You in 6 seconds: how to write a résumé that employers will actually read

Quincy Larson
Jun 30, 2016 · 7 min read

6 seconds? How did it come to this?

You remember those friends from school who seemed to think that getting a job was just a numbers game? The ones who spammed out their résumé to as many companies as possible?

“We’ll keep your résumé on file.”

  1. The ATS searches through your résumé for specific keywords that the recruiter in charge of filling the position has prioritized.
  2. If your résumé doesn’t have enough of the right keywords, the ATS archives your résumé, never to be read by humans. You are unlikely to receive any word of your résumé’s fate.
  3. If your résumé does have enough of the right keywords, the ATS will queue it up to be reviewed by a human.
  4. A recruiter will eventually fire up the ATS and start storming through their queue of résumés. And since this is tedious work, they usually put it off until the end of their workday, when they’re already exhausted from interviewing.
  5. This is where your résumé gets its 6 seconds to sell you. If your résumé strikes the recruiter as a likely fit for the position, they will reach out to you for an interview.

Your foot in the door

LinkedIn is not your résumé. GitHub is not your résumé. Your CodePen pens and Dribbble shots are not your résumé. Your résumé is your résumé.

Make the most of your 6 seconds

How many words can a human even read in 6 seconds? Not many. So you’d better be brief.

Only use one page.

It goes without saying that your résumé should only be one page long. If Elon Musk’s résumé can fit onto one page, yours can.

Don’t include a photo.

Researchers have conducted experiments where they asked recruiters to wear special glasses that tracked their eyes while they reviewed résumés.

Typos kill.

Make sure your résumé doesn’t have any typos. Not even one.

Use keywords carefully.

It’s vital that you have the right keywords on your résumé — otherwise you will never make it past the ATS keyword filters.

Use a headline.

The headline is the most important part of your résumé. It should use as few words as necessary and its font should be 50% larger. It should say something meaningful about the most important part of your résumé: your experience.

Be brief.

For each relevant job, write the following:

  • Your job title and dates of employment
  • A one line description of your responsibilities
  • One or two accomplishments

Explain your gaps honestly.

If you have respectable reasons for gaps in your résumé, be sure to point them out. A single sentence fragment with dates will do.

Don’t waste time customizing a cover letter.

Most recruiters see cover letters as unnecessary for technical positions. They are smart enough to realize that cover letters basically just restate your résumé bullet points — usually couched in frivolous adjectives and adverbs.

Don’t waste space stating the obvious.

If recruiters agree on one thing, it’s that objective statements are unnecessary.

Give your résumé a meaningful file name.

Since your résumé will live in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you’ll want to make sure your file name is meaningful.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

Résumés aren’t going away any time soon.

This is no longer updated. Go to instead

Thanks to Eric Leung.

Quincy Larson

Written by

Teacher at

This is no longer updated. Go to instead