Will Your Resume Pass the Six-Second Test?

In the competitive job market of today, it should be no surprise that recruiters, hiring managers, and other HR professionals are often pressed for time when reviewing the hundreds of job applications they receive for each open position. 

It’s been said that on average, a recruiter scans each resume for only six seconds before deciding if it should be discarded. You only get six seconds to capture the hiring manager’s attention and convince them you are the right professional for the job — no easy feat in so little time. 

So, does your resume pass the six-second test? Ask yourself the following questions to find out. 

How often do I receive responses to my applications?

If you’re applying to jobs you’re qualified for and rarely receive a response, then your resume likely needs some editing.

Most job applications must pass through software known as applicant tracking systems (ATS) before they reach the hiring manager. If your resume isn’t ATS-friendly, there’s a good chance your application is getting stuck in these electronic filters and lost in the ‘resume black hole.’

Tailor your resume to beat the bots and get it in the hands of a human being. From there, you’re a step closer to securing your dream job. 

Do recruiters contact me about relevant positions?

If recruiters regularly contact you about job opportunities in which you have no interest, then your resume could be sending mixed signals about your goals. 

A good resume is written with a specific job goal in mind. Your resume could state your job target toward the top of the page, but additionally the entire document should also be conveyed in a way that calls attention to your relevant qualifications. 

If you’re interested in changing careers, getting back into a field you haven’t been in for many years, or taking your career to the next level, your resume needs to be altered to support this new goal.

What would a stranger think of my resume?

If you were to have a random stranger review the top third of your resume for no more than 30 seconds, would they be able to easily identify your job goals and qualifications? If so, your resume is on the right track. 

If not – ensure that a recruiter or hiring manager can easily identify your job goals, qualifications, and expertise. Format your resume in a way that portrays those details early on. 

Is my resume optimized with keywords?

Every industry has its own set of terms that describe their field. Applicant tracking systems are programmed to seek out these resume keywords to rank your application and determine if you’re a good fit for the role.

In order to make it past these initial reviews, incorporate relevant keywords throughout your resume (in your professional summary, your areas of expertise, and throughout your experience.) 

Are my achievements being emphasized? 

Depending upon how your resume is worded, you may come across as a “doer” rather than an “achiever.” This is something employers — and resume writers — are always looking out for. Take a second look at how you describe your work experience and make sure you’re emphasizing the results you’ve achieved, rather than the tasks you’ve been assigned. 

Does my online presence reflect my resume?

It’s not enough to have a great resume. Employers also expect you to tell a consistent story about your work experience and job goals online. 

Your online presence will be inspected, from your social media profiles, to a personal website or portfolio, anything a recruiter can find if they search for you is part of your online presence. So you need to ensure your online presence is cohesive and supports your career goals.

Google yourself to see what comes up, clean out irrelevant information, fix the privacy settings on profiles you wouldn’t want a recruiter to see, and create an online narrative that fits your goals. 


At the end of the day, you still only have about six seconds to portray your value to the hiring manager. Using the tips mentioned will improve the chances that your resume passes the six second test.