How to Perfect Your Resume

Jul 18, 2017

According to Forbes magazine, HR professionals only spend an average of six seconds looking at a resume. Therefore, resumes need to be concise, customized and clearly organized. In addition to this, many companies use HR software to digitally screen and weed out candidates based on keywords. Following useful resume advice will improve your resume’s appeal and effectiveness.

How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Most large organizations use applicant tracking systems to pre-filter resumes. These software programs work by scanning resumes for key phrases and contextual keywords. The software’s algorithms will mathematically score and rank resumes by relevance. Only those in the top percentage will be sent on through for HR review.  These digital watchdogs can be overcome through removing logos, symbols, shading, pictures and complex formatting. Use standard business fonts like Arial, Courier or Times New Roman in a 12-point font size. Consider removing unfamiliar and unnecessary content related to publications, affiliations and memberships. ATS programs are designed to process Microsoft Word docs, so avoid using a fancy PDF resume.

Connect with Keywords

Each industry and profession will have internal lingo, standard skills, expected certificates and core competencies. In order to ensure that the ATS and HR manager spend time on your resume, mirror the job ad’s wording. That is, incorporate the job ad’s specific vocabulary and phrasing into your resume and cover letter.  For example, a social media marketing professional may have excellent experience, but their resume may not make it past the ATS if they fail to add the company’s specific social media needs and skills. Be sure to use both the acronym and the full name of titles, certifications or organizations. This is because the ATS may be programmed to tag CRM and CPA, but not customer relationship management and Certified Public Accountant.

Career Objective vs Qualifications Summary

Traditional career objective sections are considered to be a waste because they are too general and vague. Stating that you are a hardworking professional who wants to work in a certain industry is already implied because you are applying for the job. As an alternative, use a qualifications summary full of ATS-friendly keywords. Even better, use five to six bullet-pointed sentences that succinctly summarize your skills, experiences and achievements. Focus on expressing how you will add value to the company without re-training and development. Consider re-writing work and education experiences so that they reflect key qualifications. For instance, avoid describing duties and performance because this may come across as menial or irrelevant. Try to numerically describe duties through performance rankings and percentage achievements.

Expand Your Education

Education is the second priority after relevant work experience. Current students or recent college graduates should highlight classes, projects and activities that apply to the target position and that demonstrate professional competency. Recent graduates may customize their resumes to highlight their degree’s usefulness and uniqueness. A computer programming major could focus on languages and certifications, just like a medical or dental assistant could focus on the evidence-based practices they learned at school. Job hunters can never have enough education. Returning to school may be time-consuming, but it is the wisest investment anyone can make to solidify their career stability and projected growth. Bear in mind that corporations and government agencies must use education levels to ensure equal employment opportunities.

Job seekers should consider creating an online portfolio of their work and accomplishments. This will increase accessibility, marketing visibility and professional competency. An online portfolio is the best way to extend your job application beyond redundant resumes and common cover letters. Online portfolios are also excellent organizational tools to centralize all of your professional documents and information.