Six seconds per resume? Better make it count.

Steve Boese HR, Recruiting, Resumes, Steve Boese, Trench HR

Recently the results from a survey sponsored by TheLadders  revealed that resumes are reviewed for six seconds by recruiters and talent professionals before they make the initial ‘fit or no fit’ decision on job candidates. The study used eye-tracking technology to determine what recruiters were looking at on the resume when making that initial screening decision, and the results were not really surprising. Name, current and previous job title and company, current and previous position dates, and education were the main data points reviewed. Honestly, what else could you review in only six seconds?

What else takes six seconds?

1. A marshamallow ‘peep’, that popular springtime treat, gets cranked out in six seconds.

2. In soccer, once the goalkeeper takes possession of the ball he or she is allowed only six seconds before releasing the ball back to general play

3. The Amen break, a widely sampled, borrowed, and re-mixed drum break popular in both early hip-hop and in current corporate advertising lasts about six seconds

Let’s pretend you’re an average talent pro, (I know, that’s crazy talk. I mean you’re reading FOT, so we both know you are way above average. Right?), what are some of the potential reasons that you only have to spend six seconds on a resume review?

1. That is all the time you can allot. Sort of an ‘On Tuesday I plan on reviewing resumes for the Marketing Manager position. I have 48 minutes, (really an hour, but I have to factor in a trip to the coffee pot, a bathroom break, and time to check my mentions on Twitter, I just came in at #79 on the latest list of ‘Top South Central Western Recruiters to follow’), there are about 500 resumes to look at, so do the math….’

2. Six seconds is all you need baby.

3. You actually don’t know how to count. Or estimate. Or both. Like when you ask someone who has recently presented at a conference about how many people were in their session, their answer can always be confidently reduced by about 40%. And guessing how much time you really spend on individual, discrete tasks is kind of silly anyway.

But back to the main finding, resumes are reviewed for an average of six seconds.

One, two, three, four, five, six. Done.

Man, that is nothing.

If the study really is accurate, and that to you as an experienced evaluator of talent, six seconds per resume sounds about right, I’d love for some of you talented professionals reading this to share how they manage to make the right, (or at least enough of the right), judgments on candidates in such a short timeframe. My guess is that we will get some ‘I have been doing this forever, so I am just that good at it’ responses, as well as some, ‘Six seconds is an average, I can screen out obvious misses in two seconds, and then can spend about 12 or even 15 seconds on the tougher calls’, or even some calls of BS on the study’s findings.

Either way, I’d be interested in knowing what FOT nation has to say about these crucial six seconds in the lives of your candidates and for the future of your company.

FYI – More details of study, can be found here.

FYI Part 2 – A really interesting recorded history of the ‘Amen Break’ can be found here.

Steve Boese

Steve Boese is fondly known to many as the HR Technology blogger. By day, he is the Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive’s HR Technology Conference. He is also a former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle and an HR Technology instructor. Steve can also be found hosting the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast … you know, where a bunch of HR pros get together and call in to talk about HR stuff. Sounds like an SNL skit, we know. But when you have Dave Ulrich, the grandfather of HR as show guests, well, I guess you’re doing something right.  Talk to Steve via emailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook.