We all know that a resume is often the only thing you've got to try to get the attention of someone who is hiring to fill a position. The problem is that most companies get lots and lots of resumes for every open position, which makes it extremely difficult to spend much time on each one.

In fact, a new study released today by career site Ladders -- using advanced eye tracking technology -- determined exactly how much time you've got to make a great first impression on the person who reads your resume: 7.4 seconds.

That's not much.

So, what can you do to get noticed? The study revealed that top-performing resumes -- the ones on which recruiters spent the most time and attention -- shared several key characteristics:

  • Simple layouts with clearly marked section and title headers, all written in a clear font.  
  • Layouts that took advantage of F-pattern and E-pattern reading tendencies, with bold job titles supported by bulleted lists of accomplishments.
  • A detailed overview or mission statement, primarily located at the top of the first page of the resume.

In addition, Ladders suggests that you...

  • Avoid the temptation to cram as much information onto the resume page as possible.
  • Bold sections or job titles throughout the document to catch the recruiter's eye.
  • Use short, declarative sentences that adequately list accomplishments instead of using excessive paragraphs.
  • Adhere to a strict two-page limit for more experienced job seekers.
  • Utilize keywords in context only.

According to the study, the worst-performing resumes also share several key characteristics which you should avoid at all costs:

  • Cluttered layouts characterized by long sentences, multiple columns, and very little white space.
  • Text flow that did not draw the eye down the page, lacking section or job headers.
  • A reliance on keyword stuffing.

Follow this advice, and your resume will stand out from the crowd -- putting you in a better position to land your dream job.