Study Shows Resume Format is Crucial

Job seekers invest a large amount of time in writing a resume. However, a new study indicates that the format of a resume really matters even more than the content.

The Research

Using a method called “eye tracking,” researchers studied 30 professional recruiters over a 10-week period. They closely noted where the recruiters eyes focused and how long they took to analyze the information and complete a task.  Two main objectives of the study were to find out if recruiters process resumes written by a professional service differently than those written by the candidate and how long the recruiter spent on each resume.

The Results

The research showed that recruiters consistently follow the same visual path when reviewing resumes. Thus, an organized layout is imperative. Researchers noted that poorly organized resumes caused the recruiter’s “gaze trace” to be more erratic, contributing to higher mental activity, increasing the level of effort needed to interpret what they saw.

The study also verified something I know firsthand to be true…the recruiters spent an average of only six seconds on a resume before deciding if the candidate was a fit for the position. In that short time period, the recruiter quickly noted the candidate’s name, current company and job position, start and end dates, previous company and title, previous start and end dates, and education level. In fact, the study showed that 80 percent of the recruiter’s review time was spent on these key areas. I first heard this statistic when I started as a security recruiter ten years ago. Then, I timed myself when viewing resume looking to fill an opening. Now, I admit…I am a little slow. I spent about ten seconds per resume. Busy recruiters and HR professionals review hundreds of resume daily and are required to make quick judgements. Thus, the importance of the clean format with bullet points to highlight measurable achievements.

What’s the bottom-line? Make sure your resume is in an easy-to-read format. Even if it’s beautifully written, some of your greatest assets could be overlooked. Use proper hierarchy, placing pertinent information at the top in a clear, organized format. Lastly, avoid unnecessary words and details and be sure to use spell check. A single misspelling can cause you to be rejected…regardless of your qualifications. If in doubt, seek the help of a professional resume writing service.

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