Is Your Resume Up To Par With the Competition?

Laveta Brigham

When you’re applying for a job, your resume gets mixed in with hundreds — and sometimes even thousands — of other resumes. If you’re not getting called for interviews, it might be because your resume isn’t up to par with the competition. Unless you work in recruiting, you likely haven’t […]

When you’re applying for a job, your resume gets mixed in with hundreds — and sometimes even thousands — of other resumes. If you’re not getting called for interviews, it might be because your resume isn’t up to par with the competition.

Unless you work in recruiting, you likely haven’t seen many resumes other than your own, so it’s hard to know what you’re up against. Fortunately for you, online resume builder Zety analyzed over 133,000 resumes to find out how job seekers across various industries organize their resumes, what information they include and what keywords they commonly sprinkle throughout. Here’s what the research found — it might just help you get the job.

Last updated: Sept. 3, 2020

The Average Resume Length Is Roughly 500 Words

The Zety analysis found that the average resume length is 489 words, while the median length is 369 words. To put these numbers into perspective, a one-page resume is typically 380 words or less.

Recruiters Prefer 2-Page Resumes

Gone are the days when you are expected to cram your entire resume onto a single page. In fact, Zety found that recruiters actually prefer a two-page resume.

“Data shows that recruiters are 2.9 times more likely to pick a candidate with a two-page resume for managerial roles and 1.4 times more likely for entry-level positions,” Zety’s research found. “What’s more, 77% of employers say seasoned workers should NOT use a single-page resume.”

Job Seekers Usually Send the Same Resume for Every Job Listing

The median number of resumes created by job seekers is one — but this is a major mistake. Most recruiters — 63% — want to receive resumes tailored to the open position. That means that you should create one master resume and tweak it for every application you send, so no two jobs openings will receive the same application.

But Some Job Seekers Take Resume Personalization to the Extreme

Zety found 17 users who created over 100 resumes, and one user who created 339 resumes — but clearly, this is not the norm. Since most people don’t take the time to create a new resume for every job opening, you’ll have an edge on the competition if you do.

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There Are 5 Must-Have Resume Sections

There are five sections your resume should have — and if you’re missing one of these, you’re in the minority: personal information (99.9% of resumes have this section), work experience (98.3% of resumes have this section), education (97.3% of resumes have this section), skills (89.8% 0f resumes have this section), and summary or objective (88.75% of resumes have this section).

Why You Need a ‘Skills’ Section

According to Zety data, not including a list of professional skills can hurt a resume as much as a year of unemployment. The skills section makes it easy for recruiters to see if your skill set matches what’s needed to do the job right off the bat.

The Most Common Soft Skills To List on Your Resume

Your “skills” section shouldn’t just include software and applications you are adept at using — it should also include soft skills. These are the most common soft skills found across the analyzed resumes:

  1. Communication: 11% of resumes
  2. Leadership: 9%
  3. Time Management: 8%
  4. Problem Solving: 7%
  5. Customer Service: 5%
  6. Teamwork: 5%
  7. Adaptability: 4.3%
  8. Organization: 2%
  9. Creativity: 1.7%
  10. Conflict Resolution: 1.6%

You don’t need to include all of these skills, but Zety recommends including a few that apply to you.

The Most Common Hard Skills To List on Your Resume

You might think that your proficiency in Microsoft Office is a given and doesn’t need to be included in your skills section, but not including it is actually a red flag, according to Zety.

These are the overall top 10 “hard” skills listed on resumes:

  • Microsoft Office: 12% of resumes
  • Project Management: 6%
  • Microsoft Excel: 6%
  • Python: 3.8%
  • Salesforce: 3.6%
  • Java: 3%
  • SQL: 2.9%
  • Microsoft Word: 2.7%
  • JavaScript: 2.4%
  • Public Speaking: 1.9%

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Do Include a Header Statement

Zety reports that your resume should also include a header statement — your “summary” or “objective” — but instead of listing what your career aim is, you should state what you would bring to the position.

Go Beyond the 5 Traditional Resume Sections

The five standard resume sections are the bare minimum — to stand out, you should add at least one additional section. Your competition likely already is — the analysis found that 66% of job seekers include an additional section on their resume.

