How long do recruiters and employers really spend looking at your CV?

You have probably heard that hiring managers and recruiters spend only a few seconds scanning your CV.

Perhaps the most frequently cited research is a study by TheLadders, which claimed recruiters peruse your resume for just six seconds before deciding whether or not you fit the position.

A similar survey from the National Citizen Service found employers read CVs for less than nine seconds. A small improvement, although it’s doubtful jobseekers will be happy to hear their application is evaluated in about the same time as it takes to tie your shoelaces!

Canadian job site Workopolis claims 60 per cent of employers using its service view a CV for 11 seconds or less before shortlisting it or moving on to the next person. Only 14 per cent spent more than a minute before making their decision.

At the other end of the scale, New College of the Humanities research revealed that recruiters spend an average of three minutes and 14 seconds examining every CV. So who’s right?

Drilling down into the data

The most compelling results appear to come from TheLadders and Workopolis. While most studies relied on asking recruiters and employers how long they spend on applications, these two organisations also used quantitative methodologies.

TheLadders utilised eye-tracking techniques to measure how long recruiters scanned candidate CVs. This also showed which sections of an application received the most attention.

Meanwhile, Workopolis relied on website tracking data to monitor hiring managers’ behaviour while perusing CVs on the company’s database. The firm examined how long visitors initially viewed a resume before saving or moving on, as well as the amount of time spent on shortlisted candidates (a further 25 seconds, on average).

Both studies emphasise the disparity between how long candidates believe employers and recruiters examine their resume and the reality. Most jobseekers assume their CV is under review for at least four to five minutes, according to TheLadders.

Are the results accurate?

The results will worry some candidates, but you may want to take these types of studies with a grain of salt for a number of reasons.

For example, the methodologies may not always be completely sound. A ResumeGenius article tackled some of the issues with the techniques used in TheLadders study. The research may also have an ulterior motive – such as advertising CV-rewriting services – that could guide the headline results.

Lastly, studies rarely account for the different types of role for which candidates are applying.

A recruiter sifting through hundreds of CVs for a very junior position may only scan each one for a few seconds, but this will not be the case for a senior-level vacancy that attracts far fewer applicants.

Nevertheless, the research does highlight an important point: your CV may not be getting as much review time as you’d hoped, so first impressions are crucial.

Hope for the best; plan for the worst

Every role is different, so it’s impossible to gauge how long a particular company or recruiter will spend on your resume.

Your CV therefore needs to stand out from the crowd, as it must survive the initial scan for suitability, whether that’s six seconds or six minutes.

The evidence suggests you may have less than 30 seconds to impress before the hammer comes down on your application. Make sure they count.

If you would like to discuss opportunities available in the market, please register with Barclay Simpson today and speak to a consultant that specialises in your area.

Looking for roles in the information security sector? Contact me on 0207 936 2601 or email to and I’ll be happy to help.