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Resume and Cover Letter Stats and Insights Every Job Seeker Should Know

by Donald Sjoerdsma | Career Advice Expert

Resumes and cover letters are the
foundation of your job search.

Competition in the job market is fierce. A corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes on average and only four-to-six applicants will get called in for an interview.

A solid resume and cover letter will get you noticed. Here are the resume facts and statistics you need to know for 2020.

Customizing your resume is key to landing a great interview.

The majority of hiring managers (61%) consider a customized resume the No. 1 tactic for applicants trying to boost their chance of getting a job. The others include:

Interview Graph

Mobile Interview Graph

Source: Careerbuilder

After all, you don't have much time to impress.

Clock Timer

Recruiters spend an average of seven seconds reviewing a resume.

Source: TheLadders

You don't want your submission to come off as "too generic," and give recruiters a reason to dismiss you.

You are more likely to be dismissed if your cover letter and resume have the following issues:

Submission Graph

Mobile Submission Graph

Source: CareerBuilder

Be careful. Recruiters have plenty of pet peeves.

They don't want to see the following on your resume:

Recruiters Graph

Mobile Recruiters Graph

Source: New College of the Humanities

Plus, you'll need to get past the company's applicant tracking system (ATS).


About 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS in their hiring process, which sorts through resumes before a human sees it.

Source: Jobscan

This is a big deal because ATS prevents about 75 percent of resumes from being seen by human eyes.

Source: Preptal

Don't lie, either. They'll catch you.


In 2017, 85 percent of HR professionals uncovered a lie or misrepresentation on a candidate's resume or job application during the screening process – up from 66 percent 5 years prior.

Source: HireRight

And make sure to include both hard and soft skills on you resume


The description on a job opening contains an average of 21.8 skills, while resumes list only 13 skills on average.

Source: LiveCareer

Resumes fall short to roughly the same degree on both hard and soft skills, matching only 59 percent of hard skills and 62 percent of soft skills.

Source: LiveCareer

That's not totally surprising: Only 47 percent of workers believe job descriptions reflect actual responsibilities.

Source: Jobvite

as well as a few terms from the 10 most
frequently cited skills in job ads

  • Customer Service


    Customer service

  • Comm Skills


    Communication skills

  • Scheduling



  • Written Comm


    Written communication

  • Org Skills


    Organizational skills

  • Problem Solving


    Problem solving

  • Multi Tasking



  • Sales



  • Physical Demand


    Physical demand

  • Teamwork



Source: LiveCareer

Even if you're perfect, there's bias in the resume review process

"Whitening" resumes (i.e., removing ethnic details) leads to a greater response from employers.

Resume Review

Greater Response

Source: Administrative Science Quarterly

and plenty of factors that increase hireability are
outside of your control

  • Requiring

    Requiring a
    second degree

  • Being Between

    Being between
    ages 28 and 35

  • Obviously Female

    Having an obviously
    female name

but there's plenty you can control, including:

  • Dropping the occasional industry buzzword to appeal to the ATS (but not too many).
  • Using concrete numbers to demonstrate your value.
  • Applying on Mondays, not on Fridays.
  • Not overusing "team player" or other highly collaborative descriptors.
  • Using leadership-oriented words (e.g., communicated, coordinated, leadership, managed, organization).
  • Not using personal pronouns in the employment section.
  • Including a Key Skills section of 15-20 words.
  • Applying in the first four days after a job is posted.
  • Applying between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Source: TalentWorks

The job search stats above will put you on the path to landing your next interview.

As these job search stats bear out, the one-size-fits-all resume is a myth. You can set yourself up for success by:

  • Keeping Mind

    Keeping in mind

    who will be viewing your resume and then tailoring it to a specific job.

  • Sure Avoid

    Making sure you avoid

    recruiter and hiring manager pet peeves.

  • Focus Aspects

    Focusing on the aspects

    of the job search you can control while taking steps to cleverly minimize those beyond your control.

You can also keep reading our 2020 employment and job search stats series, including stories on:

About the Author

Donald Sjoerdsma

About the Author

Donald Sjoerdsma

Career Advice Expert

Don is a writer, researcher and content strategist with a proven track record in building cross-platform content plans in diverse sectors. He has written extensively on topics related to careers and employment, including interviewing, resumes, cover letters and the job search. His work has appeared on, The Huffington Post, Yahoo! and LiveCareer. He holds an M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, where he specialized in media innovation.

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