Finding a new job can be tough, tedious and frustrating, especially in today’s job market.
Most job openings attract hundreds of applications. These applications flood the desks of employers. Employers who are, then, tasked with sorting through hundreds of resumes for just a single job listing.
To ease the burden on hiring managers, most companies have integrated applicant tracking systems. These systems are meant to weed out the weak resumes before they reach the desks of the employers.
These systems are usually called applicant tracking systems (ATS) and they are incredibly prevalent in mid-to-large companies.
Integrating ATS makes it a lot easier for companies to find the applicants they are targeting. It also makes it a lot harder for the applicants to ensure that their resumes have a chance to be seen by human eyes.
Fear not! With the correct recipe, it’s possible to ensure that your resume gets past the applicant tracking system and into the hands of human hiring managers.
Resumes need to stand out not only to humans but automated tracking systems as well. Writing a resume that stands out in today’s job market is a lot tougher than it was in the days when humans were the first line of applicant screening.
To ensure that your resume stands out from the crowd, it’s important to tailor it not only to be easy-to-read and nice looking to the human eye, but also to pass the applicant tracking system screening used by the vast majority of companies to weed out subpar resumes.
There is a new need to make your resume stand out to applicant tracking systems as well as hiring managers. This need makes resume creation a balancing act of beauty, practicality, keywords, formatting, and plain old getting-the-point-across.
Let’s go over some of the can’t-miss tricks to getting your resume past the screening systems while keeping it attractive enough to warrant attention after it reaches the hiring manager’s desk.
To best understand how to make your resume stand out to human employers AND ensure that it passes the applicant tracking system, it’s important to understand what each one is looking for.
Luckily, applicant tracking systems were created with human practicality in mind, so there are many areas in which best practices for selection overlap.
Even after your resume makes it through the applicant tracking system, most employers spend 8-10 seconds reviewing each resume.
For this reason, it’s incredibly important to put your most valuable information in easy-to-read formatting. It’s also very important to place the information that you really want to stand out in the right locations, or else it still may never be seen.
The following are a few important steps you should take to help ensure that your potential employer will see all the information you want them to see without compromising your resume’s chances of surpassing the ATS:
You may have, far and away, the best resume for the position you are applying for. However, if your information isn’t easy to sort through, it won’t be noticed and will be tossed aside with all the others.
For this reason, organization of information is incredibly important.
Organize and split up your resume into clearly-labeled sections so your potential employer will know exactly where to find the information that’s most important to them.
Remember, make your section headers obvious both in placement and labeling. You don’t want employers to throw your resume aside just because they can’t locate the information they’re looking for.
In addition to making it easy on the human eye, you also need to remember that many ATS rely on section headers to parse your information. You don’t want to confuse the machine.
Again, if you organize and label correctly, the reader will know exactly where to find the information they care about. If they can’t find the important stuff right away, they will simply move on to the next resume. Make sure to clearly and neatly label each section header to let the reader know where to find the information they need.
Don’t try to be original with your headings, you will only confuse the ATS and probably humans too. Stick to the classics: “Experience”, “Education”, “Skills”, etc.
The following is a wonderful example put together by the professional writers at zipjob.com:
Your resume’s font is incredibly important because it is the very first thing that the reader will notice. It sets the tone for the resume and is used to convey the purpose of your application.
Think about it: do you read comic books and text books the same way, in the same tone?
Of course not, so why would it be a good idea to use comic-style, goofy fonts on a professional document?
The most important thing to aim for when choosing a font are:
This is where a problem arises in which fonts that may be easy-to-read for humans are not always the best fonts to use to bypass the applicant tracking system.
To ensure that most applicant tracking systems are able to read your resume, it’s important to use a basic, non-fancy font. Keep the color black, make sure that you avoid underlining anything, and avoid any special characters such as fancy bullet points, ampersands etc.
For the humans, keep the font size above 11 at all times and try not to go any bigger than 14 except for headers.
It’s also important to note that, while some fonts are professional looking and great for ATS, they may fail to help your resume stand out.
For example, Times New Roman is easily scanned by ATS and looks simple and professional. Yet, it’s incredibly common and may look stale to a hiring manager who’s just looked through 15 other resumes with the same font.
Using a font like Verdana or Arial will maintain the professional feel and automated readability, but will also give your resume a unique feel. This article discusses some additional fonts you can use.
The skill section is one that may sound easy. Think about it, you’re pretty much just making a list of things that you’re able to do particularly well. Everyone knows what they’re good at, right?
