I’m often approached by someone who is in despair about their lack of job search success.

One of the first questions I ask relates to their conversion rate.

By that I mean, how many applications result in an interview and how many interviews lead to a job offer. Most people are surprised that I ask this question. In turn, I am shocked that job seekers could ignore such basic analysis. How can you work out what needs to change if you haven’t dissected the numbers?

We’re all familiar with the quote about lies, damned lies and statistics. Still, sometimes numbers can be your friend.

On average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 résumés. Of those candidates, 4 to 6 will get called for an interview, and only one will get the job.

This may be depressing, but it’s also quite telling. Clearly, the greatest hurdle lies pre-interview. Here is a list of common errors:

1.      Applying for a job where you don’t meet at least 85% of the core criteria

2.      Sending in a bad Cover Letter or not doing one at all

3.      Submitting a weak résumé

Today, I’m going to focus on the résumé and highlight nine statistics from key sources such as Glassdoor, Jobvite, Careerbuilder and Zety so that you make it to the interview stage.

1. Recruiters take an average of six seconds to scan a résumé

The obvious message from this statistic is that Less is More. If you don’t manage to win your audience over on Page One, your campaign is done and dusted. Every line on Page One is worth its weight in gold and you need to be strategically ruthless about how you use each one.

So, on this most-valuable-of-pages, do not list your Year 11 school results. Avoid details of training courses you’ve completed. People don’t want to read about every job you’ve held since University.

Need I continue?

As an aside, other statistics state that the typical length of a résumé is one page. That’s not the case here in Australia, where the average résumé is 3-4 pages long.

However, the fact that many other places in the world prefer such brief résumés is a hint to those of you who are attached to detailed content. No one will read it. You damage yourself immensely.

Instead, think of the most short-tempered person and write your first page for him/her. Get to the point. Focus on achievements rather than responsibilities. They are much more interesting and provide evidence of your value.

2. 54% of recruiters will reject a résumé that isn’t customized and tailored

To a certain extent, how much you need to muck around with your résumé depends on your power in the market place.

A few years ago, I worked with someone from the FMCG industry. ‘Ralph’ operated in a technical area where there were limited opportunities and I was very worried about his job prospects. He applied for a role in the mining sector which is notorious for not accepting applicants from outside of the industry. Ralph made the most minute changes to his résumé so that he covered every single element of the job ad and the Position Description. At the time, I thought it was a bit of an overkill but I ended up changing my tune. His hiring manager told Ralph that he had never seen such an excellent résumé and he won the role.

At the other end of the spectrum, one of my good friends was an SAP software consultant in Adelaide. At the time, there was a world-wide shortage of them and she literally had employers flying in to interview her. She ended up working in Washington DC and I often joke that she could have handed in a half page résumé on a scrappy piece of paper and still get a job offer. That’s the perfect example of market power.

Regardless of whether your skill set is in short supply or not, I advocate that you behave more like Ralph. A great résumé does more than ensure that you make it to the ‘Yes’ pile. It makes the employer want to meet you. It makes them start to worry about what they might have to do to get you to sign up with them. It swings the balance of power to you. 

3. 67% of recruiters look for relevant job experience

Given how valuable the real estate is on Page One, how much space should you devote to listing the jobs you’ve held?

A neat trick is to include a brief 4-5 line table listing your most recent roles. That way, the employer can see exactly how your background is relevant to their advertised job but you still have room to sell your most recent job on the page. Keep each role to one line on this list and slide it in under the Profile/Career Summary Section at the top of the page.

4. 60% use your résumé to assess cultural fit 

This is interesting. How can you possibly show cultural fit in a résumé?

Many recruiters assume cultural fit if you have worked in a similar sector. If few people would recognise the name of your previous employers, make sure you include a brief outline under each role to make the link clear. And, whether you come from the sector or not, use language that they are comfortable with and would relate to.

5. 69% of résumé errors involve missing accomplishments

I rarely see any accomplishments on résumés let alone tight, well-written and targeted ones. I recently emailed the link to our excellent résumé infographic to someone and still he failed to add achievements.

There’s a simple formula that isn’t that hard to apply. Here’s some guidance:

1.      Specify an action you took at work, using the past tense

2.      Finish with the result of that action and quantify wherever possible

There you go. Implement that approach systematically in your résumé and I’ll be out of a job.

Networking rules the world

I’m going to make a confession here. For the most part, our résumés are truly outstanding. Clients usually get feedback from the employer that their résumés are very precise and specific –even though they may not have actually altered them for each job they apply for.

If this smacks too much of ‘near enough is good enough’ to you, create a bank of achievement statements. Then cut and paste them in and out of your résumé according to the position you’re applying for.

Whatever you do, don’t think the résumé is the be-all and end-all of job search. Stop tinkering endlessly with it. A much better use of your time is to get on the phone and arrange a networking meeting. So, yes of course make sure that your résumé is an attractive and compelling document. Then, leave it alone and venture out.

One final word. Accompany your résumé with an excellent one-page Cover Letter. Statistics highlight that 45% of people fail to make it to the interview because they don’t send in a Cover Letter.