The 6-second resume scan is hogwash

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Hat tip to Dawn Lennon and Dawn Bugni for unwittingly spurring me (via our chat over at Google Plus) to write this post discussing a recent survey on resumes.

I admit to being highly concerned about TheLadders’ survey and the sweeping comments encouraging ‘minimalist’ resumes, asserting that resumes are only reviewed for 6 seconds and blacklisting the idea of visual images being incorporated into resumes, or what the article refers to as ‘chart junk.’

This simply is misinformation, or at the least, one-sided or incomplete information in my book! The chance of having a conversation with a recruiter that will lead to your next job is about .0035%; as such, job seekers redesigning their resume for recruiters’ eye tracking can possibly be detrimental to resume effectiveness, and to the job search at large. The reason I say this is because recruiter needs, motivations and preferences often are distinctly different from other hiring decision-maker preferences.

So passionate about this topic, I have a full-length blog post in the publishing pipeline for next Monday, but I could not contain myself from writing a few initial opinions on the matter today.

I’m genuinely concerned about many of the broad-sweeping and limiting assertions made around resume content and design, not only in TheLadders’ survey and follow-on articles, but in other self-proclaimed resume expert blogs as well.

Resume communications is self marketing, period! Losing sight of that to conform your resume to very rigid rules that dilute your appeal for a small-percentage of the resume review audience (i.e., recruiters) is bad advice.

And quite honestly, my experience and conversation with many professional and executive recruiters dismisses these limiting opinions, in that they DO read fully into the detail if the resume is focused on their (their clients’) needs. In fact, I’ve had resume clients say to me that they hired me to write their resume specifically based on recruiters telling them they needed and wanted MORE detail, the nuance, if you will of how they perform and lead in their jobs.

The key here is to be focused and meaty in how you present your information, so that you are speaking to THEIR needs, and not just dumping your life story into your resume.

I’ll have further opinions and ideas on this topic next week.

Until then, thank you for your interest in my initial insights!

11 Responses to “The 6-second resume scan is hogwash”

  1. Dawn Bugni says:

    Jacqui –

    You hit this one out of the park.

    The resume advice I gave job seekers when I was a recruiter is completely different than the information I share with resume clients today.

    As you indicated in your post, my focus back then was on my client and my own recruiting information needs. Today, as a career strategist, I understand the need for differentiation in self-marketing documents.

    With the chance for recruiter interaction leading to a position so miniscule (.0035%), adapting an approach dictated solely by recruiter eyetracking (and only 30, for 10 weeks, at that) doesn’t make sense for the average job seeker.

    The article was interesting, and shored up the need for well-organized, easy-to-read, locatable information. Past that, I’ve been telling clients, playing to and limiting your presentation based on such a small audience does not a job search make. I also remind them it takes words to convey value. Interesting, compelling content gets read. Period.

    I can’t wait to read your next, interesting, compelling installment on this topic.

  2. You are so right, Jacqui.

    I get sick of hearing all the black and white “advice” about resume writing and job search.

    It scares job seekers into believing just one set of “ideas” and hinders their job search.

    I’ll be interested in reading the long version of your post! :)


  3. Jacqui,

    I agree, the 6 second resume scan is hogwash, in particular if the client has the skills, knowledge and experience that the ‘reader’ requires.

    Resume conventions are not always ‘right’ and the generalised advice you see posted online as gospel truths, could hinder the process of job seekers.

    I can’t wait to see the long version.

  4. Karen Siwak says:

    Amen!! What the Ladders study didn’t evaluate is information retention – we know what their eyes landed, but not what information was retained and processed. Moreover, they only measured “eye-dance” for the first round of resume screening. Finally, they only evaluated how recruiters read resumes, not hiring managers.

  5. Master Resume Writer says:

    @Dawn: Great, pithy value-add comment (thank you!). I especially liked this: “I also remind them it takes words to convey value. Interesting, compelling content gets read. Period.”

    @Erin: I get sick (literally, to my stomach : ) of all the black/white advice, too! Thanks for chiming in.

    @Caroline: ‘gospel truths’ <-- I like it! ... and agree! Merci for adding to the conversation. @Karen: "Information retention ... what information was retained and processed." This is a good point. I love the term, 'eye-dance.' Appreciate your stopping by with your thoughts and your "Amen!"

  6. Bette says:

    Anyway you comprehend it, weather you believe it or not, trust your instincts as you face all this info. It’s really disappointing that with technology as fast and effective for so many things and different ways to access info that there’s still people who mislead others.

    It’s really just taking an unfair advantage of prople who need correct information and need the truth. So glad you took this bull by the horns and I am also looking forward to reading your post next week.

  7. Marianna says:


    On Twitter you often see that word game where participants are required to use just six words to portray something.

    Perhaps in the desire for expediency, the job-seeking public may latch on to that number as the way to go. In other words, “tell ’em what they want to hear”.

    Messages such as the six second eye tracking one spreads a message – one that says, “don’t spend a lot of time on your resume, it won’t get a lot of ‘eye time’.”

    I wonder, too, how much it depends upon the recruiter? Who it is? How they are feeling that day? The position they are filling? So many variables, I’m sure. They’re not robots, at least I don’t think they are, so to dehumanize a vital aspect of one’s presentation to six seconds is what we grew up calling “slop”.

  8. Good info. Another tip would be to include charts in your resume like I do. I get high praise from employers for it. Then again Im in marketing/sales so I can point to a chart that shows my sucess. I understand not ever profession has this.

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