Getting Past the 7-second Filter: How Employers Actually Read Your Resume

Updated: Jul 2



Six to seven seconds. According to a survey conducted by The Ladders a few years ago, that’s how much time your resume gets with recruiters or hiring managers.

Now take your resume and count to seven.

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi, Four Mississippi, Five Mississippi, Six Mississippi, Seven Mississippi – DONE!

How far did you get?

You must be thinking that this is an incredibly short amount of time to read your resume from head to toe to understand your experience, skill-set and the value you can bring. True.

And that’s the thing - employers don’t read your resume. They scan it.

They open the document, spot the layout, find their way through looking only for relevant keywords in your employment history and make a decision. That’s it – that’s what gets absorbed in those few seconds they spend with your resume.

What’s more, that’s what your career depends on.

Knowing that, to make the most of this short time your resume will have to make the best impression, you should pay attention to the following things that are the most common deal-breakers in those six to seven seconds.

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1. LENGTH

A resume that is too long will end up in a ‘no’ file in the first second after employers open it.

They will open the document, notice 4+ pages and you’re out.

This instant filtering might be unfair, but the length of your resume is telling more than you’d expect.

The logic behind is this: if you can’t summarize relevant experience to one or two pages, employers will jump to the conclusion that you don’t understand what is actually important for the job and that you can’t see the forest for the trees. In 99% of cases, these are not characteristics they look for in their future employees.

As the most ‘black-or-white’ filter, this is the easiest criteria for them when making a hiring decision.

Luckily, we believe it’s the easiest one to fix. Just play around with the font size, size of margins and be critical of your content when deciding what's worth keeping - and you'll be able to fit everything in this limited amount of space.

2. FONT

If you have done the ‘seven Mississippi test’ at the beginning, you’ve noticed that in the given time you can’t actually read the whole content. Instead, you can only grasp some visual information.

The font style is the key visual information employers see the first second they open your resume.

Hard-to-read, cartoonish, odd or simply unprofessional will surely make you stand out from the crowd, but not in the way you’d like. They will immediately rule you out.

Keep the font style simple and professional. Also, keep it consistent throughout the document.

Select all in your document (CTRL + A for MS Office users and Command + A for Mac users) and change your font to Arial, Calibri, or Cambria. They will do the job.

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3. STRUCTURE

To make the most of the time employers spend scanning your resume, it must be easy for them to find their way through and spot relevant information about your experience and education.