Resumes That Last More Than 6 Seconds

You only have 6.25 seconds for your resume to catch the attention of a recruiter. I'll step you through how to update your resume to get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.

Resumes That Last More Than 6 Seconds

According to a study by the ladders and from my own personal experience, you only have about 6.25 seconds to catch the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager.  So how do you last at least 7 seconds?  The reason for such a quick decision is the volume of resumes that have to be processed.  Based on my past 20 years of hiring, I easily review over 100 resumes for 1 hire.  And I am not a recruiter, so just imagine how many resumes they are reviewing.   And they only want to present the best candidates to their clients.

In this post, I will cover creating a resume from the perspective of how it is reviewed and use my own resume and template as an example.  I will cover the following parts of creating a resume:

  • format
  • tone
  • length
  • header/footer
  • summary section
  • experience section
  • education section
  • additional information section

Here is my Resume Template in Microsoft Word that you can use.

3 Phases of Review

I break the review process down into 3 phase:  

  • Phase 1: The initial 6 seconds. This is about first impressions.  Is the resume pleasing? Can I easily find some key information?
  • Phase 2: The next 30 seconds.  This is about finding those key skill sets I'm looking for.
  • Phase 3: Acceptance. This is about diving into your accomplishments and finding great candidates.


The most important part of a resume is the format of the first page.   It needs to be pleasing and have a layout that guides the reviewer's eyes down the page to the most pertinent information.  As I cover each section of the resume format, it will be included to cover how it helps guide the reviewer's eyes to the information they want.

So the goal of your format is for the reviewer to know the following information in 6 seconds.

  1. Your Name
  2. What you do
  3. Key Skills
  4. Employers, including the company name and your role, for at least the last 3 years.

After that, you got another 30 seconds to not be rejected.  This decision is almost always done on the first page.  So your first page is the critical one. Well, at least if I am reviewing your resume from a stack.  In this phase, the important sections are the:

  1. Summary
  2. First-page experience summaries
  3. First-page experience accomplishments

From just 3 three items, you need to make a connection of your skills to their needs. Second, and more importantly, you want them to know more about one of your experience accomplishments.  I will cover how you do this in a little bit.

If you make it past 30 seconds, you are now in the acceptance phase, and the rest of your resume needs to be solid.  Especially your accomplishments.  You need to connect and make them interested in learning more about who you are.  You need nuggets of information.

So, let's figure out how to do that.

Overall Tone

Your resume should be written in third person in the past tense.  It's a professional document, and it's just expected.  I'll cover LinkedIn in the future and talk about switching to the first person.  

You are a doer.

So, your verbs should be action verbs. Personally, I only hire and recommend people who get things done. This is an important frame of mind not just on your resume but also on LinkedIn and in every email message, phone call, and interview.  In short, take ownership of what you have done.  Good or bad.

You can include a few action verbs in your resume: designed, implemented, migrated, created, participated in, managed, saved, and designed.


The recommended length for resumes is 1 page for junior-level positions and 2 pages for everybody else. An extra page may be necessary if you need a skill list or have some extra information. But 3 pages is the max, no more.  Late in this post, I'll talk about how to shorten your work experience because that section usually blows up your resume size.

The header on your first page is the first thing that reviewers see, and it sets the tone and is the starting line for the eyes. The top of your first page should stand out and scream who you are.  Do not hide your name.  Make your name bigger than everything else.   This way, in a stack of resumes, you can easily be found.  It should also have your primary contact information, which for me includes phone number, email address, website, and LinkedIn page.  Also, don't create a website just to have one because for most people LinkedIn will be able to handle all the extra information about you who are.   The one exception is if you have any type of design portfolio, then you most definitely should have a website to show it off.

Top of my first page:

First Page Header

On the rest of the pages, your header should literally fade to the background but be easy to find.  On these, I only include my name, phone number, and email address. Anything more and it will get cluttered.   Take a look at my subsequent page header and how it contrasts with the first page.  

Top of my subsequent pages:

Header After Page 1

The footer should contain the current version of your resume and connect your pages because people still print resumes.  The footer on all pages should fade in the background just like the header does after the first page.  

Here is my footer.


Version information is easy; it's just the date of your last edit.   This is important for three reasons.  

  1. If it is old they then a recruiter will know to ask for an updated resume.  
  2. When talking with someone about your resume, you can ask for the date at the bottom to know if they have the most updated version.
  3. If you send an update to a recruiter, they can easily identify which resume is newer.  

For the date, make sure you are clear on the month/day.  Option 1 is to spell out the month, such as June 01, 2020.  Option 2 is to put the year first, such as 2020-06-01.  Do not do month/day/year as it can cause confusion with international reviewers who might read it as day/month/year.

The current page number allows your resume to be reassembled if put out of order. And finally, the total page count allows someone to know if there is more in case they are only handed the first page.


The summary section has is supporters and haters.   I actually support the summary because it lets you target what you are looking for and highlight your skills. You don't want to cast your net too wide. I can understand the concern, especially if you are currently unemployed, but you are better off targeting what you want and what you are good at.  Otherwise, you will spend waste time interviewing just to find out you are not a fit.  Make it easy for recruiters to know if you are the one for them. Don't leave them guessing.  

I usually read the summary in those first 30 seconds. So having a targeted summary will let me know how good of a match you are to my position.  The closer you are to what I'm looking for, the higher up the sorted stack you go.

