One of the more difficult parts of applying to jobs is writing a well-crafted resume.
Many people have difficulty talking about themselves much less creating a comprehensive list of their accomplishments.
A good resume is one that clearly explains your work experience and skills and how those make you an ideal candidate for the position.
Anyone who has spent some time searching for a job knows that the job market is inherently unfair.
Even something as irrelevant as whether you use 11 pt. or 12 pt. font can make the difference between getting that interview or having your documents fall into the resume “black hole,” never to be seen again.
Even worse, most recruiters today use software to comb through and eliminate resumes, so there is a real chance your resume may never even touch the hands of another human before being discarded.
However, just as there are small unobvious things that can hurt your chance, there are small unobvious things that can drastically help your chances.
Using the tools of data science, we can go through millions of resumes and hiring statistics to glean important facts about what makes a successful resume.
In that vein, we are going to cover some resume tips that are backed by data science.
These resume tips have been all but proven to help your chances.
Research-Backed Resume Tips
1. Adding buzzwords makes you 29% more hireable
For some, buzzwords seem cliche and may strike the reader as insincere. In actuality though, using industry present buzzwords can make you 29% more likely to get the job .
Industry jargon among other things, helps you get past the automated software so your resume is not discarded initially. Be careful to not put too many buzzwords though, or else recruiters may think you are a robot.
We recommend strategically placing industry buzzwords every 2-5 sentences. Any more seems forced and any less and your resume will get the ax.
2. Using concrete numbers makes you 40% more likely to be hired
One thing recruiters look for in resumes is whether you have the relevant experience and skills to do the job.
Vague, general descriptions of your work responsibilities won’t cut it; recruiters want something a bit more concrete. The data scientists over at TalentWorks discovered that attaching explicit numbers to your work accomplishments makes you almost 40% more likely to be hired . So for instance, instead of
“Developed procedures that cut budget expense.”
Put some numbers to it, like:
“Developed procedures that cut expenditures by 25%.”
Recruiters like seeing explicit numbers as they give them a better picture of how effective of an employee you are.
3. “Team-centered” language can hurt your chances by almost half
Despite recruiters droning on about how they want a team player, their actual hiring practices seem to indicate otherwise.
Placing lots of collaborative or team focused words in your resume can make you half as likely to get an interview . The reason is that team-centered language makes you sound like a follower rather than a leader and reflects poorly on your independent skills.
If your resume says “worked on a team to develop marketing strategies,” they may wonder what, exactly, you did on that team. Teamwork and working well in groups is certainly an important characteristic when hiring, but many hiring managers would rather hear about your individual accomplishments.
Obviously, you should mention that you have worked on team projects, just make sure to explicitly describe exactly what duties you had and the tasks you accomplished.
4. Typos and grammatical errors will make 58% of recruiters reject your resume
It is always important to remember to dot your i’s and cross your t’s, and the same is true for resumes.
According to a survey, over 58% of hiring managers said that they would automatically discard a resume if it contained typos or grammatical errors . The reason should be obvious: sending a resume rife with errors signifies that you don’t care about the position very much and that you lack attention to detail and organizational skills.
Also, it is incredibly frustrating to read through tons of resumes a day when some have bad spelling and grammar errors, so you can’t really blame recruiters for having zero tolerance.
5. Social media use is an important factor in hiring for 92% of hiring managers
Practically everyone has a social media page nowadays, so many recruiters take a look at the candidates’ profiles to get information.
Jobvite reported that nearly 92% of hiring managers use social media for hiring decisions . In that sense, social media pages can be seen as an extension of your resume as they often describe your professional contacts and give a window into your personality. The two most popular sites used were, perhaps unsurprisingly, LinkedIn and Facebook. Recruiters like social media because it gives a relatively unfiltered picture of their candidates.
So, if you are out on the job hunt, you probably should spend some time cleaning up your social media pages from any embarrassing details. Sure, you may really like that picture of you doing a kegstand at last year’s St. Patrick’s Day party, but hiring managers may not be so keen on it.
