Survey: 500+ Recruiters Reveal What They Look for in a Resume

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Be guided by hard data on what recruiters are looking for in a resume.

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Albert Einstein famously said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. You have tried to write resumes according to different internet sources but it’s still not working out. Now you need to be guided by hard data on what recruiters are looking for.

Resume lab did a study in 2021 that sought to find out what hiring professionals are looking for in a CV. These were the highlights of the study after interviewing more than 500 recruiters and HR professionals.

The must-haves in a CV according to recruiters were:

  • Contact information

  • Summary profile

  • Work experience

  • Soft skills

  • Hard skills

Interestingly, 76% of recruiters believe that soft skills such as communication and empathy should be listed separately from the hard skills such as Coding.

Hiring professionals prefer a two-column CV; 77% of recruiters in the survey thought that two-column CVs are better than single ones. They are easier to review quickly and find what’s most relevant to the recruiter. 


The data revealed that a two-page CV is 1.4x more likely to be selected for the next stage. However, 77% of the recruiters also thought that candidates with 5+ years of experience should not submit a one-page resume.

Things to avoid

The Resume Lab study revealed that 90% of professional CV writers think that you should omit hobbies and interests if you have more than 5 years’ work experience. For those with less experience, 77% of the CV writers still advise against listing your hobbies.

Have you been using the phrase “references available upon requests”? 88% of the surveyed professional CV writers don’t think it’s necessary. You should avoid it. 


You are safer keeping it black and white - 72% of recruiters prefer monochromatic CVs as opposed to many bright colors. Only 7% of recruiters prefer creative designs on CVs because 71% like formal, standardized resumes.

80% of the recruiters would want a consistent layout in a CV. It plays an important role when evaluating the resume design. Stick to one font and font size all through.

How to write your CV

Resume lab uncovered that 64% of recruiters spend 3-6 minutes on every CV they review. You, therefore, need to make every word count.

When reviewing mid and senior-level CVs, recruiters were asked which sections they mostly focus on:

  • 46% of respondents chose work experience

  • 15% education

  • 13% skills

  • 3% resume profile

  • 22% other resume sections. For example, certifications, training, publications, etc.

In the summary profile, it is better to avoid a profile than to write a generic one. This is according to 70% of hiring decision-makers.

For fresh graduates and entry-level candidates, these are the most critical elements in a CV according to the survey:

  • 30%: work experience

  • 21%: skills

  • 19%: education

  • 5%: resume profile

  • 25%: other sections 

As a fresh graduate with little or no experience, make sure to highlight internships or part-time jobs that you might have had because those count too. 

Some of the most popular extra sections according to recruiters include: 

  • Languages: 31% of resumes

  • Certificates: 27%

  • Additional Activities: 21%

  • Interests: 19%

  • Software: 18%

  • Courses: 11%

Resume lab says that recruiters do pay attention to those sections and 66% of candidates do include them.

Using metrics

85% of recruiting professionals prefer candidates to list figures and metrics to show their accomplishments. But the study revealed that if you dwell on your achievements you often come out as braggadocious.

Read the full report here to be well equipped as you write your resume for the next application. 

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    Benson | February 23, 2021 17:07

    It has dawned on me.Have learned where to rectify on my CV. God bless you for your inspirational article.

    PETER | February 22, 2021 13:33


    Noela | February 22, 2021 09:38

    Very informative!!

    Petro | February 20, 2021 23:44

    Wowww thanks

    John mutuku | February 20, 2021 06:11

    I love the guidelines they're realistic. Atleast now I know where to improve. Regards

    Keneth | February 19, 2021 13:37

    Thanks so much

    Keneth | February 19, 2021 13:35

    I have learnt alot.....but if you want more members in fuzu I would politely request you to find attachment and internship for struggling students like me out there.In kenya finding a company to attach you and it requirement for one before graduation in a very big problem.But anyway good work ...bravo!

    James | February 19, 2021 13:06

    Thanks for this

    RONNEX | February 19, 2021 08:38

    Well summarised and so much efficient information

    Betty Mukami | February 18, 2021 05:57

    Thank you for this very detailed report. It gives me a clear guidance on which sections to improve, omit and redesign. Great posts like this make your blog invaluable to job seekers like me. God bless you!

    OKETHWENGU | February 17, 2021 08:45

    It is fantastic,I have learnt some concepts

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