Good to know – skimming is the new reading


Skimming is the new reading.  It’s good to know when writing a cover letter, follow-up note, info interview request, or anything else you email.

In fairness, people really do have great intentions to read attentively. But something happens to us online. 

We get distracted –by the many other things we must and/or want to look at that are just a tempting quick click away.

Think of it this way.  When you (used) to read a hard-copy magazine, the one magazine was all you held in your hands.  When you read a magazine article online, there are loads of hyperlinks in front of you,  luring you to other screens.

It’s like we’re in a candy shop –we came in for the gummy bears, but no way can we resist checking out the goodies in the other bins.

The bottom line We have really short attention spans when it comes to reading online.   It’s been proven by numerous studies that track eye-movements and habits of online readers.

But if you don’t believe it, ask yourself – are you reading right now, or scanning?

Then again, maybe you are reading.  After all, we’re doing this right. Keeping sentences and paragraphs short.

Marketers are fascinated with this subject.  It’s not surprising,  everyone nowadays is pitching something via words — online.

And if you’re job-hunting, you too need to know how to increase your chances of getting your message read.  After all, it’s safe to say that your first contact with many who could help your career is via their screens.

So with that fact top of mind, recruiters at The Bagg Group have put together this quick guide to what research tells us.

·      We jump from one screen to another quickly.  Sometimes, we change what’s in front of our eyes every minute.

·      Eyes grow tired, fast. Each time we transition from one layout to another –from one font to another, one colour and contrast to another, our brains have to adjust.  Each adjustment takes mental and physical energy.

·      We instinctively browse for key words that interest us.

·      We read in what’s called the F pattern. Take a look at the picture below.

 Eye-tracking studies show when we read online, we pay most attention to the text that in the red zones.

As we read down the page, we read less and less across the entire line.   And we favour the left side of the page  (for languages written left to right).

We do not tend to read in a linear way, left-to-right all the way across, one line after the other.


F pattern


Don’t take it personally when people don’t read everything you write.

It happens to all the best writers … no kidding.   An article on Slate, aptly entitled You Won’t Finish this Article, says only 60% of people read to the middle of an article – if that.

 A click is not a guaranteed read:  55% of people who click on an article spend than less than 15 seconds actively on the page.

Just because everyone is retweeting an article doesn’t mean they’re reading it:  Here’s a shocker.   A huge study found people spent longer on stories that got less than 100 likes and 50 tweets.

People actually spend 1/20th  of  that time on stories which were retweeted like mad.

Why are we telling you all this?

Not to dissuade you from spending time crafting a good cover letter.  But to urge you to write it tighter.

Here’s the thing:  We have five divisions at The Bagg Group: Bagg Professional, Bagg Technology Resources (BTR), Bagg @ Your Service,  Bagg Managed Resources (BMR) and Turn Key Staffing Solutions.

All together, we place candidates in just about every sector – in fulltime jobs, contract works, and temporary placements.   So we work with dozens of hiring managers at the very best companies in the GTA and beyond.

We pass on a lot of info to people who we know are flooded with emails every day.  That’s really why we want candidates to know how people read online.  To help you market yourself better.

BTW: On the bright side, at least we haven’t yet come to a point where you need to shorten your entire cover letter to text talk.   Still, don’t go OT (off-topic) and watch out for TMI –  TX.

Comments are closed.