How Recruiters Really See Your Resume

Written by Jacqueline B

Have you ever wondered what recruiters are really looking for when your resume lands in front of them?

When you think about it, recruiters are tasked with searching through hundreds, maybe even thousands, of resumes per day for the job postings they are tasked with finding candidates for.

So how do they do it? How do they select the resumes that stand out to them? What processes do they follow to separate the successful candidates from the not-so-lucky ones?

Perhaps you are curious as to why you haven’t received a callback for that job you applied for. Or maybe you are just beginning your job search and would like to ensure that your resume stands out amongst the crowd.

Of course, only in a perfect world would we be able to tell you exactly how a recruiters mind works, but we can give you a little bit of insight on the criteria they look for, and how they look for it, when reviewing your resume.

Keep reading to discover the truth behind how recruiters really see your resume.

Time’s Up

If you thought that recruiter was actually going to read your resume, think again. We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but according to recent studies done by The Ladders, recruiters spend an average of ~6 whole seconds~ on each resume they look at.

Yes, you read right – 6 seconds.

That is not a lot of time to impress them, so it’s important to know how to format your resume so as to provide them with the basic information they are looking for and, hopefully, entice them to give your resume a second glance.

The Specifics

Of the 6 long seconds the recruiter will spend glancing over your resume before they move onto the next, 80% of that time is spent looking for 6 specific key data points:

  • Name
  • Current Title and Company
  • Previous Title and Company
  • Previous Positions Start and End Dates
  • Current Position Start and End Dates, and
  • Education

If they cannot easily locate these 6 key pieces of information in those 6 seconds, chances are they will move onto the next resume without a second thought – meaning no job for you.

Format Is Key

In order for the recruiters to be able to locate those 6 key data points in the fleeting moments they spend looking at your resume, you need to place those pieces of information in the exact places the recruiter will expect them to be.

Recruiters follow a certain “visual path” when reviewing each resume. Knowing the general layout of this visual path is how you will know where to place these key data points. Luckily for you, we now have an insiders look at what sections of a resume the recruiters eyes spend the most time on.

The heat map provided from the study is an amazing tool for anyone looking to better format their resume. It shows you the difference between the time a recruiter spent looking at a clear and concise resume compared to a less organized resume, and where on those resumes the recruiters looked for the information they wanted.

Additionally, The Ladder’s study also let us know that recruiters prefer professionally formatted resumes to self-written resumes (surprise, surprise). In fact, professionally prepared resumes scored 60% more in terms of “usability” and 40% more in terms of “organization” to self-written resumes, with recruiters claiming that they typically offer a better “visual hierarchy”.

Hey, the numbers don’t lie.

Give Them What They Want

Now that you know how recruiters really see your resume, you should be able to edge out at least some of the competition simply by doing a bit of “resume rearranging”.

Take those 6 key pieces of information and, using the desirable “visual hierarchy” recruiters tend to follow, strategically place them in the most looked at areas on your resume (or have a professional do it…), and watch the callbacks flood in!

Do you have any additional tips for helping your resume stand out? We’d love to hear from you!


  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-what-recruiters-look-at-during-the-6-seconds-they-spend-on-your-resume-2012-4?IR=T
  2. https://www.careergeekblog.com/resume-heat-map/
  3. https://cdn.theladders.net/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf

About the author

Jacqueline B

Our favorite Canadian Jacqueline is a graduate of the University of Alberta. She freelances for variety of online publications, and we're thrilled to to have her as part of the Career Geek team.