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6 Steps to Software-Proof Your Resume

Apr 7, 2014 4:41:09 AM

in TechTalk, Career Chat, Expert Series

More often than ever, recruiters and hiring managers are using software applications known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen and organize job applicants. If you’ve ever submitted your resume through a career page hosted by Resumator, HireDesk, Jobvite, or Taleo, your resume is often screened by software before it’s seen by human eyes.

These systems are a game changer for how your resume should be written and formatted.

As a recruiter that actively utilizes an ATS, these are my top recommendations for job seekers to consider when crafting their resume to land at the top of the pile:

1. SEO for Your Resume

What is SEO? It stands for “search engine optimization,” and there is a chance it determined you weren’t suitable for a job before a real person reviewed your resume. How, you ask? As ATS and database tools evolve, companies are automatically scanning resumes for keywords related to your industry, skills, and experience. If the keywords required for a job are not matched on your resume, your name will not appear at the top of search results.

To ensure you’re ranking well for job application submissions, be sure to include relevant industry or job related buzzwords, acronyms, designations, and jargon. A great place to find the keywords recruiters will be searching for is in the job posting itself. To make this process easier, simply look at the job description and requirements that qualify you as a successful applicant and ensure these key terms are included in your resume.

A word of warning: Don’t go overboard and populate your resume with a lengthy list of all possible keywords. When your resume is reviewed by a recruiter, this keyword listing tactic will be viewed as spam and will often put your application in the ‘no’ pile.

2. Talk the Talk

Each industry has its own language and if you want a job in your chosen field, you need to learn to speak the locals' language. By ensuring that industry relevant terms appear in your resume, you are ensuring that both you and your resume will be noticed.

Even within a single job, there can be interchangeable terms. For instance, do you know the difference between a ticketed journeyman or a Red Sealed plumber? The answer is nothing. The terms are interchangeable but the prospective employer may prefer one over the other. The key again is to look at the job description and make sure the verbiage you’re using will register you as “qualified” when your CV is reviewed.

3. Word or PDF: No Exceptions

Simply put, if you do not save your resume as a Word or PDF document, it will likely be garbled when uploaded and become unreadable. Although we dream of a world where resumes are judged not by their file extensions, but by the content of their character, in the world of most ATSs, this is not the case. Word or PDF. No exceptions!

4. Quality Over Quantity

I am frequently asked about the optimal length for resumes and I have to say, length doesn’t really matter. Today, resumes are usually read first on screens which means the reader doesn’t suffer from page-flipping fatigue, nor will trees be sacrificed in the process of screening resumes.

That being said, most applicants can succinctly list their qualifications and experience within 1-2 pages. Include what is relevant and discard what isn’t. Being concise is key.

The only time length becomes an issue is if you can’t fill one page due to a lack of experience. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider volunteering to get more experience and contact TPD career consultants for further resume writing support.

5. Easy on the Flair

Unless you are applying to be a graphic designer or creative marketer, there is no need for fancy graphics, pictures, designs, or other visual aids to make your resume “stand out.” Many people are advised to spice up their resume with impressive visuals believing that hiring managers will see it and spend more time with their resume.

The truth of the matter is that even if the graphic integrity survives being uploaded into the resume database, the hiring manager is now spending their 10 seconds admiring your fancy typeface instead of actually reading it. Unless the role you are applying for includes document beautification as a primary duty, keep your resume professional, clean, and concise.

6. 10 Seconds of Clarity

The most effective resumes will convey everything that recruiters need to decide whether to contact you in 10 seconds.

  • Relevant education and required certifications? Check.
  • Role related experience? Check.
  • Recent job title on par with new job? Check.
  • Phone number to contact for next steps? Done.

Contrary to popular belief, the most effective way to stand out in a resume screen is to make your resume look standard. When all of the information recruiters look for is where they expect to see it on a standard template, they are able to retrieve what they’re looking for much faster

The reason job application forms make you fill out the same information on your resume over and over is to create uniformity. If you can save recruiters the step of having to search for job titles or dates of employment by having it exactly where it’s supposed to be, the time will be spent judging the content, not navigating a new resume format.

It really is just this simple.

If you’re looking for your dream career, check out our job board and submit your application today. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Submit your resume below to be considered for future opportunities.

Submit Resume 


Filed under TechTalk, Career Chat, Expert Series

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