job search. Far from it! A resume is only a “part” of the process not the whole ball of wax. There are many levels to Marketing Yourself for Your Next Gig as I shared in the webinar last year.

David Dejewski

When I used to review resumes, I would get them in stacks. The 6 second review time doesn’t surprise me. When I count it out in my head, 6 seconds feels about right. Initial screening would take too much time if we read every resume.

Once someone was coming in for an interview, I would read the entire document – usually searching for questions to ask (in addition to the standard set we asked of everyone).