Overture Institute

Hiring Manager Attention Span

A Job Seeker’s Guide to Making the Most of Hiring Manager Attention Spans

Recruiters could throw your resume out after six seconds. Hiring managers could walk out of an interview after five minutes. These statistics, as brash as they may seem, point to one fact: You have to impress your hiring manager immediately.

If you’re looking for a job, especially one that would be a major career jump, you have to wow the hiring manager nearly immediately to even get consideration. Today, we’d like to share with you how to avoid mistakes that could cost you an offer.

The Six-Second Resume Impression Window

As shared in our popular blog, the resume skim test is the six-second window you have to shine. It is estimated, according to a CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers, that the average recruiter spends just 6 seconds looking over a resume and a typical job opening in the corporate setting will receive about 250 resumes. This means you have very little time to stand out against a whole lot of competition. Therefore, you need to make every word on your resume count.

The Ladders, another job seeker website, took the CareerBuilder study a step further, implementing eye-tracking software to see where hiring managers actually looked on your resume. The image below shows common eye movements of hiring managers, who spent 80% of their time on the following areas:

  • Name
  • Current Title/Company
  • Previous Title/Company
  • Previous Position Start and End Dates
  • Current Position Start and End Dates
  • Education

It goes on to point out that resumes with a clear hierarchy spend more time getting viewed.

Resume Skim Test

So, get those portions in order, but once you perfect those, you’re not out of the deep end yet.

The Five-Minute Interview Window

49 percent of employers know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for a position. 90 percent know this fact within fifteen minutes. So, besides the obvious “don’t be late” advice, it also means that you need to come out swinging (figuratively). A CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers covered the worst possible body language mistakes you can make in an interview, many of which come as little surprise:

  1. Failing to make eye contact: 65 percent
  2. Failing to smile: 36 percent
  3. Playing with something on the table: 33 percent
  4. Having bad posture: 30 percent
  5. Fidgeting too much in their seat: 29 percent
  6. Crossing their arms over their chest: 26 percent
  7. Playing with their hair or touching their face: 25 percent
  8. Having a weak handshake: 22 percent
  9. Using too many hand gestures: 11 percent
  10. Having a handshake that is too strong: 7 percent

Those failures are some of the most dangerous non-verbal communication mishaps. But what about the things that you need to say in the first five to fifteen minutes in order to impress your hiring manager?

To this, we turn to an Undercover Recruiter Article, which shares a few more points of interest to not get cast aside by a hiring manager early in the interview:

  • Know about the company.
  • Use proper vocal grammar and confidence
  • Stop saying “Um,” “Like” “Uh,” or buying time in any other way between sentences (For information on what not to do, we welcome you to rewatch the Deflate-gate press conferences)
  • Prepare to answer the most common interview questions/requests:
  1. What is your experience?
  2. Why should I hire you?
  3. Why do you want to work for us?
  4. Why did you leave your last job?
  5. Tell me about yourself.
  • Have a brief set of questions prepared.
  • Share “What’s in it for them” as opposed what you want from their organization.
  • Avoid talking about any of these topics. Fast Company created a video about what you, as an interviewee sound like to a hiring manager.

The 24-Hour Thank You Window

No matter what, you need to thank your interviewer quickly, generally within 24 to 48 hours, to convey the gratitude for the time taken to speak with you. Why?

  1. By sending a thank-you note, you show your interviewer common courtesy and respect.
  2. So few job applicants send thank-you notes that you automatically stand out if you do.
  3. A thank-you note gives you an opportunity to reiterate points you made during your interview.
  4. A thank-you note lets you make points you forgot to make in your interview.
  5. A thank-you note demonstrates your written communication skills.

For more information on writing the prefect thank you letter, read our article on interview gratitude.

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