It may come to you as no surprise that keeping your resume up to date should be a constant if you want to be considered from the big application pool that employers receive for each job position.

Staying competitive in the job search in 2021 means, among most things, that you should take into account that machines will read both your resume and application letter first. Yes, that is right – more and more companies are embracing newer technologies in the HR department to help them with the work overload. For instance, it is becoming more common to use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to pre-screen candidates. 

What does that mean to you, the job applicant? As already mentioned, you need to consider that a technology that is powered with linguistic algorithms will rank you. Whether you like it or not, you need to adapt to the new changes and make sure to stand out.

In the following lines, you will get 5 valuable tips on what areas of your resume and even application letter you should re-think if you want recruiters to notice you.


5 tips on how to improve your resume

A Glassdoor research indicates that an open corporate job position gets 250 resumes. Out of those 250 candidates, only 4-6 applicants will get a call for an interview. If only 5 candidates get invited to an interview, that gives you a solely 2% chance to be one of them.

You can embrace or even increase that probability if you:


1. Make your resume field-specific

The first tip is to apply for jobs where your skills match the required ones. A recruiter can quickly spot if your hard skills are a fit in under a minute – so make sure to not waste both your and the recruiter’s time. If you think you cover the obligatory demands, the next step is to look carefully at those job requirements and highlight the skills you have that match the specific position. That is a crucial step for you to do if you want not only to catch recruiters’ eye but also the ATS tracking system they might be using.

On average, 40% of hiring managers spend less than a minute reviewing a resume in an applicant tracking system – a matter of seconds to identify and overview your skills to recruiters. Thus, try and make it as easy as possible to grasp your qualifications by clearly highlighting your skills in both your CV and your application letter.


2. Keep your resume short

You should always aim at optimizing the limited space you have in the CV by putting your most relevant achievements. “Quality is more important than quantity” – this phrase is applicable for applications in 2021 even more than ever. Having a two-page resume might sound impressive and as if it gives you a higher chance of being invited to an interview, however, that is not always the case. It could be quite the opposite because more than a page-long CV is a deal-breaker for 17% of the recruiters. If your text gets too lengthy, consider cutting back on some details and making the content scannable. Here are the most relevant sections that you need to include:

  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Skillset
  • Personality

For some recruiters, the application letter is a crucial component for the selection of candidates. So, make sure to include a section in your cover letter where you express your motivation for applying to the selected job.

3. Demonstrate soft skills

The majority of employers (77%) believe that soft skills are important. In demanding times with uncertain economic situations such as 2020 and 2021, the need for soft skills increases. Listing them in a natural and believable manner in the resume and the application letter, however, is a challenging task. Be careful not to self-promote too much because recruiters find that unlikable according to a survey done by Business and Psychology in 2017. The key is to balance between humility and the promotion of oneself. For 2021’s job applications, it is especially beneficial to share examples of how you faced problems with specific use of those soft skills that you used to solve those troubles.  The top skills that are currently valuable are:


  • Listening skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Communication skills
  • Flexibility

4. Use active words

Generic and repetitive word choice will not impress recruiters.  It may take the readers less than a minute to check out your CV, however, whatever they read needs to be on point. The content of your cover letter needs to be precise as well. The word-choice on your resume and application letter should be made with thoughtful consideration. Choose action verbs and dynamic words because they are better at presenting your capabilities and convincing the readers that you are an effective employee. Also, whenever possible, remember to showcase results and metrics because numbers present a convincing way to showcase the results of your efforts.

5. Optimize your resume for an ATS

The likelihood that your resume and application letter get scanned and ranked by an ATS is getting higher. In a way, those bots are the new gatekeepers. So how do you give them the right key and open the door so as to reach those hiring managers?

It is crucial to read the job posting and the requirements that they list carefully. Furthermore, doing a background check on the company and what they value will give you extra points if you include some relevant keywords in your CV and/or application letter. For instance, the job needs an assertive employee? Make sure to mention that word in your resume and cover letter if you want the ATS to pick it up. The company mentions on the “About us” webpage that they care about their community and seek new ways of improving that? Then mention that you are a great communicator with an adaptive mindset.

Lastly, certain CV formats work better for the ATS. Here are some ATS resume-friendly templates if you are in need or you simply want to check them out and to update your current CV. Note that some require you to include a bit more text (e.g. cover letter, application letter or motivational background, etc.).


Rethinking resumes completely

The design and the content of your CV could be a challenging task. In a way, the current standard of resumes is a one-way approach: what the employer wants and what the candidate for an employee can offer. In a changing environment where the culture and diversity of a team are becoming more important in organizations, the needs of the candidates should be communicated as well. Could there be another way?

One suggestion is to have a two-way approach to writing resumes. The candidate’s “can do” and “needs” are communicated in their CV just as the recruiter has listed his/her searched “can do” and “needs” for that position.  That means that a job applicant can be transparent enough to showcase what he is professionally good at (can do) and where he needs more experience (needs).


Does it sound intimidating? Perhaps. But it does not have to be. Rather than fearing it, you could instead prepare and see what a linguistic-powered scanning tool can tell about your strengths and weaknesses.


“How the future of work changed in 2020” by Pega, 2020

“Overwhelming Majorities of companies say soft skills are as important as hard skills” by Careerbuilder,2014

“The two-way resume” by ento, Observable, 2020

“10 Current resume trends & forecasts for 2020/2021 you should be thinking about” by financeonline, 2020

“50 HR & Recruiting stats that make you think ” by Glassdoor, 2015

“5 Resume stats all job seekers should know” by Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool, 2018