Does Your Resume Pass The "6 Second Review?"

Recently a recruiter that I know mentioned in a conversation that she once read that, on average, recruiters spend less than 7 second reviewing candidate resumes. 7 seconds! Think about that! I was skeptical so decided to do a quick bit of research. Turns out several years ago The Ladders had a survey where they concluded that recruiters spent less than 7 seconds per resume. To demonstrate a point, pull up your most recent resume or LinkedIn profile, hold it in front of you, and count:

One Mississippi

Two Mississippi

Three Mississippi

Four Mississippi

Five Mississippi

Six Mississippi

Seven Mi *TIME!!!*

That is an awfully short amount of time to fully explain to someone the breadth of your experience. It also explains why candidates are confused as to why their submissions are ignored, seemingly lost forever, even though their experience is a fit for posted opportunities. I am not here to argue whether or not the practice of rapidly reviewing resumes is effective (Author's Note - It is not). The purpose of this article is to explain how recruiters scan your resume, the red flags they look for, and how to avoid them. If you want your resume to pass a "6 second review," pay attention to the following items that recruiters are scanning for.


You can have your resume rejected within 1 second of review if you have an odd font selected for your resume. Yes, it does make you stand out, but for the wrong reasons. Keep it simple


The general rule is keep it to a page. The problem is some candidates feel that is an absolute rule, so they go to great lengths to keep it at one page. If you are entry level or 1-2 years of experience, do not pad your resume to consist of a full page. Most employers for professional roles do not care about all of the jobs you held during college. Relevant internships are a plus, but anything not associated with the position you are applying to are basically ignored anyway.

If you have 20 years experience, don't try to limit your resume to one page. Recruiters want to see what experience you have, as well as at which roles.

*TIP* Play with the font size and margins to try to get everything to fit. Font size of 9-12 and margins of 0.5 should fit as much as you need.


For the most part, recruiters do not care about objectives. They assume your objective is to work in the role you are applying to. Candidates have to be careful with objectives. I can't tell you how many times I receive a resume with an objective stating one's desire to work for KPMG. I. AM. NOT. KPMG. If another accounting firm received a resume with that objective, they would 1) Decline your submission and/or 2) Tell you to apply to KPMG. If you are not diligent enough to modify your objective for each submission, you are better off just leaving it off completely so you don't make a mistake.

If you must include an objective on your resume, make it important and have value. Don't use it as an excuse to use a bunch of adjectives. For example:

Objective - To be a productive member of a diligent team that successfully and accurately implements a company's mission statement, adding to the bottom line and aligning with my goals.

As you can see, that explains nothing. Would anyone state that they didn't want to be productive? That they were looking to be unsuccessful or inaccurate? Many candidates feel they have to use an objective, but objectives should explain things, not just exist for the sake of existing. Most objectives I review look like the candidate used a Bad Objective Mad Lib Generator.

Objective - To be a/n adjective noun of a/n adjective noun that adverb and adverbverb a/n noun

It's just not useful in the slightest. I personally think that objectives are a good way for someone to explain something that may not be obvious to the recruiter, i.e. why a candidate is applying to this role. Good examples would be: Career changers, candidates looking to relocate, perhaps people looking to re-enter the workforce after needing to take some time off.


I once read that contact info on resumes is no longer necessary. I think there may be certain circumstances where that is true, but for the most part recruiters want to see your contact info. They want to know if the opportunity is "commutable" for you. Some recruiters are lazy and if the contact info is not on there, they will pass rather than take the 2 seconds to ask you where you are located. *NOTE* I am not saying this is "right." I am just saying it happens and it is avoidable.

Also, no one says you have to have a boring email address...just have a boring email address for your resume. You don't have to use it for your personal contacts. But odds are if your email address is, you won't be contacted by the recruiter.


Based on my personal experience (and the recruiters that I know), most recruiters and hiring managers want to see a chronological resume, with duties/experiences at each role, as opposed to a professional summary and list of jobs. I understand that it may be different for some industries, so if your industry has a preferred format, go with it. In terms of the chronological resume, recruiters are looking for several things, such as career progression, as well as when you last used the relevant skills to the opportunity you are applying to. Most times, if the relevant skills aren't current/recent, or if a recruiter can't tell if they are current/recent, they will reject your submission. If the relevant skills ARE current/recent, you want that to stand out, not just be buried as part of the professional summary.

