Can Your Resume Pass the Six-Second Test?

A 2012 report by The Ladders found that job recruiters spend only six seconds evaluating a candidate’s resume before determining whether or not they are a fit for an open position. The report was based on data from an eye-tracking study of 30 professional recruiters monitored over a 10-week period as they reviewed resumes and candidate profiles online.

Here are a few tips to help your resume pass the Six-Second Test:

Create an “Information Hierarchy”

The report showed that recruiters spent 80% of their time reviewing data such as:

  • Name
  • Current or most recent company, title, and start date (as well as end date, if applicable)
  • Education

Other information relevant to legal employers would be:

  • Bar Admissions (including USPTO)
  • Other Certifications (CIPP, CFA)
  • Languages and level of fluency, e.g., “business fluent”, “native”, “proficient”

Use bold, capitalizations, bullet points, and italics to draw the eye to titles, employers, relevant experience, and start/end dates. This makes your resume easier to read, and the reader will spend less energy navigating it.

Your education information should go at the top of your resume if you are a recent law graduate (i.e., graduated law school less than two years ago). Your most recent work experience should be at the top if you are not a recent law graduate.

Is Your Resume Control-F Proof?

Aside from reviewing the data above, potential employers spend the rest of their resume review time doing a Control-F for keywords which match important language in the open position description.

This means that you will have to alter your resume before you submit it for a specific role, and pay attention to the language of the job description.

For example: if a role calls for experience drafting ISDA documents, your recruiter will be doing a Control-F for “ISDA,” “ISDA Master Agreement,” “CSA,” “Credit Support Annex,” and any other terms that the job description may contain.

Data Counts – Be Specific!

When it comes to describing your work experience, rely on numbers and specific examples to showcase your experience.

Making a list of the agreements you’ve drafted is helpful, but if you’ve been churning out contracts at a high volume, don’t keep that to yourself. One candidate I spoke with drafted over 200 vendor, licensing, and SaaS agreements in a year – a number that should belong in her resume.

If there were a project or matter which took your skill set a “level up”, or one that you are particularly proud, devote a bullet point to describing this project or matter as well as your specific role on the team.

If you run a team, make note of this in your resume as well as the number of attorneys and non-attorney staff who report up to you.

Devote Ink on the Page to the Important Stuff

What experience prepared you most for the role to which you are applying? Where did you gain the bulk of your most relevant experience? Those are the resume entries that should be explained in the most detail and with the most bullet points.

This may mean that work experience prior to law school, or experience early in your legal career, should be limited to one or two bullet points/sentences unless there is some nexus, for example, industry.

And, please, keep your resumes to two pages (one page if you are less than five years out of law school).