6. Personalizing your resume for the job can make it 36% more likely your resume is read
If there is one thing that recruiters absolutely hate, it is generic copy and pasted resumes that read the same for all positions. In fact, 36% of hiring managers said they would reject a resume if it seemed generic or not personalized for the position .
Recruiters don’t want you to apply just because you want a job, but because you actually want to be there. Tailoring your resume and cover letter for a specific position is a good way to show you care and are willing to put in the effort.
7. Weird email addresses hurt your chances by 31%
About 31% of recruiters said that they have rejected resumes because the email address of the candidate was inappropriate or childish .
Unfortunately, it may be time to let go of your old account xX420BlazeItXx@gmail.com and create an email address specifically for job apps.
The reasons why you should have a professional email are obvious; weird names sound juvenile and reflect poorly on your maturity.
8. Addressing the hiring committee by name helps you 84%
A survey of recruiters nationwide found that nearly 85% of hiring managers will reject an application if the resume and cover letter are impersonal and do not include the hiring manager’s name . Impersonal applications sound like they have been copied and pasted, which can really turn recruiters off.
If you can, research the hiring committee for the organization and try to include the manager’s name in your resume or cover letter.
Whatever you do, avoid the generic “To whom it may concern” headliner. That is a sure-fire way to get a resume thrown out.
9. 67% of recruiters say that job experience is the most important part of the resume
The main purpose of a resume is to demonstrate your work experience and skills to recruiters.
Between those two categories, 67% of recruiters say that job experience is the most important category on your resume .
This makes sense; after all, past work experience is usually the best indicator if you can, in fact, do the job. So, when writing your resume, make sure you take extra care to highlight your past work experience and how that is relevant to the current position.
Consider picking a few specific projects you have managed while in your previous place of employment.
10. 45% of hiring managers prefer you also send a cover letter along with your resume
If you look on the internet there are loads of articles about how cover letters are dead and a relic of a bygone age.
However, the data seems to imply that a least a sizable minority of hiring managers still want people to submit a cover letter. Specifically, 45% of surveyed recruiters said that they would reject a resume if it did not come with an attached cover letter .
Most of the time, this was because the job posting specified to send in a cover letter, but even in cases where it is not required, a cover letter can help your chances.
11. 77% of hiring managers want a resume no longer than 2 pages
The majority of hiring managers prefer a shorter concise cover letter rather than a dense time. Nearly 3/4ths (77%) of recruiters surveyed said that the ideal resume length was just under 2 full pages .
Any less and you risk leaving out important information, any more and you risk the recruiter getting bored reading through it. There are some exceptions to this rule though.
Specifically, jobs in science, education, and other academic areas prefer longer resumes, as scientists and academics usually have several publications and patents to include.
12. Including a “key skills” section helps you by 59%
Data seems to suggest that including a dedicated “key skills” section in your resume can help your chances of being hired by slightly more than half .
Including a key skills section gives recruiters an easy to read point-by-point description of what you bring to the table. Try to include about 15-20 skills in your resume.
Make sure that these skills are not vague and general either. It is a running joke among recruiters that generic skills like “critical thinking” or “problem-solving skills” are signs of a low-value employee. So, ditch the vague languages and give concrete descriptions of your skills. Do you have skills with Java and C++ programming languages?
Describe the exact version you are familiar with using and provide some examples of projects you have accomplished that require that skill.
13. 80% of recruiters will use your resume to gauge communication skills
Ideally, resumes should be short, straight and to the point. But that does not mean you shouldn’t focus on writing in an engaging manner. According to the NACE Job Outlook 2019 Report, 80% of recruiters answered that they pick up important cues about candidates’ communication skills from a resume .
You would be surprised how many professionals have trouble clearly expressing their ideas in written form, which is why written communication is one of the more important resume attributes to have.
The second and third most desirable qualities to be seen on a resume were problem-solving skills and the ability to work in a team. To be clear, this does not mean they want to see candidates list “problem-solving skills” on their resume but give examples of work that demonstrate that skill.
