Recruiters scan your resume in 5-seconds. Here’s what they see

Submitting your resume is usually a default requirement for any job opening.

Whether you’re applying online or in person, most recruiters require your resume and a cover letter depending on the position you’re applying for. This allows you to either blend in with the other applicants or stand out from the crowd.

Because good job openings are scarce at the moment, most recruiters receive hundreds of applications for a single opening.

Unfortunately, the hiring manager does not have the time to read every resume. Because of this, on average, they spend five seconds scanning each resume. 

How to catch your recruiter’s eye in five seconds

From a previous study by Ladders, we found the primary areas recruiters scan as they sift through job applications:

  • Your name
  • Current title
  • Current company
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Previous title and company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Education

By knowing the specific areas hiring managers scan, we can use these sections to highlight our professional development and accomplishments to stand out from the other applicants.

1. Include your name at the top

Your name should be the most prominent feature on the top of your resume. Make sure the name on your resume is consistent with the name you have on social media – especially your LinkedIn account.

If you have a common name, such as Jason Smith, you may want to start including your middle initial to separate you from the other familiar names.

2. Use a clear, simple layout and font

Recruiters spend most of their time scanning on title headers and job titles more than reading paragraphs.

To make the most of your headings, be sure to use plenty of white space separated by clear and bolded headers. Too many words or paragraphs will take away from your main points.

3. Use short declarative statements

When possible, use bullet-pointed statements rather than long descriptive paragraphs.

Keep in mind that too much of a good thing can also be distracting. Avoid an entire page of bullet points but use headers, bullet points, and short paragraphs to compliment each other.

4. Keep your resume short

Some applicants will submit five or six-page resumes that include every one of their achievements in detail.

Over half of this content will not be read and can be a turn off for recruiters. Follow the two-page rule and fit all of your information on two pages.

5. Avoid technical jargon

Use clear and straightforward language in your resume.

The recruiter or hiring manager may not understand technical or industry-specific terms. Highlight your essential skills on your resume in plain English that anyone can understand.

6. Make your content unique

I’m willing to bet that the majority of resumes will include a bullet point like, “works well with others.”

What does this tell the recruiter? Nothing compared to the other 99 applications that say the same thing. Instead of making meaningless blanket statements, be more specific, and tie it to one of your accomplishments.

For example, “works well with others” would be better written as “led and worked with a team of internal and outside agency personnel to develop an operations plan which decreased our expenditures by 20% in 2020.”

This tells the recruiter how you work well with others and how your teamwork accomplished a task.

7. Highlight achievements

If you have several impressive achievements, you may want to create a highlighted achievements section with several bullet-point items.

To avoid your best achievements from being lost in your resume, creating a separate heading can draw your recruiter’s eye to your most unique content.

Wrapping it up

Since most recruiters spend an average of five to six seconds scanning each resume, it’s essential to break your two-page resume up into key point sections.

Separate your sections and items with white space on the paper, and be sure to use clear headings that are easy to read. Practice scanning your resume to see if it’s easy to read or if your paragraphs are too lengthy.