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Resume writing trends: What's hot and what's not heading into 2021

Find out what can set job seekers apart in various cities throughout the country

We are eight months into 2020, and by all accounts, it's been the worst year, for many of us, in our lifetime. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire country, employed and/or unemployed, in life-shattering ways.

It goes without saying that today's workforce is going through never-seen-before changes.

That being said, what isn't changing is what employers want to see on a resume as we head into the end of 2020. Every year articles come out about what's hot and new on every topic - including resumes. But what's hot and new in resume and cover letter writing in 2020, will be the same in 2021:


Because a resume tailored to a specific job, showcasing results and achievements that closely match the job posting, positioning the applicant as the best person for that job is what still, and always will, stand out to employers.

Resumes alone don’t land a job. But a good resume and cover letter is what gets an interview, and that’s typically the first step in the job search process (the interview).

Job seekers are often encouraged to "think outside the box" when it comes to the job search. And there are several methods that go beyond the traditional strategy of searching job boards, searching LinkedIn and then applying online. Other effective methods of getting noticed by employers - according to an Accountemps survey, include networking or connecting with current employees at the company of interest via social media, and providing access to an online portfolio or personal website (more thoughts on those strategies coming soon).

That being said, when it comes to resume writing, some outside the box strategies that are still not popular with employers are resumes that use cartoons, bitmojis, caricatures, colorful fonts, or colorful backgrounds, according to Accountemps. Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world's first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.

You know what else is important heading into 2021? Writing cover letters. I get it - you don't know if employers read cover letters. Some do, many don't. But why not send one? It's another chance to expand on your successes and experience, and showcase how you are a match for the job.

In the Accountemps survey, 58% of senior managers said it's very helpful to receive cover letters.

"A strategic job search requires much more than putting together a polished resume," said Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. “In addition to learning about candidates' skills and experience, employers want to see a strong online presence and passion for their work. Steer clear of including anything that could be considered distracting or unprofessional, such as flashy fonts and images."

Other 2020 resume and cover letter writing trends that will remain the same heading into 2021 include:

  • Among the 28 U.S. cities in the survey, Seattle executives most commonly rated social networking (64%) as the top job seeker tactic. San Diego has the highest percentage that value linking to an online portfolio or personal website (60%).

  • While managers, in general, identified including cartoon images on application materials as the biggest deterrent when deciding whether to move forward with a candidate, respondents in Denver and Tampa pointed to excessive color as the leading no-no.

  • Charlotte tops the list of cities where executives are most critical of the use of cartoon graphics (53%) and colorful fonts or backgrounds (33%).

  • Austin and San Diego (66% each) have the highest percentage of managers who find cover letters valuable.

"If you have in-demand skills, now is the time to consider your career options, whether at your current company or elsewhere," says Steinitz. "Even if you aren't actively looking for a new position, take stock of your professional accomplishments and get your materials in order in case the right opportunity comes along."

It’s been a challenging year, and for many, updating a resume only adds to that challenge. But it’s important to keep your options open, and be ready to apply now and in the future when the right job opens up. Follow these tips and strategies and close out 2020 on a positive note, and enter 2021 ready to make an impact.

And if you are struggling to write a resume, or not getting results from your current resume, learn how resume writer Matt Krumrie can help create a resume that showcases your successes, help you get noticed, and help you land interviews.

Want career, job search, and resume writing advice emailed directly to your inbox? Sign up for the Career Insider newsletter from Matt Krumrie and get the latest job search, resume writing and career tips emailed to you directly!

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