Summary Skill List

This section is not a standard format you will find in templates or how to write a resume article.  However, I like this because if formatted right, it is read in those critical first 6 seconds. Compare this where you normally find a skill list on the last page?   If the reviewer doesn't get past your first page, then your skill list will not matter on the last page.

So the summary skill list is a 1 to 3 column bulleted list of very targeted information. You want to use bullets because as the eyes scan down the page, they will pause just long enough to pick up any keywords that are important to them. So this list contains things you are interested in and things you are good at.

Summary Skil List

From this list, you can see I specialize in AWS.  I'm not multi-cloud, so no Azure or Google.  But AWS is so large that I have included a few specialties like Cost Management, Security, and Serverless.


This is where you either make or break your resume's length.  I can hear a lot of you now, "but I have years and years of experience! How do I put all that experience in my resume."  In short, you don't.  The reality is what you did over 7 years ago is mostly irrelevant to any current position you would be interested in. For example, I have 30 years of experience, and I keep my experience to just 1.5 pages. So limit your experience to 1.5 pages and make it stop on page two.  In contrast, I have a master resume where I keep all my previous work experience in detail for personal reference, which is currently 10 pages.   Would you want to review a 10-page resume in a stack of 100? I didn't think so.

If you are having a hard to trimming down your experience to just a page a half, you can put a reference to your LinkedIn profile for any older work experience.  But keep at least 10 years on your resume.  See the template in the link provided above for an example.

Experience Job Titles

A resume can become a legal document in one very critical situation.  If it was submitted with your application and is used to very your previous employment.   Because of this, my recommendation is to use the official job titles you held so that if they call to verify employment, everything will match up.  If it doesn't match up, it could be an issue.  I know for many of the positions you held, you might not even know your official title.  Just contact HR; it's what I did.  If it's a large company, do a web search for "employment verification."

For example, my last position at Ericsson was "System Engineer 4," which is not descriptive of what I did.   To resolve this, I start the summary section for the position with "System architect for the Technology Product and Portfolio Management team ..."

Let's look at how this comes together in one of my positions.  

A couple things to note.

The format of the company and position.  I use all caps on the company and bolding both the company and position.  It stands out that information from the rest of the page. This helps the reviewer scan your page, looking for that initial 6 seconds of information.  

The 2 sets of dates.   The first is the years with the company.  The second one is the years in the position.  If you have just one role at a company, just use the company line.

Experience Job Summary

A short statement on your role and responsibilities.  One format I like for my job summary is using  "Your role for which group responsible for what."   Here is one example of how I use it:

In the example, my title was System Engineer 4, but immediately afterward, you know my role as System Architect.   You know I was in a Product Management group.  You know I was responsible for the cloud and systems.  And that it was an international team.

Experience Accomplishments

This is the section that will get you the interview.  This is critical to making it past the acceptance phase.  

Use bullets

For each accomplishment, use a bullet list. This keeps the flow moving down the page. It clearly separates each accomplishment from the next.

Keep it short

Each bullet should be just 1 or 2 lines long. You want to be concise and to the point. Provide only enough information to get their interest. You don’t need to explain the why or the details. That is what the phone/video/in-person interviews are for.

Use action verbs

Use action verbs because you are a doer.

Use numbers

Include numbers when you can because they show something that is measurable. It also makes your accomplishments tangible and real.

Numbers that show savings:

  • Reduced AWS monthly spending by 40% through Reserved Instance utilization, application right-sizing, auto-scaling groups, and reporting.
  • Upgrade servers with a project ROI of 3 years.

Numbers that show scale:

  • Designed an application sharding solution that allowed the application to scale from 3 million subscribers to 40 million subscribers for AWS and OpenStack.

Numbers that show efficiencies

  • Reduced upgrade times by 90% with an automated product upgrade framework.


This one is pretty straightforward. Include any degrees you have or are actively pursuing, including the expected graduation date. Note I did not say any colleges you attended but didn’t graduate from. Here is the sad reality from my perspective. I hire people who get things done, and one thing that college proves is that you can commit to something for an extended period of time and see it through. Because what if you are on a multi-million dollar project that we’ve been working on for the past year. Do I want someone who does most of the work then quits at the finish line?

If you are still in college, it is recommended that you list all your majors, as this has to do with your GPA. You want everything to be accurate and true. And if you list two majors, it gives you a story to tell about why you switched majors.

Additional Information

This is an optional section where you can add relevant information to support why you are the right candidate for the job. This includes certifications, specialty training, patents, charity work, and open source projects. Just follow the same layout as below.


A resume should represent your best effort, making sure all your spelling is correct and using the right words. For example, their, they’re, versus there. Use Grammarly and read it out loud. Have at least 2 people review your resume for spelling. One person who is good at spelling. And a second who knows industry terms in your field. If you know one person who can do both, great.

Resume vs. CV

A curriculum vitae (CV) does not have a length restriction. They just go on and on and on. But seriously, the primary difference between the two is that a CV contains an overview of all the work a person has done, including written papers, publications, and more detailed information regarding their education. CVs primarily pertain to academic and medical careers.

Multiple Versions

My general recommendation is to create one awesome resume targeted to the job you want. Spend the extra time improving your accomplishments and summary.

However, if you end up with a custom resume for different opportunities, then my recommendation is to include the version in your Job Tracker Spreadsheet (link will be provided) where the version is a unique date. You won’t generate more than 1 resume a day, so you’ll have plenty of versions.

Final Thoughts

A resume is one of the first views that a potential employer has of you, so make it count. Put the effort in upfront, and it will pay off. Make it scannable, use action words, and ensure that it is high-quality!