What can you do in six seconds?

  • If you’re Collin Burns, you can solve a Rubik’s cube.
  • If you’re a Vine watcher, you can learn to tie a Windsor knot.
  • And if you’re a recruiter, you can identify a promising candidate for an open position.

At least, that’s what a study suggests, after revealing that on average, recruiters spend just six seconds reviewing an individual resume.

So, what exactly stands out in such a quick glance—and how can you make sure your own resume makes a lasting (but quick) impression?

You can better understand the perspective of a recruiter by playing the 6-Second Resume Challenge. It shows you a series of resumes for an entry-level customer service role, but gives you just six seconds to make a snap decision about each candidate.

Fair warning: The seconds tick down a lot faster than you’d expect—and within that time you have to choose whether to keep the resume or trash it.

The exercise conveys an important lesson in figuring out what elements attract a recruiter’s eyes and which make him or her immediately toss a resume aside.



Need a few more seconds to process all that information? After completing the exercise, you can review the resumes in a timer-free environment, taking an extra few minutes to see if your keepers aligned with the candidates a real recruiter would have chosen. (I have to admit, I was reading so frantically I completely overlooked the fact that the first candidate included a picture—a huge taboo.)

You’ll start to see a few patterns. Overall, the “keeper” resumes:

And maybe you already knew those tips. But by experiencing those six seconds of pressure, you really start to get a feel for what your resume may be lacking and how you can improve its at-a-glance appeal.

Photo of stopwatch courtesy of Shutterstock.