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Minding Your E’s & F’s

Eye tracking study shows how recruiters read resumes

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You only have 7.4 seconds to grab their attention.

w study from looked at how recruiters read resumes – what draws and holds their attention, and what design features work best.

First and foremost, the study revealed that recruiters spend an average of only 7.4 seconds skimming resumes. This is significant – not just for the obvious short period of time, but it’s also important within the context of today’s job market. The last time this study was done, during the high unemployment of the past recession, that average was six seconds.

When applicants were abundant and job openings were scarce, recruiters breezed through resumes. Now, when applicants are fewer and jobs are going unfilled, the time spent reviewing a resume is not that much greater. You’re lucky to be merely skimmed.

What reviewers find engaging are “clean, simple layouts” with clear fonts. Delineated sections with bold headers tend to improve readability. Also, an “overview or mission statement” tend to resonate with recruiters.

As most readers generally tend to read following an F-pattern – across the top and down the left side, or the similar E-pattern – layouts that conform those patterns tend to draw the most attention. Eye tracking software indicates that as recruiters skim, they don’t appear to settle on any one area.

Conversely those resumes that didn’t perform well were those with little white space that looked cluttered and constituted long sentences. Layouts that did not feature sections or headers tended not to “draw the eye down the page.”

The study also found that, for the more experienced job seeker, a two-page resume is perfectly acceptable and not a deterrent. In fact, the “eye-tracking analysis” showed that recruiters – who made it to the second page – spent as much time there as on the first. Beyond two pages, however, readability drops significantly.

Using keywords in a resume remains touchy. While the automated scanners embrace keywords, ultimately the resume will be reviewed by a human and when that happens, those keywords need to be used only in context or they will be seen as a negative.


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