It’s very important to note that skills can be categorized into more specific skills or “hard skills” (computer programming, mechanical engineering, languages), or less specific skills or “soft skills” (communication, team work, conflict resolution).
One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to differentiate between their “soft” skills and their “hard” skills or failing to provide enough of one or the other.
Pay attention to job listings and adjust your skills to better match the listing you’re applying to.
If the role is particularly technical, weigh your skill section towards your applicable hard skills.
If the role is something like sales or account management, make sure to include key soft skills like “communication” or “organization”.
The skill section is also your best chance to make sure you match your resume’s keywords with the keywords required by the ATS.
You can also check out this post on skills on a resume.
Look at the skills mentioned in the job description, if you have any of them and left them out of this section, get them in there. This is super important for getting through the applicant tracking system. It’s also very important in showing the employer that you have the basic skills necessary to be successful. You can check out this post on keywords for your resume.
For the humans, make sure your skills are organized by category, even though you don’t need to label or separate those categories. For example, first, list all of your computer skills and then continue the list with your known languages. Start with your hard skills and then list a few soft skills.
There are certain professions where it’s best to put the skill section at the top. For example, if a job requires extensive technical skills, it’s best to put your strengths pertaining to those skills at the top of your resume.
There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the importance of the length of your resume.
Traditionally, resumes were supposed to be one page, no exceptions. Whether you’re a fresh college grad or a seasoned CEO, you were expected to limit your resume to one page.
While keeping your resume concise and to-the-point is very important, it’s even more important to convey everything that might be relevant to your potential employer.
If that means going over one page, that’s just fine!
Try to put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. If you had limited time to sort through large piles of resumes, what would make it easier for you?
For one…simplicity. Every sentence should make a clear point. Get rid of the fluff. Make sure your objective is clear after just a 10-second glance (because that’s probably how long you get).
You’d be hard-pressed to find an employer who is going to sit there and read through an entire paragraph on a resume, plus, the ATS is only going to find keywords.
Get to the point.
A few introduction sentences can be effective, but only if kept very brief and only if they immediately make it clear who you are as a professional and what your professional goals are.
Anything more than a couple sentences is going to be ignored.
Be specific about your most important skills and avoid cliché terms like ‘team player’ or ‘hard worker’. Make every word attention-grabbing to ensure the reader is compelled to move on to the rest of your resume.
In short, get to the point.
And now, the most important thing to keep in mind…
Read the job description thoroughly!
Make sure to edit your resume to best reflect the skills and qualities mentioned in the job description. This will help your resume match the keywords required by the applicant tracking system. In addition, it will also help it stand out to the employer.
A great way to make your resume easy-to-edit is to include a “core competencies” section. A section in which you list some of the responsibilities common throughout your work history. That way, you can reword or add relevant competencies that best match the description for each specific job.
For example, a software engineer may include a competency, “software development life-cycle”. This is something central to most jobs one would apply for in the industry and is likely to match the job description for many listings. This is an indication that it is likely important in bypassing the ATS filters. Include 6-8 of these and manipulate them to best match the job description.
-Balance the attractiveness of your resume to fit the desires of both the ever-prevalent applicant tracking systems as well as the eyes of the human hiring managers
– Good organization makes it easier for ATS and humans to quickly locate relevant information. If they can’t locate it, you may as well just leave it out.
– Use traditional titles for your sections. Otherwise, you may confuse the employer. “experience”, “education”, “skills” is a great place to start
– A traditional looking font like Times New Roman is acceptable, but not the best
– You want your resume to stand out while still looking professional.
– Use a font similar to Arial or Verdana – professional fonts that are not overused.
– Include a balance of soft and hard skills.
– Use this opportunity to match keywords to the job description.
– Organize your skill list by category (no need to label categories; only the order matters)
– The traditional one page is great, but no longer necessary.
– Most recruiters agree that two pages are fine.
– BUT only if your information is concise and to-the-point
-Ease of readability is incredibly important.
-NO long paragraphs; if you include a summary, limit it to a couple of concise sentences.
-Get to the point.
Today’s job market is more competitive and more complicated than ever. The combination of high volume listings, applicant tracking systems, and a highly competitive market make it important to use every trick in the book to get yourself noticed by potential employers. Resume building is more complicated than it’s ever been. Not only do we need to impress the potential employers, we now need to impress their machines as well. Luckily, machines are predictable. If we use the right tools, techniques, and resources, we can bypass these systems and give ourselves the best chance of landing that dream job.