14. Only 11% of recruiter care about foreign language skills on a resume
It may come as surprising, but speaking a foreign language is not a terribly important skill recruiters look for.
Only 11% of recruiters said that they look for foreign language skills on a resume , while those that did ranked that skill as less desirable than other traditional job skills. So that means that you don’t have to worry about putting your French expertise on your resume.
Obviously, positions in which speaking a language is an integral part of the job care about foreign language skills, but unless you are applying for a position as an interpreter or translator, foreign language skills are not very important to put on your resume.
15. Finance and accounting were the two most important degrees listed on resumes
Nearly 60% of recruiters responded that they were looking for candidates with degrees in either accounting or finance . When the range was focused on recruiters specifically looking for business graduates, that number jumped to over 80% .
It makes sense that finance and accounting were the two most desired degrees for candidates. Businesses need smart people who can competently manage their money and create long term financial plans.
What this means for your resume is that you should put greater emphasis on any finance or accounting skills or experience you may have. Even when recruiters were not specifically looking for candidates with business degrees, finance and accounting were still two of the highest desired degrees.
When it came to recruiters looking for candidates with degrees in the social sciences, over 95% of recruiters indicated they were looking for candidates who held degrees in economics .
The next two most desirable degrees in the social sciences were political science and psychology, with 35% of respondents indicating they were looking for those degrees.
17. Degrees in the humanities were the least desired
Perhaps unsurprisingly, according to the NACE Job Outlook Survey 2019, only 6% of recruiters said that they were looking for candidates with degrees in the humanities .
Now, let’s be clear on what this statistic means:
It does NOT mean that only 6% of recruiters would hire someone with a degree in the humanities. It means that only 6% of recruiters ranked a degree in the humanities as very desirable. In fact, actual hiring rates for humanities majors in the same time period was on par with hiring rates for other degree holders such as business and psychology.
So having a degree in the humanities does not necessarily mean that you are less likely to get hired, just that you might have a smaller pool of job positions to pick from. Among employers looking specifically for candidates with humanities degrees, English, History, and Philosophy were the most desired degrees.
18. Computer science and MBAs were the most desired graduate degrees
The two highest desired master’s level degrees were computer science and MBAs. Nearly 25% of recruiters said that a master’s in computer science was the most desired degree while just under 24% said that an MBA degree was the most important .
These two degrees make sense. As companies continue to increasingly rely on technology, they need competent computer scientists that can build and maintain their databases. Additionally, as companies grow and scale in size, they need MBAs who are experienced in running businesses’ organizational structures.
In other words, growing companies seem that have the most need for computer science and MBA graduates as those two skill sets are directly related to facilitating company growth.
19. At least 60% of recruiters use GPA to screen resumes
Based on data from NACE’s 2019 Job Outlook Survey, nearly 60% of hiring managers said that they use GPAs to screen resumes. This percentage was higher at 85% for more technical fields, such as engineering, computer/electrical manufacturing, and oil and gas extraction .
This figure also makes sense. These fields require a lot of technical know-how and GPA is a reliable gauge of a person’s technical proficiency with scientific and engineering concepts. Even in non-technical fields, over half of recruiters said they would screen resumes based on GPA.
The data also showed that GPA was a more important factor for hiring for relatively recent graduates. For non-recent graduates, work experience and skills are more important than GPA.
20. Resumes with photos are 88% more likely to be rejected
First appearances certainly matter, but that is more for an interview than for a resume. You should always avoid adding a photo to your resume.
Adding a photo can increase the odds of your application being rejected by almost 88% .
One potential explanation for this fact is that hiring someone based on physical appearance is illegal in the US, so recruiters might feel inclined to reject an application with a photo as it may affect their objectivity, make them biased, and potentially get them in trouble.
Alternatively, it could be that adding a photo to your resume makes you seem unprofessional. Whatever the explanation, the practical consequences are clear: stay away from photos in your resume.