The Most Popular Additional Resume Sections

Not sure what to add? These are the most popular additional resume sections, according to the survey:

  • Languages: 31%
  • Certificates: 27%
  • Additional Activities: 21%
  • Interests: 19%
  • Software: 18%
  • References: 16%
  • Courses: 11%
  • Licenses: 5.5%
  • Publications: 5.3%
  • Conferences: 4.7%

The Most Common Foreign Languages Listed on Resumes

You certainly should only include a “languages” section if you are fluent in other languages, but even if you’re not, it could be useful to know the top languages spoken by your competition:

  • Spanish: 5.7% of resumes
  • French: 4.1%
  • Arabic: 3.6%
  • Hindi: 2.9%
  • German: 2.8%
  • Russian: 1.5%
  • Italian: 1.2%
  • Portuguese: 1%
  • Mandarin: 0.9%
  • Tamil: 0.8%

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Always Add a Certification Section If Possible

According to Zety, certifications are the “single most verifiable way to prove your expertise” — yet only 1 in 4 job seekers list them on their resume. If you have certifications, make sure to include them, and if you don’t, consider getting certified to get a leg up on the competition.

Conference attendance is another good way to show your expertise. You can list any conference you participated in, even if you didn’t present.

The Harsh Reality of the Job Search

Even with the “perfect” resume uniquely crafted for each job you apply for, you will likely need to apply to 30 to 50 positions to get a job. According to Zety, only 10% of job applicants are offered an interview, and of those, only 20% are offered a job. That means that the job application success rate is roughly 2% to 3.4%.

With odds so low, you shouldn’t be discouraged if it takes a lot of time and effort to land a job. But with these resume tips in mind, your application could float to the top of the recruiter’s pile.

A Deeper Dive: How To Craft Resumes for the Most Common Professions

Zety did a further analysis of resumes for the 10 most common professions: software engineer, administrative assistant, project manager, mechanical engineer, customer service, business analyst, data scientist, civil engineer, accountant and product manager.

If you’re applying for one of these positions, read on for some job-specific tips for crafting the perfect resume.

Software Engineer Resume Tip

Before an actual person looks at your resume, it is usually run through an Applicant Tracking System that scans your resume for keywords that indicate if you match the particular requirements for a job. If you’re applying for a job as a software engineer, these are the keywords you should have sprinkled throughout your resume:

  • Java
  • software engineer
  • Javascript
  • computer science
  • Python
  • software
  • node js
  • SQL
  • SQL server
  • development
  • system
  • software engineering
  • HTML
  • data structure
  • application
  • software development
  • Web
  • web development

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Administrative Assistant Resume Tip

Very few administrative assistant candidates (37%) included an additional resume section outside of the five standard sections. That means that including a section for certifications, courses, conference participation or other additional activity will give you a competitive edge.

Project Manager Resume Tip

Even though Atlassian’s JIRA has become a popular project management tool, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Project were both among the top 10 skills listed on resumes for project management positions, while Atlassian and JIRA were not. The takeaway? Don’t neglect to include Microsoft in your “skills” section, or you could be at a disadvantage.

Mechanical Engineer Resume Tip

Be sure to include an additional section. Eighty-five percent of mechanical engineer applications included one, so if you don’t, your resume won’t be up to par with other candidates in the job pool. The most common additional sections among mechanical engineer resumes are “languages,” “software” and “certificates.”

Customer Service Representative Resume Tip

According to Zety’s analysis, these are the most common keywords found on customer service representative resumes:

  • customer
  • customer service
  • service
  • time management
  • communication
  • communication skill
  • skill
  • Microsoft Office
  • management
  • high school
  • problem
  • service representative
  • time
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft
  • conflict resolution
  • sale
  • computer skill
  • school
  • years experience

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Business Analyst Resume Tip

The most common skills listed on business analyst resumes are a mix of hard and soft skills. These are the top 10:

  1. SQL
  2. Microsoft Excel
  3. Communication
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Project Management
  6. Microsoft Office
  7. Tableau
  8. Analytical (Thinking) Skills
  9. Microsoft Visio
  10. Python

Data Scientist Resume Tip

The top skills listed by data scientists are all hard skills. Here are the top 10 skills identified by Zety’s analysis:

  1. Python
  2. SQL
  3. R
  4. Machine Learning
  5. Statistics
  6. Tableau
  7. Data Visualization
  8. Spark
  9. Microsoft Excel
  10. SAS

Civil Engineer Resume Tip

Among the 10 most common jobs, civil engineers have the highest usage of additional sections. At least one additional section was included in 86% of resumes from civil engineering candidates, the Zety analysis found. The most common additional sections were “languages,” “software” and “certificates.”

Accountant Resume Tip

Try incorporating these keywords throughout your resume if you’re applying for accountant jobs:

  • accounting
  • time management
  • skill
  • communication skill
  • management
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft
  • Microsoft Excel
  • communication
  • customer service
  • account
  • Microsoft Word
  • Excel
  • business administration
  • Office
  • accounting software
  • university
  • computer skill
  • accountant
  • years experience

Product Manager Resume Tip

Seventy-five percent of product manager resumes include an additional section, so be sure to include one if you are applying for this position. Over a third of product manager resumes included a “certificates” section. Other common additional sections were “software,” “languages” and “interests.”

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