All successful job searches start with the same key component: a solid resume.
However, writing the perfect resume often poses a difficult challenge for job seekers. Determining what to include, what length the resume should be and what to write in an accompanying cover letter can be a tricky road to navigate.
To help job seekers, ZipRecruiter, a site that allows businesses to post job postings to more than 50 job boards at once, analyzed its database of over 3,000,000 resumes to determine why some are rated higher than others. On ZipRecruiter, hiring managers rate candidates' resumes on a scale of one to five stars, with one being the worst and five being the best.
"By looking at keywords, length and sections, we were able to create a profile of the perfect cover letter and resume: what you should include, what you shouldn't include, and plenty of tips to help your resume and cover letter stand out from the crowd," Scott Garner, ZipRecruiter's content marketing manager, wrote on the company's blog.
It all starts with the cover letter. ZipRecruiter's research revealed that cover letters increase a resume's chance of receiving a five-star rating by 29 percent.
"A cover letter is the first chance you have to impress an employer, or to turn them off permanently," Garner wrote.
The study found two keys to a good cover letter: Be polite, and display confidence that you'll get the job done. Specifically, the phrase "Thank you for your consideration" was included in 10 percent more of the five-star resumes than those that received just one star.
Additionally, since the employer has posted a job because they have a pressing need, job seekers should present themselves as a solution to that problem, and not as work in progress focused only on their own career trajectory.
"Words like 'learning,' 'develop' and 'myself' have a strong correlation with one-star resumes, meaning that employers want a team player who is ready to start contributing to the business on day one," Garner wrote. [12 Surprising Things You Should Put on Your Resume]
When formatting a resume, it's critical to only include the sections employers care about. The research revealed that resumes containing "summary," "references," "work history," "objective" and "training" were 1.7 times more likely to earn a five-star rating.
"Employers want to know everything about you that may be relevant to your ability to perform the job they've posted," Garner wrote.
The sections employers find irrelevant were "languages," "personal interests" and "accomplishments." The study discovered that including these sections made it 24 percent less likely for a resume to receive a top rating.
When actually writing a resume, job seekers should include certain keywords and avoid others. The research found that keywords that imply management skills, problem-solving abilities and a proactive stance toward working were associated with the highest ratings. Using some specific "power keywords" can increase the chances for a five-star rating by up to 70 percent. Those words include:
Garner cautions job seekers, however, not to go overboard when using these keywords.
"Remember, though, that keyword stuffing will more than likely lead to your resume being discarded," Garner wrote. "Make sure you only include words that are relevant to your skills."
Resume writers should avoid keywords that give employers the impression that a candidate is inexperienced, requires a great deal of training or is put off by hard work. Those words include:
Length also plays a key roll in how well hiring managers receive a resume. The research found that managers rated resumes between 600 and 700 words in length much higher than resumes that were fewer than 500 words long. In addition, anything over 700 words began to trend toward lower ratings.
The research also revealed that the "summary" should be between 90 and 100 words in length, and that the "objective" should be approximately 30 words long.
"Following these length guidelines results in a 30-percent boost in the chances of receiving a five-star rating," Garner wrote.
Originally published on Business News Daily