Idea in short

Measuring how clear and easy your application documents are for consumption by recruiters is a critical job application success factor. Readability is a quality of your writing. If the readability of your text is high, recruiters will be able to understand your application easily. If the readability is low, your application will likely be rejected. Readability tools come with decades worth of research and refinement and help improve the chances of getting shortlisted.

Recruiters typically review hundreds of applications they receive for a job posting. Candidates attempt to impress recruiters with their linguistic prowess by building long and convoluted sentences. Sometimes, they wish to demonstrate their vocabularies by using bombastic words. After all, recruiters are professionals and they should have certain academic levels. Yet, sentences that are too long and complicated are not very readable, even for qualified recruiters. This makes their jobs very challenging. A study found that the average human could read a grade 9 text. But, they prefer to read texts that are 2 grades lower for leisure reading. These challenges are tricky to detect in the context of job applications. A sentence can be grammatically correct, yet hard to absorb. That’s where readability scores come in.

Why should you pay attention?

First, you should realise that the average reading age is lower than you might expect. While overall literacy rates are rising across the world, the averages are lower. The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) tracks adult reading levels on a 500-point scale. Even the highest-ranked country, Japan, averages only a score of 296. High achievers, such as Sweden and Norway rank at 279 and 278. By comparison, Canada hits the PIAAC average score of 273, while the United States, Denmark, and Germany fall below average at 272, 271, and 210. With most countries falling within 50%-60% of the benchmark. Therefore, it’s clear that overly complicated language can deter recruiters, no matter where they are.

Example

Fairy tales target readers of all age groups and education levels. Accordingly, they should be easy to read. A typical beginning of a fairy tale could be:

Maria and Paul make a vow to each other

A contractual text has to be immaculate. Factors, such as sentence length and syllables length are not important:

Maria, herewith named the wife, and Paul, herewith named the husband, express their will with their signature on this paper, to bind themselves with the husband or wife to a certified communion of good, commonly known as marriage, hereby, on (insert date here) at the registry.”

The fairy tale sentence, which is extremely easy to read, has a Flesch index of 89. Contrastingly, the legal text, which is very difficult and demanding, has an index of 38.

Above all, having a good readability score is pivotal to getting your job application shortlisted. There are free and premium services to help check your application documents. No matter your budget, there is something out there to help you get a better readability score.

Grammarly

One of the most widely known writing tools on the planet, Grammarly identifies the parts of your writing that need to be improved. In the free version, you get spelling, punctuation/mechanics, and basic grammar checks.

Readable.io

A premium option you have is Readable.io. Their plans start at $5 per month for basic services. They provide downloadable reports and email scanning, too. If you’re truly serious about improving your job applications, Readable.io is a good option.

WebFX Readability Test Tool

The WebFX Readability Test Tool is a free tool that allows you to copy/paste the entire text for analysis.You not only get the Flesch-Kincaid results, but also the SMOG, Gunning Fog, ARI, and Coleman Liau scores, including a breakdown of how each score was calculated.

Atlas

Atlas is our (INTRVU) analytics platform that simulates Applicant Tracking Systems. Using Atlas, we score, benchmark, and instrument your application documents by simulating the Applicant Tracking System. In addition to readability scores, we use additional dimensions in our assessments:

  • Speed of perception
  • Perceptibility at a distance
  • Perceptibility in peripheral vision
  • Visibility
  • Reflex blink technique
  • Rate of work (e.g., reading speed)
  • Eye movements
  • Fatigue in reading

Summary

Nobody likes to read something that’s incomprehensible, boring or stuffed with keywords. All your application documents should, therefore, be aimed and focused on your audience, giving them the information they need. Focusing on readability increases the chance that recruiters will actually read your application and take action.