21. Nearly 85% of recruiters have caught a lie on a resume
According to HireRights 2018 employment screening report, 85% of recruiters indicated they had caught someone lying or embellishing their accomplishments on a resume .
Given that the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in decades, one might wonder why people feel the need to lie on a resume.
One potential explanation is because of applicant tracking systems (ATS) that automatically comb through resumes to find keywords and phrases.
Applicants have gotten smart with these tools and may exaggerate on their resumes to pass any automated screening software. Recruiter have developed several methods to get around people fibbing on their resumes. They may use behavioral interview techniques to see if a person’s claimed experience and actual knowledge match up, or they may run a background check to find your history of past wages or criminal records.
Alternative, employers may contact ex-colleagues to gauge your performance. They specifically will look for people that were NOT recommended by the candidate, as many references are coached to say only positive things. So, unless you want your resume marked for the trash by the ATS, don’t lie or exaggerate your accomplishments.
If you get caught lying on a resume that basically ruins any possibility of getting the job.
22. 40% of recruiters spend less than a minute looking at a resume
You probably have spent a lot of time working on your resume, so the fact that few people will barely see it can be annoying. In fact, 40% of recruiters spend an average of less than a minute looking at a resume .
This is for a couple of reasons: First, hiring managers tend to be experienced in their field so they can look through a resume and gauge candidates relatively quickly.
Also, recruiters may think that if they cannot get a good grasp of your work experience and skills by just skimming your resume, you probably have poor writing and communication skills and are probably not a good fit for the job.
Third, recruiters comb through hundreds of resumes a day, so they don’t really have time to thoroughly read every submission. The correct answer is likely a combination of these three factors. If you think less than a minute is bad, nearly 25% of recruiters say they spend less than 30 seconds reading resumes.
23. Putting an “objectives” section on your resume could hurt your chances 30%
A lot of websites will tell you that including a “professional objectives” section on your resume is a good idea.
The point of such a section is supposed to be to tell hiring managers about your future career aspirations. However, the data seems to imply that adding an objectives section can hurt your chances of getting hired. Resumes that included an “objectives” section were 30% more likely to be rejected .
The reason why is that recruiters, quite frankly, don’t really care about your objectives. They care about whether you can do the job which your work experience and skillset indicate. Adding an objectives section just takes up space you could be using to talk about your accomplishments. The only case where this is not true is if you are a recent graduate (<1 year out of school). If you lack work experience then an objectives section might help you out.
Also, if you are applying to a position in a particularly mission-driven field, then an objective section is a good idea. Such professions require the relevant work experience but also passion and drive, which an objective section can highlight.
24. Resumes in the 450-650 word count are more likely to get a callback
One thing that is hard to figure out about resume is the right word length. We previously said the ideal page count for a resume is two, but that can range from around 400 words to 1200 depending on how you format it. The data scientists over at TalentWorks figured out that resumes that had a word count in the 450-650 range were 75% more likely to receive a callback than those less than or more than that range .
Interestingly, it seems that a shorter resume will hurt you more here. Callback percentages are very low for resumes below 300 words, the rate rises and crests between 450-650 words, then it decreases and plateaus off.
So, if you are having trouble fitting everything into 450-650 words, it is ok to go slightly over. Your resume word count should never exceed 900 words though.
One thing many people like to put on their resume is a link to an online work profile or another personal site.
Adding portfolio links is especially important for more creative-minded jobs such as writing, advertising, or marketing. Based on data from CareerBuilder, approximately 16% of hiring managers look specifically for links to a person’s portfolio or personal website .
Adding portfolio links tells hiring managers a few things.
First, it gives them concrete samples of work to look at, and we know how much recruiters love concrete examples of your skills. Second, having a portfolio gives you an air of professionalism that may distinguish you from other candidates. Be careful here though: adding a link to a personal site can hurt you if your site is sloppy or otherwise not well-formatted.
If you are going to add links to a page on your resume, then it should be to a page that is specifically for work purposes. Unless you are applying to something like a creative writing position, you shouldn’t give links to your personal blog, for instance.
