We have all been there — spending hours scrolling through job websites, endlessly tweaking your resume and sending it out to the company after company, checking your email every few hours only to be faced with an empty inbox. It’s enough to drive anyone up the wall, and after a while, you begin to doubt yourself. Questions like ‘what am I doing wrong’ and ‘am I just not good enough?’ get you down, and you start to reconsider that terrible offer you received weeks ago, the one where they are offering you half the salary you are qualified for.
You will be relieved to know that there may be a good reason your inbox situation is as hopeless as a bee in a hurricane. These days, many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sift through the large number of resumes they receive. Often, competent applicants are filtered out of the pool because of minor issues in their resumes. This means that your resume might not be seeing the light of day. Here are some tips and tricks to get your CV past those pesky bot filters and into the hands of an HR executive.
Choose a Simple Format
Horizontal formats work best, as an ATS scans resumes from left to right. If you’ve chosen an edgy-looking resume with vertical columns, the chances are that the system is skipping out on crucial information. Use bullet points to simplify your data. Although most companies accept PDFs and HTML formats, Word documents are recognized the best by these systems, so send out DOCs if possible.
“Pay special attention to experience level, location, and skills companies are asking for,” advises Nagaraj Nadendla, senior vice president in product development at Oracle. And he knows what he’s talking about, given that he designs ATS systems. “If a job description specifies ten years of experience and you only have five, you’ll quickly get moved to the bottom of the pile.”
Please avoid using acronyms and slang, as screening systems may not recognize them. Scan job adverts for keywords and standard terms and use these in your resume. Try to include three to five of these keywords in each section, but do not let this affect the readability or honesty of your CV. It may get you to pass the bots, but the human behind the desk will not be so easily fooled.
Now that your resume has reached human eyes, here are some tips to up your appeal.
Include Relevant Details and Present it Well
Things like past work experiences should be listed from current or latest employment, down to your first. This makes it easier for the reader to make sense of your job history. When describing your roles and responsibilities, be precise and detailed. Particularly when applying for a tech position, list projects you may have worked on. Include the project name and provide a summary of its goals and purposes. Emphasize your technical skills and describe how you applied these — and other transferrable skills — in executing your tasks. However, avoid going into too much detail. Include only what is necessary and avoid anecdotes and witty remarks. Keep your paragraphs short and concise; three to four lines long is ideal, and use double spacing for a more comfortable reading experience.
Knowledge and experience are essential, but what can set you apart from other candidates is what you have accomplished in your professional career. Whoever is hiring you will want to know what difference you have made in your current job because this clues them into your potential. Achievements can be measurable and immeasurable, so think about problems you have solved and why they were essential to the business.
Use a Well-Branded Headline
No, we are not talking about newspaper headlines. This is still your resume, after all. Your name and contact information should be at the top of the page. However, where traditionally you would then move on to a ‘Career Summary’ or a ‘Professional Profile,’ the trendier thing to do nowadays is to use a headline. What is your professional title? What is your expertise? What are your professional objectives? What area of Tech do you specialize in? This can be in bulleted statements, or it can take the form of a kind of mission statement, in a paragraph roughly three to four lines long. Think about what position you are applying for, what experience you have in your field, and what you would like your branding statement. Ideally, your ‘brand’ will be something you are passionate about in your line of work.
The text should be eye-catching, so use a bold font.
Let Them Know What Makes You Special
There are many qualified candidates out there, but what sets you apart from all of them? Think about professional credentials and affiliations, publications, presentations, and public speaking engagements. Keep it along career lines, in any case. Resumes can be big things, and you do not want to weigh them down further by including items such as community-based affiliations. Anything that will add professional value, distinction, and qualification to your future posting could be what nudges you over that finish line.