Gone in 6 Seconds–Can Your Resume Pass the HR test?

You pulled out all the stops in carefully preparing your resume. It’s chock full of chest-beating achievements and every vital skill you’ve honed over the years. You even threw in a list of social media contacts and other brag book extras to “round” your CV and make it shine. Yes, your resume practically glows in the dark. And you’re convinced every page will be circumspectly reviewed, maybe even shown to the company’s top brass as a model of perfection.

Readability is Key

Not so fast. With resumes piling up on recruiters’ desks faster than pancakes at iHop, your blinged-out CV will have to survive the 6-second challenge. That’s all today’s overworked recruiters spend on scanning resumes. So says a recent Ladders study, which noted that resumes are most often ranked by readability and other “must haves” today’s recruiters are looking for.

…So is Organization

You resume’s readability score hinges on how well it’s organized and how visually it breaks down information. Sophisticated “eye-tracking” technology revealed that an HR manager or recruiter’s eyes wandered wastefully and repeatedly over resumes that were poorly organized and had too much information. This extra visual and mental tasking simply wore out the reader and relegated the resume to the “maybe” or “no” file. Resumes that were professionally prepared and more efficiently organized, with less “superfluous fat” were less fatiguing to read and ended up in the “consider” file.

What to Include

To ensure your resume passes the 6-second test, you need to meet the HR manager or recruiter half way by keeping things simple, clear and organized. Here’s what they scan in those critical 6 seconds:

  • Name
  • Previous position—start & end dates
  • Current title/company
  • Current position–start & end dates
  • Previous title/company
  • Education

Keywords Can Help You Make the Cut

Having passed this initial gauntlet, recruiters will look for keywords that match the job. What’s left after that is what recruiters call “background,” to be reviewed after they’ve gone through their stack of resumes for that particular job. Keep in mind that the recruiter’s ”fit/no fit” decision was determined in just 6 seconds.

Seek the Advice of a Pro

To raise the odds of your resume passing the 6-second test, consider having your resume professionally prepared. A pro resume writer can help you organize your resume, keep it lean and fact-based, with the information the job calls for and what today’s eye-tracking systems reveal as most critical. If your resume was professionally written and organized, chances are it will score higher in readability and pass this initial muster. If you decided to add an online profile to your resume, note that some profiles are often cluttered with ads and “calls-to-action,” which can be visually distracting to a busy recruiter.


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Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you!

Jeffrey Stanley
Jeffrey Stanleyabout a year ago

Great advice, thanks.

Natasha Salgado
Natasha Salgadoabout a year ago


Shalvah Landy
Past Member about a year ago

I am no expert but this looks much more organized to me:
•Current title/company
•Current position–start & end dates
•Previous title/company
•Previous position—start & end dates
A current position start & end dates does not make sense since if there is an end date it's not a current job...
But hey I'm the one who's unemployed at the moment so what do I know....

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watolaabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing

ERIKA SOMLAIabout a year ago

thank you for sharing

Artatchapelview Artwork
Artatchapelview Artworkabout a year ago


Terre P.
Terre P.about a year ago

I love succinct resumes! My only problem is that I work for a provincial now (for the last 14 years) and they score resumes. An applicant gets points for all kinds of things in their resume; we're not supposed to leave out anything. And so the resumes are long. They can be organized so they are pretty clear, but they are too long in my opinion. The cover letter is where you have to be bright and brief and clearly stand out.

Janet B.
Janet B.about a year ago


Dave C.
Dave C.about a year ago

....thanks and I just thought HR was abbreviation for heart rate.....