26. Leadership words help your chances by 51%
“Leadership” words are words meant to convey your sense of leadership and demonstrate you play an active role in the workplace.
Adding leadership words to your resume is a common tip and with good reason. Resumes that include leadership-focused words like communicated, coordinated, leadership, managed, and organization, were 51% more likely to receive a callback from hiring managers .
The reason why is simple. Companies want people who can take direction independently and manage others. Strategic use of leadership words tells them that you are motivated, competent, and have a knack for organizing and managing others.
We recommend using 1 or 2 leadership-oriented words every 5-6 sentences in your resume. Too many and it sounds forced; too little and hiring managers may lose interest.
27. Your chances of getting an interview can decrease if you use personal pronouns on your resume
Considering that adding a hiring manager’s name to your resume or cover letter can hurt your chances, it is a bit strange to see that using personal pronouns (I, me, my, etc.) can hurt your chances.
Resumes that used even one personal pronoun were 51% less likely to receive a callback for an interview . It might be that adding personal pronouns makes your resume look unprofessional and is too informal of a writing style.
Alternatively, using too many personal pronouns may confuse recruiters who lose track of who you are talking about. It also may not be the personal pronouns per se, but the fact that those who like to use personal pronouns have a weak, wishy-washy writing style that does not give much value to recruiters. The one exception to this rule seems to be the word “we.”
Using the word “we” in reference to team projects (e.g. “We developed a new security architecture”) does not seem to hurt your chances. It may be that the word “we” has strong leadership and teamwork connotations that recruiters like to see.
28. Using action verbs helps your chances by 140%
If you remember your high school English, then you should remember the difference between passive and active voice. In the passive voice, the verb is placed after the direct object while in the active voice it is placed before the direct object.
You should always avoid writing in the passive voice on your resume, as the passive voice gives the appearance of passivity, a quality many employers do not want in their employees. Sentences on your resume should start with strong action verbs, like developed, led, managed, and facilitated.
Starting sentences with active strong action verbs can help your chances of getting a callback interview by almost 140% . Here is an example of passive vs. active voice. Instead of saying:
“More than 1000 individual client profiles were managed by our team.”
“Led a team that managed over 1000 individual client profiles.”
Using action verbs catches the reader’s attention and engages them. Aside from sounding unprofessional, the passive voice tends to take up more word count as well; words you could use to describe your accomplishments and work experience.
29. Positions listed on your resume that lasted fewer than 9 months are a red flag to recruiters
When writing about your work experience you may wonder which things are relevant to include. In general, you should only include previous employment on your resume if you stayed at the position for more than 9 months.
Even in cases where leaving the job was not your fault (say you got laid off or your branch closed) including a position you held fewer than 9 months is perceived as a negative by recruiters. Adding in a short-term position can make you 85% less hireable than only keeping positions you held longer than 9 months .
Even positions held for 12 months can hurt your chances in some cases. Your best bet is to try and include only jobs that you held for 18 or more months. Including any fewer might signal to employers that you are not loyal and have no problem leaving jobs if it is inconvenient, or they may take early termination as a sign that you are a problematic employee. So, you may want to leave off that 9-month stint you did working at Chuck E Cheese.
The obvious exception here is if you are a recent graduate and may not have any long term work experience. In that case, instead of past job experience, you should focus on extracurriculars and other activities you engaged in relevant to the job opening.
30. If you are over 35, leaving your age off your resume can help your chances
Unfortunately, ageism in the workplace is a real issue and many hiring managers unconsciously dismiss a candidate if they are above a certain age. Specifically, your hireability seems to sharply decline once you hit 35 and then decreases about 8% every year afterward . It’s not fair, but it’s the truth. So, if you are over 35, try to leave out any items on your resume that will indicate your age.
Employers often estimate a candidate’s age based on graduation dates and past work experience, so if you don’t include any graduation dates, they have no idea how old you are. Obviously, age discrimination in hiring is illegal, so if you experience age discrimination in the context of an in-person interview, you should contact a legal expert. Otherwise though, leaving your age off your resume can help your chances of getting hired.
