Last week, we held a webcast with three of the contributors from Find Your Fit, which was published on October 20. We had many questions from the participants—and couldn’t get to all of them within our timeframe. So, we’ve included responses to some of the most common questions from the participants.
1. Sometimes I think that the automated application systems filter through resumes only using keywords. Are there any suggestions for tweaking your resume for these systems so it gets to the right person?
There are many applicant tracking systems (ATS). And, yes, they use keywords that match the job description. So, you must tweak your resume each time to make sure it contains keywords that describe the skills, experience, and qualifications that are in the job posting. Use the same wording in the job posting, or your resume will not be selected. This advice assumes that you possess the skills and qualifications required for the job. It’s not enough to throw keywords on the page if you don’t have accomplishments and experience that support them. You don’t have to have 100 percent of the qualifications, but pay close attention to anything they list as required. Those are typically the qualifications that will screen you in or out.
Another thing to note is that ATS systems can be easily confused by different fonts, colors, and graphics. So, make sure that you have a plain text resume to use for online applications. Chapter 8 in Find Your Fit covers this in detail.
Finally, the best way to get your resume noticed is to follow up about four to six days after you have applied. Try to find the name of the recruiter or hiring manager at the company. Reach out to your LinkedIn network and other channels to find people who work or used to work at the company and ask if they are willing to let the recruiter know that you are interested in the job. Having someone refer you is truly the best way to get the recruiter to search for your resume.
2. Any suggestions on resumes for experienced workers, such as how much experience to include?
The key here is to include relevant experience for the type of job you are pursuing. If you are looking at a job that requires experience that you acquired more than 10 years ago, most employers will think your experience is out of date. However, showing 10 years is often not enough. I typically go back 15 to 20 years to include experience that is pertinent to the current job search. If you want to highlight older experience, include it in the summary section on page 1 as described below.
3. How can I highlight some of my older experience on page 1 of my resume? Can you provide an example of how to do this?
I typically include a header with the candidate's name and contact information and a headline such as Accomplished Certified Public Accountant or Performance-Driven Sales Manager, and then I highlight and showcase expertise in a summary section. Expertise can include the software you know how to use, the skills you possess, and any certifications you have earned. This section allows recruiters and hiring managers to immediately see who you are and what you know. Because I recruit for my clients in addition to doing career services, I know that recruiters have only about 20 seconds to decide to proceed with a resume. We have short attention spans because we review a large quantity of resumes daily, so you need to make it easy for them to see that you are a good fit for the job.