The Science of the Job Search, Part VIII: Your Chances of an Interview Plummet If Your Resume Is Too Long

Torn between keeping your resume to one page and including as much as possible? Is keyword stuffing a good thing or a bad thing? We crunched the numbers, and turns out, longer is better — up to a point. Once your resume exceeds 600 words, your chances of an interview plummet.

resume_lengths_annotated.png

We analyzed 6,000+ job applications from 66 industries and found that:

  • The sweet spot for resume length is between 475 and 600 words.
  • There are exceptions though — even longer is better, if you’re an academic or industrial scientist, college professor, school teacher, or social service worker.
  • “Keyword stuffing” your resume doesn’t make you any more likely to get an interview.

Keep your resume short and sweet (but not too short)

Job applicants with resumes over 600 words had significantly lower interview rates. Up until that point, longer is better — short resumes, less than 450 words, also had lower interview rates. Makes sense, since more words means more opportunities to sell yourself. Keep adding words beyond that though, and recruiters or hiring managers are likely to have their eyes glaze over.

Taken together, this means that the sweet spot for resume length is between 475 and 600 words. Unsurprisingly, this corresponds to a densely-packed single page resume. Interview rates for users with resumes in this range averaged 8.2% compared to less than 5% for shorter or longer resumes. (Don’t worry, there are other things you can do to boost your interview chances — we’ve done the researchlet us help you out.)

Longer resumes are better for certain professions

Wait a second, you might be saying, I’m an academic researcher, and I need 5 pages to include all my publications (kudos to you, if so) — are you saying that’s a bad thing? Turns out, there are some exceptions to the rule. Resumes over the 600 word threshold are better — if you’re an academic or industrial scientist, college professor, school teacher, or social service worker.

This makes complete sense: scientists and professors often have long lists of patents and publications, and, as we noted in a previous study, teachers and social service workers were some of the few professions where resume objectives helped their interview chances. If your industry really cares about all of your motivations or your exhaustive list of achievements, longer resumes are better.

No, really, keep your resume short, especially if…

On the other hand, most industries punish long resumes and some industries really punish long resumes. For example, in business, long resumes were a whopping 72% less hireable than those in the sweet spot. No surprise — if you’re in business, brevity wins. If you’re a Marketing Manager and can’t market yourself in 1 page, you have a big problem.

Don’t bother stuffing your resume with keywords

Maybe it’s not the number of words in your resume, maybe it’s the number of keywords. So we extracted keywords using a known qualification set and looked for a trend between the number of keywords in a user’s resume and their interview rate. Turns out, having more keywords in your resume doesn’t correlate with a higher interview rate.

resume_keyword_stuffing

At first, this seems surprising, since we know that there is often an initial filter using an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) where resumes without specific keywords don’t even get seen by a hiring manager (sad, but true). But I think that this is a case of quality over quantity — it’s not about how many keywords you have in your resume, it’s about having the ones that match the job. (And you don’t even need all of those.)

Summary

Next time you’re working on your resume, remember:

  • Keep it in the 475 to 600 word range.
  • Unless you’re an academic or industrial scientist, college professor, school teacher, or social service worker — then let your verbosity shine!
  • Don’t go out of your way to fit as many keywords as possible in your resume.

Need more help optimizing your resume? We can help with that.

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 6,305 applications across 66 industries for 721 different users from TalentWorks. Then for each of those users, we extracted the word count and keyword count (of keywords from a known qualification set) from their resume and calculated their interview rate. Finally, we clipped outliers, then weighted (by number of applications per user) and smoothed the results to find the general trend. All analysis and graphing was done using python with pandas, sklearn, scipy, and bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by ~5.8x. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

The Science of the Job Search, Part VII: You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements”

Project Manager needed. Must have 5+ years of experience, be Six Sigma certified, have advanced deep learning knowledge, and be able to perform surgery on occasion.

Who really has all that? Turns out, basically no one. You’re as likely to get a job interview meeting 50% of job requirements as meeting 90% of them.

requirements_required
So requirement is a bit of a flexible word in this context, then…

We were curious about how many job requirements are actually required, so we analyzed job postings and resumes for 6,000+ applications across 118 industries from our database of users. We found that while matching requirements is important, you don’t necessarily need to match all of them.

