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The average screening time for a resume is now just 7.4 seconds

The job site Ladders has released the updated 2018 version of its"Eye-Tracking Study"—first unveiled in 2012—that tracks the amount of time recruiters spend looking at the resumes of job seekers. The study, which utilized a technique called "eye tracking," analyzed the amount of time a group of professional recruiters took to review candidate resumes and found that, despite fierce competition for talent, recruiters still skim resumes for superficial details such as layout, job titles, text flow, keywords and more.

The average initial screening time for a candidate's resume clocks in at just 7.4 seconds—an improvement on the six-second average screening time found in 2012. Ladders determined that the seconds-long improvement is due in part to the fact that the previous study was conducted during the economic recession in the U.S., a time when an overwhelming amount of applicants for open positions caused recruiters to spend less time absorbing key resume details.

"Unemployment is at unprecedented lows in the current job market, and the findings of this new study underline the extent to which resume-skimming behaviors impact not only a job seeker's chances of being noticed, but also a company's ability to spot qualified candidates," said Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella. "We hope that job seekers will use the points found in the study to improve their resume in a market that currently favors the candidates."

The study found that top-performing resumes—where recruiters spent most time and focus—have several key common traits. Those include:

  • Simple layouts with clearly marked section and title headers, all written in a clear font.
  • Layouts that took advantage of F-pattern and E-pattern reading tendencies, with bold job titles supported by bulleted lists of accomplishments.
  • A detailed overview or mission statement, primarily located at the top of the first page of the resume.

Worst-performing resumes also shared similar qualities. Those include:

  • Cluttered layouts characterized by long sentences, multiple columns, and very little white space.
  • Text flow that did not draw the eye down the page, lacking section or job headers.
  • A reliance on keyword stuffing.

Recommendations for job seekers hoping to improve their chances in an already beneficial market include: avoiding the temptation to cram as much information onto the resume page as possible; bolded sections or job titles throughout the document to catch the recruiter's eye; short, declarative sentences that adequately list accomplishments instead of using excessive paragraphs; a strict two-page limit for more experienced job seekers; and utilizing keywords in context only.