Invest in a professional resume that will make it past any gatekeeper and outsmart applicant tracking software. Week 2 of New Year, New You.
Alright folks, one week down, four more to go till the end of the year! I hope you got a chance to take advantage of all those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to upgrade your look. This week I want you to focus on one of the core marketing materials you’ll use during the job search – your resume.
When was the last time you printed out a job application and mailed it to an employer? While it’s not unheard of, it’s certainly not the norm these days. And chances are, you surf the web rather than open a newspaper when you want to find job listings.
Since job boards emerged in the late 90s, the way we search for and apply to jobs has radically changed. With just a few key strokes you have access to thousands of job posts from all over the world. Unfortunately, this also means you’re competing within a much larger, less-qualified pool of candidates. Your resume needs to not only speak to the recruiter and hiring manager; it must first make it past an electronic gatekeeper known as an applicant tracking system (ATS).
Below are five tips to help you craft a professional resume that will make it through the gatekeepers – human and otherwise – and impress the hiring manager.
1. Tell the right story
Research conducted by TheLadders shows that recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds (!) looking at your resume to decide if you’re a fit. It’s incredibly important that you first clarify your job goals, and then build a resume that supports these goals. Highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments, and eliminate extra information that isn’t necessary. Don’t make the recruiter guess – spell out your goals and qualifications.
2. Include relevant buzz words
Incorporate common terms and key phrases that routinely pop up in job descriptions you’re interested in applying to (assuming you honestly have those skills). The ATS software is programmed to scan your application for specific buzz words to determine if you’re a likely fit for the role. You typically have to make it past that check point before a human will ever set eyes on your application.
3. Avoid a scrambled view
Don’t include tables or images in your resume and avoid using the actual Header and Footer sections of the Word document, as these will only confuse the ATS and scramble your application. When choosing your resume font, stick to ones that are easy to read and ATS-compatible like Arial, Tahoma, Cambria, and Book Antiqua. New Times Roman is fine too, though I normally avoid it because it’s so common. Stay away from Arial Narrow, Calibri, Georgia, and Garamond because they are incompatible with many ATS systems and can be difficult to read on mobile devices and tablets.
4. Control the communication
Make it easy for recruiters to contact you by including only one phone number and email address. I recommend using your cell phone since you have control over the voicemail, who picks up the phone and when. Use a professional email address that isn’t considered outdated, like Gmail. Add the link to your LinkedIn profile (and personal website, if applicable). This will help control communication and steer the recruiter toward the right online profile.
5. Consider a professional re-write
Here at TheLadders we say there are three things you should never do on your own: write your will, do your taxes, and write your resume. Even though I’m a certified professional resume writer, I’d turn to a colleague for a resume re-write because it’s hard to remain objective when you’re writing about yourself. And frankly, not all of us are born writers. Make the investment and hire a professional who can turn your laundry list of experiences into a story that supports your goals and outsmarts ATS software. You’re 40% more likely to land the job you want with one.
Use these tips to craft a resume that will help you land interviews. Next week, we’ll talk about using a smarter phone in the job search.
To learn more about TheLadders’ resume services call 1-800-235-1170 or email the Career Services team. Remember, if you’re a Premium member of TheLadders you are entitled to a free resume critique.
Click on the following link to read the first week’s assignment to a New Year, New You: Look the Part.
Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders, the online job-matching service for career-driven professionals. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) who provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and "Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.
Want to ask me your job-search questions face-to-face? Come join me at Job Central, Presented by TheLadders, on January 10th from 9am-3pm EST. See you there!
By now, you’ve rewritten your resume more times than you can count. You’ve labored over every word and formatted it within an inch of its life. Blogs with titles like “Jumpstart your Job Search with 5 Resume Tips!” and “4 Foolproof Ways to Get a Recruiter’s Attention!” dominate your bookmarks. You’ve shown it to your friends, your mom, a few trusted colleagues, and that HR manager you dated a while back. Everyone agrees: you look great on paper.
So Why Don’t They Call?
One likely answer is that your resume – at least the resume as you know it – rarely makes it to a human reader. The problem starts with that shiny “Upload A Resume” button. It looks promising, but don’t be deceived: this button is the doorway into a void, a purgatory of waiting, wondering, and never hearing back. This abyss has a name, and it’s “ATS.”
After you upload your resume (and spend the rest of the day staring into your empty inbox), an Applicant Tracking System immediately disassembles your masterpiece and presents you to a prospective employer as just one row in a list of applicants sorted by keywords and job titles. Users then cruise the assembled applicants, searching for candidates worth a further look.
If it sounds a lot like online dating, that’s because it is. These systems present recruiters and hiring managers with assumed matches, usually based on predetermined criteria like the presence of certain keywords on the resume. Some systems even screen out applicants automatically before a human end-user is ever involved.
Before the problem solver in you grudgingly admits that this sounds like a solid workflow management system, read on.
The Future is Here. And it Doesn't Quite Work.
Most major companies use an ATS of some sort. But despite their pervasiveness, Applicant Tracking Systems are maddeningly ineffective at doing what they’re designed to do: pairing employers with the right candidates. They’re so ineffective that the Wall Street Journal recently devoted not one but two pieces to the problem of getting the right resumes into recruiters’ hands.
WSJ’s Lauren Weber notes that even though jobseekers and recruiters alike find the systems frustrating, companies are expected to spend $5.75 billion on online recruitment tools and services in 2012. This is great news for job boards, but the truth is that the technology is still very young and still very flawed. While some services try to mitigate the ATS black hole by using detailed profile systems rather than simple resume parsing, the end result is ultimately the same: resumes are disassembled and sorted into searchable pieces. Recruiters and hiring managers must still comb through lists of criteria before deciding to view an individual applicant’s details.
Four Tips for Getting Noticed in an ATS
Now that you know what’s on the other side of the looking glass, you can start to do something about it. While there are countless Applicant Tracking Systems available, some key criteria remains constant. Start here:
Dress It Down. That .txt file needs to be as simple as possible. If your resume contains advanced formatting components like boxes, borders, tables, or images, pull them out. Text only.
Name Your Sections. While your “real” resume might not contain section headings, your ATS-ready version should. Don’t be creative here. Use common headings like “Experience,” “Professional Experience,” and “Education.” ATS systems look for these headings and break your resume down accordingly.
So how can foolproof your resume to make it to the top of a recruiter’s list? The answer is that you can’t. Like so many other components of the job search, the needs of the organization and the opinions of the reader will control much of your resume’s success or failure.
However, the steps above are a fine start toward getting your resume noticed in almost all ATS systems. Do your research and put in the work before you hit “Submit.” Next time, the void may answer back.