How to Pass the 6-Second Resume Test in 2024

27 March
8 min read
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You only have a few seconds to catch a hiring manager's attention with your resume.

And by a few, we mean less than six seconds.

That's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment to make a lasting impression. And with such fierce competition in the job market, failing to do so could cost you the job.

If you're wondering how exactly you can impress the hiring manager in only six seconds, don’t worry!

Our article is here to help you pass the six-second resume test.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • What Is the 6-Second Resume Test
  • How to Pass the 6-Second Resume Test
  • Tips for Crafting a 6-Second Test-Ready Resume

…and more!

Ready? Let's make every second count!

What Is the Six-Second Resume Test?

The six-second resume test is whether or not your resume can convey the most important information to a hiring manager at a glance.

Essentially, the six-second resume test is about the first impression a candidate’s resume gives the hiring manager – and whether that impression can grab their attention.

According to several resume statistics, hiring managers take less than six seconds to decide if a candidate is a match for the job.

Now, you might be wondering—how can hiring managers make such a big decision so quickly?

The truth is that hiring managers have a limited amount of time to go through the stacks of resumes in front of them.

They receive hundreds of applications per job ad, so they skim through candidates’ resumes and look for key information that matches the job they’re hiring for. This includes your past job titles, companies you’ve worked with, your years of experience, and your education.

Below, we’re going to cover each of these elements, one by one. 

How to Pass the Six-Second Resume Test

These six crucial seconds can make or break your job application, which is why your resume needs to instantly show the hiring manager that you're a strong candidate.

Passing the six-second resume test is all about highlighting exactly what the hiring manager wants to see first, so they know right away that you're worth a closer look. Once you catch the hiring manager’s attention, they’re more likely to read the rest of your resume and even potentially invite you for an interview.

There are a few key elements to getting your resume to pass the six-second test, starting with:

#1. Use a Reverse-Chronological Resume Format

First and foremost is your resume’s format.

While there are several resume formats you can choose from, we recommend sticking to the reverse-chronological resume format if you want to pass the 6-second test.

Hiring managers mostly care about your latest professional experience and achievements, which makes the reverse-chronological format ideal for highlighting your strengths from the get-go.

Plus, it’s by far the most popular resume format around the globe, so it’s what hiring managers expect to see from most candidates.

Here’s an example of the reverse-chronological resume format:

reverse-chronological resume format

Are you still a student or going for a career change? Learn when the functional and combination resume formats can work for you.

#2. Perfect the Layout

Before the hiring manager reads your resume, they’re going to look at it. And if they see a messy, unorganized document, they’ll likely skip it altogether.

This is where your resume layout comes in.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Stick to one page. Your resume should be short and attention-grabbing, so keep it to one page. Hiring managers don’t have time to read any more than that when there’s already a pile of resumes on their desks.
  • Add clear section headings. Keep the information on your resume neatly separated into sections, and name them appropriately. For example, always use ‘work experience’ instead of something like ‘professional history’ or ‘experience’.
  • Use ample white space. Adjust the line spacing and page margins to give your resume clear, uncluttered spaces between different sections and bullet points. This guides the hiring manager’s eye smoothly from one key piece of information to the next and helps them find your most relevant qualifications and skills faster.
  • Pick an easy-to-read font. Choose a professional font that’s not overused. Something like Roboto, Ubuntu, or Lora strikes the right balance and won’t tire out the hiring manager’s eyes during that six-second window.
  • Set the right font size. The hiring manager shouldn’t have to squint to read your resume. Use 11-12 pts for the body of your resume and 14-16 pts for your headings and subsection titles.
  • Save your resume as a PDF. Unless the job ad specifies otherwise, you should always send your resume as a PDF file. This way, your resume’s layout will stay the same across any device or software the hiring manager might use to open it.
6 resume layouts must-have

Try a Professional Resume Template to Save Time

Passing the six-second resume test doesn’t mean you have to spend hours perfecting your resume.

Instead of spending valuable time and energy tweaking margins and adjusting font sizes, you can get straight to filling in your resume, section by section.

And there’s a way to skip the hassle!

Just try one of our free resume templates and create your very own resume in minutes.

Every one of our templates is designed in close collaboration with HR professionals from around the world to make sure your resume is ATS-friendly, easy to read, visually appealing, and ready to ace that six-second resume test.

A resume template can help you save valuable time and pass the 6-second resume test. Look at how it compares to a standard text editor resume template at a glance:

novoresume versus normal resume

#3. Tailor to the Job Description

One of the keys to passing the six-second resume test is tailoring your resume to the specific job you’re applying for, so the hiring manager immediately sees that you're a good fit.

