Lessons from analyzing 125.000 resumes

One of the most important things your resume should do is stand out. Of course, this seems like common sense, but because of a few new studies in the world of recruitment, we can now quantify just how important this is. Recent data from Glassdoor suggests that, on average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. The typical employer will then interview four to six candidates for the job, and only one of them will be successful.


Based on this statistic, your resume represents 0,4% of the total pile of resumes on a hiring manager’s desk.


For me, this astonishingly low number highlights the importance of spending a fair amount of time optimizing your resume before sending it out.


There is no one ‘perfect’ resume, but there are some very clear do’s and don’ts. However, quantitative data on resumes and their success rate is scarce. Job-seekers usually have to rely on the expert opinion of veteran recruiters, hiring managers, or job search coaches. Luckily, recent research by Austin Belcak is a treasure trove of actionable insights. He and his team analyzed more than 125.000 (!) resumes to learn what makes a resume stand out and be successful. They found five key differentiators:


1. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile. This has been shown to boost interview rates, but only 48% of candidates include a link to their profile.


2. Include relevant skills and keywords. In this case, ‘relevant’ means: corresponding to the ones used in the job description. This is especially important for soft skills since only 28% of candidates include relevant soft skills.


3. Wherever appropriate, include metrics to provide measurable proof of your results. 36% of resumes use zero metrics.


4. The ideal resume length seems to be between 475 and 600 words. The vast majority of resumes (77%) are outside of that range.


5. Exclude irrelevant buzzwords and fluff. This means: remove all cliches from your resume. 51% of resumes still have fluff and filler on them.


These five differentiators are among the low-hanging fruit of resume optimization. In a previous article, I presented another statistic: the average job-seeker is rejected 24 times before they are hired. This also means that the average job-seeker sends out their resume 24 times. I would suggest you spend a generous amount of time and effort creating a solid ‘base’ resume. You can then make minor adjustments to this template for every job you apply to, changing things such as the keywords you include. Taking the above tips into account will drastically improve the quality of your base resume. In a future article, I will zoom in on five more advanced resume tips.