31. Nearly three-quarters of large companies use ATS to comb through resumes
Based on data from Capterra, an application tracking system review company, over 75% of large companies use ATS software to comb through resumes and reject candidates before the resumes see human eyes .
ATS software usually works by parsing resumes for keywords relating to work experience, skills, education, etc., and automatically rejects any resumes that do not fit the criteria.
This is one reason why so many people load their resumes with industry buzzwords; to get past the robot sensors. Even worse, ATS software is not standardized across the industry and different applications parse data differently. This means that certain formatted data, like tables or bullet lists, may be ignored by the software and can get your application rejected.
There are two things you can do to pass the ATS software. First, tailor your resume to include language that was used in the job description.
For instance, if the job description consisted of a lot of bullet points, then use bullet points in your resume. If the job description is more narrative, then write your resume in a more narrative style. Second, send your resume in a file type that preserves the original formatting regardless of the application that opens it. This is one reason why PDFs are a good file format for job submissions.
PDF files preserve the original formatting of the document so your resume information won’t get garbled as it passes through the automated software.
32. Any given job posting receives an average of 250 resumes
The job market out there is fierce and it is clear why when you look at how many people apply to the average job opening.
The average job opening receives anywhere from 200-250 resumes .
That is a ton of CVs to comb through, so maybe you now understand better why so many companies don’t get around to replying to everyone.
Usually, the first resume is received just a mere 200 seconds after the job is posted, meaning that if you want to be in the first crop of candidates you need to apply immediately. If you use a major job posting website, then these numbers are higher.
For instance, over 400,000 resumes are posted on Monster every week, meaning that if you use a popular job site then your competition will be even stiffer.
What does this mean for your resume? Basically, it means that sending in resumes is, at the end of the day, a numbers game. Given that nearly 1,000 people on average see job posts on the internet and that only one person will be hired, that comes out to about a 0.01% chance of being hired for any given application you send in.
Unfortunately for you, that means you need to send in probably over 100 resumes to job postings to have a good chance of landing a gig.
33. Resumes that are sent on a Monday are more likely to be read
Even the day that you send your resume can make a difference whether you get a callback or not. It turns out that Mondays are the best time to submit a resume while Fridays are the worst days.
In fact, sending a resume on a Monday can make your 46% more likely to get a callback and interview than any other day . However, the absolute worst days to apply to a job are on Friday or Saturday.
This makes sense too; on Fridays, people usually just want to finish their work and get home for the weekend. So hiring managers likely are less concentrated and more likely to dismiss resumes they receive on a Friday because they just want to get home. In contrast, resumes submitted on Mondays are looked at with a fresh set of eyes.
34. Don’t worry about matching all the job requirements on your resume
When crafting your resume for a specific position, you may be tempted to try and include things that are relevant to all the supposed “required qualifications” in the job post. Of course, many a job seeker has been confused by a job posting asking for 7 years of experience in a programming experience in a language that has only existed for 4 years. Here is the trick though; you don’t actually have to meet every single job requirement in the post. It turns out that someone who meets just 50% of the job requirements has just as good a chance of being hired as someone who meets 90% of them .
Candidates who met at least 50% of the job “requirements” were 192% more likely to get an interview than someone who only met 20% of the requirements. Even if you only meet 30%-40% of the requirements, you still have a relatively decent shot. So, instead of job “requirements,” they should be called more like job “suggestions.”
So there you have it, a comprehensive look at what the research says about resumes and how you can craft a resume that will stand out from the crowd.
It is important to realize that no resume strategy is foolproof and even the most perfect resume that meets all the job requirements can be set to the side and forgotten about.
Aside from fixing up your resume, there are many other things you can do to help you get a job, like networking, looking for professional job referrals, or even going back to school to increase your skillset.
To be completely honest, getting a job requires a substantial amount of luck, but there are simple resume changes you can make to even the odds a bit.
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