Is the 6-Second Resume Scan a Myth?

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I was in a sales meeting with a well-known company that was touting its latest AI tool. One of the sales people (there were several in the room) casually mentioned that recruiters only look at resumes for six seconds. I bristled at his comment and suggested that the statistic he offered did not ring true for me. 

I’m a talent acquisition professional who has led large teams and hired for vastly different industries, organizations, and position types. And it’s true that a resume may not get much attention beyond an initial evaluation for all sorts of reasons. However, I fear that this statistic has perpetuated the idea that recruiters are shallow thinkers who only look for keywords or job titles as a way to assess a candidate. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The 6-Second Origin

The Ladders first conducted an eye-tracking study in 2012. Findings showed that recruiters spent six seconds scanning a resume. 

They redid the study in 2018 using a two-stage process. They focused on speed in the first stage and in the second stage, through eye-tracking technology, they focused on what recruiters paid attention to when reading a resume. They found that the time a recruiter spends on a resume increased to 7.4 seconds.

A closer review of the study’s results shows that the report is essentially a how-to guide intended to help people make their resumes easier to read. And sure enough, there emerged plenty of online resume templates to “pass” the scan. 

A simple Google search of “6 second resume scan” yielded thousands of articles that referenced this metric. Essentially, this measurement was used as clickbait, and many of the articles that I saw referenced “studies have shown” without a link or other details about those studies. Interesting, I thought. 

Also “interesting”: The majority of these articles 1) were not written by recruiters or 2) were selling something. 

One website even offered the chance to “take the 6 second challenge.” I took the challenge. What recruiter doesn’t like a challenge? It turns out that six seconds goes very quickly when trying to read and comprehend a resume. 

Meanwhile, the Ladders 2018 report does not specify the types of positions or lengths of resumes that recruiters were. . .

Source: ERE

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