  • Your chances of getting an interview start to go up once you meet about 40% of job requirements.
  • You’re not any more likely to get an interview matching 90% of job requirements compared to matching just 50%.
  • For women, these numbers are about 10% lower i.e. women’s interview chances go up once they meet 30% of job requirements, and matching 40% of job requirements is as good as matching 90% for women.

You only need 50% of job requirements

You’re just as likely to get an interview matching 50% of requirements as matching 90%. We saw a clear upward trend in interview rates based on matching requirements, but with an upper bound. When users applied to jobs where they matched 40 – 50% of job requirements, they were 85% more likely to get an interview than when they matched less, and applying to jobs where they matched 50 – 60% of requirements made them an extra 192% more likely to get an interview over the 40 – 50% matches.

But after that point, you’re in diminishing returns. Applying to jobs where they matched 60% or more of job requirements didn’t provide any additional boost in interview rate.

Job Search Tip #1: Apply for jobs once you match 50% of job requirements.

For women, the % of requirements required is lower

You may have seen stories before about how women in particular don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified. We wondered if they were on to something – maybe there’s gender discrimination at play and hiring managers look for women to meet more of the requirements. Turns out, our findings apply just as much to women as to men, and actually, for women, the chances of getting an interview start increasing as soon as you meet 30% of requirements.

requirements_required_by_gender
Women get interviews at higher rates with fewer matched requirements – if only they applied to those jobs in the first place.

As you can see in the graph above, we see the same general trend for women as for men, but for women, you’re as likely to get an interview matching 40% of the job requirements as matching 90%. Note also that, as we’ve seen in previous analysis, women in general have higher interview rates than men.

Yet, despite this, among our users, we’ve observed the same trend that has been studied elsewhere. Women are more likely to turn down jobs where they match some but not all of the qualifications – over the last 8 weeks, 64% of our female users rejected at least one job where they matched 50 – 60% of the requirements, while only 37% of male users did.

requirements_required_feedback_rates

So, yes, women, you too should be applying to jobs where you don’t meet all the requirements.

Job Search Tip #2: Stop second guessing yourself – you DO deserve that job.

You’re not guaranteed to get an interview, even when you match 90% of job requirements

Base case scenario, you’re looking at about a 15% chance of getting an interview. Applying for jobs is still fundamentally a numbers game – the more applications you put in, the more likely you are to get an interview, and the more interviews you have, the more likely you are to get a job offer.

Put another way, if you want to get a job offer, the number of jobs you need to apply to is a function of your interview rate (what % of applications do you get interviews for) and your job offer rate (what % of interviews do you get job offers for), specifically: # of applications needed to get n job offers = n / interview rate / job offer rate

Interview Rate Job Offer Rate # of Applications Needed to Get 1 Job Offer
5% 5% 400
10% 10% 100
15% 15% 45

Clearly, improving your interview rate and job offer rate pay off, but what if you can’t find 45 jobs that are perfect matches for you? It never hurts to broaden your search to jobs that feel like more of a stretch. Sure, your interview rate will be lower, but that’s balanced by applying to more jobs.

Job Search Tip #3: Apply to as many jobs as possible to increase your chances of an interview.

No time to fill in all those applications? We can help with that.

appbot
ApplicationAssistant will fill out all those applications for you (and submit them at the best days and times too).

Summary

When you’re out looking for the perfect job, don’t be intimidated by a long list of requirements!

  • Even if you only match 50% of the requirements, you should feel confident hitting “apply.”
  • This applies just as much to women as it does to men (actually, even more so!)
  • Cast an even broader net to improve your chances of getting an interview.

Remember, getting an interview is your big break – it’s your opportunity to prove that you can do the job even if you don’t meet all the “requirements.”

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 6,348 applications for 668 different users from TalentWorks. Then we extracted the qualifications from the original job postings and the users’ submitted resumes using proprietary algorithms. Finally, we grouped the results based on qualification match and regressed the interview rate using a Bagging ensemble of Random Forest regressors. All analysis and graphing was done using python with pandas, sklearn, scipy, and bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by ~5.8x. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.