Also, if you do not use bullet points, the recruiter most likely will not spend the time to read through the paragraphs of information and will just pass.


If your most recent position says "-Present" and you use past tense to describe your experience, you will be rejected.

If you use present tense to describe your experience at previous jobs, you will be rejected.



If you are submitting a resume to a recruiter, DO NOT INCLUDE MONTHS on your dates of employment. All that does is highlight your gaps in employment. Just put years. It looks more cohesive. At least make the recruiter do their job and ask you for months...don't readily just give up the info and shoot yourself in the foot. Recruiters are trained to pick out gaps in something like 0.2 seconds...don't do it for them.

Also, recruiters are lazy. Here is an example:

Company X 2017 - Present, Sr Accountant

Company X 2016 - 2017, Semi-Sr Accountant

Company X 2014 - 2016, Staff Accountant

Company X 2013 - 2014, Jr Accountant

Company Y, 2012 - 2013 Jr. Accountant

So, imagine the above experience is your experience, and that is how it looks on your resume. Now, imagine it is 4:45pm, and your resume is the 150th resume that a recruiter is reviewing that day. Their eyes are dry, they have lost the ability to focus, and they've pretty much checked out for the day. They quickly glance at your resume and this is how they translate your experience: First job 2012, current job 2017, 5 jobs from 2012 thru 2017. 5 jobs in 5 years. PASS. This happens ALL THE TIME. I have had HR professionals with 30 years experience pass on very good resumes because they were confused that there was 1 FT role and 2 internships listed, and they thought the 3 jobs looked jumpy! You can't assume that someone is interpreting your resume correctly. Don't leave it up to chance. Format your experience with one company under one main header, like this:

Company X 2013-Present

Company Y 2012 - 2013

Ahhhh, much better. 5 yrs, 2 jobs, 4 yrs at the present job shows stability.


Spellcheck isn't enough. There are many grammar mistakes that spellcheck can miss. Have someone read over your resume. If there are blatant mistakes, odds are you don't have that "attention to detail" that you referenced somewhere on your resume.

And please use homophones correctly!! I know so many recruiters that just pass when they see incorrect uses of: your/you're, their/they're/there, role/roll, etc.

Also, if you are going to use a phrase, please understand the meaning of said phrase and/or what the phrase actually is. Example: It's not "For all intensive purposes." It's "For all intents & purposes."


If you have a bachelor's degree, do not list an associates degree.

If you have a bachelor's degree, be sure to list the actual degree, not just the school, major, and dates. Otherwise a recruiter will assume that you did not graduate.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against due to your age, do not put the year that you graduated. Many recruiters in the industry scan that information quickly and pass, depending on the role.


Don't list references on your resume. You would be surprised how many times I have heard a client actually say something negative about one of the references and just pass on the candidate.


Unless you can dream in a language, please do not list it on your resume. I know it looks good as a keyword, but trust me, you don't want to be called on it if you can't back it up. Everyone has different definitions of "written," "spoken," and "fluent." Don't just list it.


Most recruiters & hiring managers don't care about your hobbies. There. I said it.

A quick thanks for the strong response to my article last week, "Interview Tips & Tricks" Lots of feedback on that one and I appreciate it. It was a featured article on last week!

If you have any questions about anything I discussed in the above article, looking for a job and/or working with a recruiter, just ask! Shoot me an email at

For more about me or my firm, please visit or I am always looking to network with good professionals that share my values in recruiting, so shoot me an invite if you agree with me!

You can find 10 daily job postings, as well as loads of content on Karpiak Consulting's Facebook page Please "like" or follow the page to be kept up to date on all of new content daily. I re-post articles of interest I find online regarding recruiting & public accounting, and I also post emails & messages I get (redacted of course) regarding recruiting that I think are of interest, including stories from candidates about other recruiters doing bad/confusing things.

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