Start by carefully reading the job ad. Pay attention to the specific skills, experiences, and keywords it requires, and add the ones you have to your resume.

For example, if the job description mentions "project management," make sure to use that phrase instead of simply mentioning that you "managed projects" at your previous job.

Tailor the work experience in your resume to reflect what the employer needs. If you have a lot of work experience under your belt, you don’t need to list everything you’ve ever done. Any unrelated jobs or that babysitting gig from your high school years shouldn’t make the cut.

Describe your work experience in a way that reflects how you match this specific job. For example, if you want to be a social media marketer, focus on responsibilities and achievements from your previous job that match what this job description is looking for in a candidate.

#4. Use the Right Professional Title

Your professional title should always match the position you’re applying for.

After your name, the first thing the hiring manager is going to see at a glance is the professional title underneath it. If it matches the job they’re hiring for word-for-word, that’s their signal to keep reading after the six-second mark.

For example, if you’re applying for a job as a ‘Senior Project Manager’, you don’t want a vague professional title like ‘Team Leader’. Mirroring the language from the job ad tells the hiring manager you know exactly what you’re applying for and that you’re a potential match in those first six seconds.

And be sure to avoid buzzwords. They don’t impress hiring managers.

#5. Mention Your Years of Experience

Every job ad specifies how many years of experience the candidates need, so it’s no wonder that this is one of the most important things that hiring managers look for during that six-second resume test.

The best place to include your years of experience is right at the top of your resume, in the resume summary. This lets hiring managers know just how experienced you are at a glance, instead of having to read through your resume in detail to find out.

On top of that, your resume summary is also a great place to highlight some of your skills, achievements, or other resume keywords related to the job description.

For example, if you’re applying for a job as a web developer and the job ad says they need someone with working knowledge of HTML and e-commerce experience, your resume summary could say:

  • Dynamic Web Developer with 3 years of experience in designing and developing user-friendly websites. Proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and React. Developed an e-commerce site that increased client sales by 30%. Looking to contribute innovative and efficient web solutions at CreativeWeb Studios.

The hiring manager will only read your resume if it passes the Applicant Tracking System. Learn how to write an ATS-friendly resume with our article!

#6. Leverage Bullet Points

Clunky paragraphs in your work experience section won’t keep the hiring manager engaged. If you want to pass the six-second resume test, you need to format this section so it’s easy to read.

Using bullet points can be a reader-friendly way to guide the hiring manager to the core information on your resume and even get them interested in reading it in more detail.

Bullet points let hiring managers go through the bulk of your resume without losing track. Just use five to six bullet points when describing your most recent work experience, and two or three as you work your way back.

You can also use bullet points when you list information in other sections, such as internships, volunteering, or personal projects. Just make sure you stick to the most important information and keep everything neat.

Need to write a resume for an internship? Check out our full guide to getting an internship here!

#7. Quantify Your Achievements

Something that can make your resume stick out during that six-second resume test is concrete data.

By adding numbers to your accomplishments, you can turn your experiences from vague statements into impressive examples.

Quantifying your achievements makes it easier for hiring managers to understand the scale and impact of your work. For example, instead of saying "Led a successful marketing campaign," you should specify that you "Led a marketing campaign that increased web traffic by 40%." 

Giving details like these can back up your impressive achievements and catch the hiring manager’s eye, so you’ll be sure to pass the six-second resume test.

#8. Highlight Relevant Skills

After your work experience, your skills are one of the most important sections the hiring manager will be looking for.

We recommend placing your skills somewhere near the top of the page, so the hiring manager can easily find them within the first six seconds of skimming your resume.

Also, only add skills that are relevant to the specific position. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a welder, your Photoshop skills don’t need to be front and center on your resume.

Another thing you can do here to help pass the six-second resume test is to keep your hard skills separate from your soft skills so the hiring manager can navigate them more easily.

top soft skills

Key Takeaways

You’ve made it to the end of our article!

If you follow our tips, we’re confident your resume will pass that six-second test.

But before we send you away on your job hunt, let’s just recap some of our key points:

  • The first thing the hiring manager is going to notice is your resume’s layout and formatting. Instead of wasting precious time tweaking everything by yourself, use our free resume templates and create your resume in minutes.
  • Use your resume summary to give the hiring manager the most important details, such as your years of experience, impressive skills, and your exact professional title.
  • Tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for. Include relevant keywords, skills, and work experience that match what the employer is looking for.
  • Make sure to use bullet points to increase your resume’s readability and guide the hiring manager’s eyes to your work experience within the first few seconds.
  • Adding a hyperlink to an updated LinkedIn profile can make a huge difference. This way, you’re allowing the hiring manager to dive deeper into your professional journey.