Does Your Resume Pass the 6-Second Test?


Public speaking rock star. Excel ninja. HTML guru. We get it—any company would be lucky to have you.

But they won’t know it unless your resume grabs them at a glance. Yep, a glance. One study found that recruiters spend just six seconds reviewing individual resumes.

Sometimes, it’s easy to stand out quickly—newbies with killer internships and seasoned pros with enviable track records probably don’t need much help. But there are plenty of other circumstances that can make resume construction a little more challenging. Here’s how to shine, anyway.

1. You were on a break.

Trekking through Costa Rica, recovering from a layoff, staying home with a baby, whatever—at some point, many of us will have a resume gap to explain.

Traditionally, people have relied on “functional resumes”—which favor skills over chronology—to mask time off, but hiring managers are hip to this game, says Laurie Berenson of SterlingCareerConcepts.com. Plus, many hiatuses, like a few months’ lag between positions or caring for kids, aren’t usually big deals, she says.

Have a bunch of gaps or a longer one that’s harder to explain? Berenson recommends a hybrid-style resume, starting with an executive summary that highlights relevant strengths, followed by a chronological listing. “Because there’s more content in the summary, some or all of the chronological listing ends up on page two, which is ideal if you’re trying to downplay its importance,” she says.

2. It’s time for a change.

Landing a gig in a new industry is all about “helping a potential hiring manager see how you can transfer your skills and accomplishments,” says Berenson.

A detailed summary, listing specific transferable qualifications and technical skills, can help here, too—as well as editing the rest to showcase accomplishments that would be valued within the new industry. For example, a digital marketer could reference experience writing persuasive web copy and facilitating focus groups when applying for a business development job—but play down the part about mastering “SoLoMo” applications. (In other words: Eliminate any jargon or acronyms someone outside your current field wouldn’t get.)

Bonus: Related volunteer experience, classes taken and certifications can help, too.

3. You’ve climbed the ranks—at just one company.

It can be tempting to create different job entries for every promotion earned. But Berenson recommends instead listing the employer once, then separating the various positions below, adding “promoted” when applicable. Then bullet the finer details underneath each position, making sure they don’t overlap much, says Lauren McAdams, career advisor at ResumeCompanion.com.

4. You want to stand out (in a good way).

For every manager who loves the billboard approach, there’s another who cringes. The best way to show off your creativity? Link a personal website, where there’s more room for personal expression, says Georgene Huang, CEO of job site Fairygodboss.

This advice isn’t limited to creatives. For example, salespeople might write blog posts about industry trends or a profile of an innovative company that’s found new revenue streams, while a technical person could showcase an app he created or link to a Github code repository.