The exact words to include (and avoid) in your resume, according to science

Data analysis of millions of resumes reveals the keywords that top-rated resumes by employers have in common as well as the damaging words to avoid at all costs.

The team over at the international HR firm, ZipRecruiter think they have found the secret recipe for a writing a top-performing resume. To determine which resumes are the most effective, they analyzed employers’ responses to over 3,000,000 resumes from the US, UK, and Canada. Hiring managers were able to rate candidates on a scale from one to five stars based on their resumes.

The results of that study show what the top ranked resumes have in common, and what seems to earn candidates the lowest possible rating from employers.

First off, it turns out that those resumes that are between 600 and 700 words in length are ranked higher by employers than ones that are either shorter or much longer. An opening Skills Summary should be no longer than from 90 to 100 words in length.

Key words used in top-ranked resumes

Analysis found that resumes using these powerful keywords had a 70 per cent higher chance of receiving the top notch five-star rating:

    • Experience
    • Management
    • Project
    • Development
    • Business
    • Skill
    • Professional
    • Knowledge
    • Year
      • Team


    Of course, those words have to be used in context to describe your skills and experience. Keyword stuffing will more than likely lead to your resume being discarded by employers.

    Keywords to avoid in your resume

    Certain words in a resume tend to give employers the impression that you are inexperienced, will require a lot of training before you can be productive, or that you are averse to working hard. Resumes containing these negative keywords had up to a 79 per cent greater chance of receiving the dreaded lowest rating of one star out of five.

      • Hard
      • Need
      • First
      • Me
      • Time
      • Myself
      • Chance
        • Develop


      Employers like to see evidence of management skills in your resume. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are – or have been – a manager, but that you can take charge of a project, be proactive, and manage yourself rather than requiring a great deal of direct supervision. That is why keywords such as “responsible”, “support”, and “client” along with those that speak to problem solving skills such as “data”, “analysis”, and “operation” were also among the most highly-rated by hiring managers.

      For more insights from the ZipRecuiter analysis of millions or resumes and their rankings, you can read the full report here.

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