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How to Optimize Your Resume to Get Noticed

by Andrea Shemeley | A Creative Mind for Hire

A few weeks ago, I posted a short list of quick tips to help get your resume noticed by recruiters. That article sparked a discussion about the challenge of even getting a recruiter to open your resume in the first place. What if your resume isn't making the first cut?

The First Cut

What is the first cut, you ask? An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, is the first cut. ATS is resume screening software implemented by companies to make hiring easier on internal HR and recruiters. Hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes are submitted for a single job opening. In order to save time, and therefore money, most Fortune 500 companies employ ATS when filling a position.

Unfortunately, ATS can often be flawed which causes many highly-qualified job applicants to be rejected because their resume is not optimized properly for these resume tracking systems. Here are a few quick tips to get past the computers and seen by human eyes.

No Fancy Headers or Graphics (unless you are a designer)

Keep fancy headers and footers for your interview resume, they jam the algorithms implemented by ATS, and may get you rejected immediately. These days, you must have two resumes. Your digital resume— the one you submit online that has been optimized for ATS, and your interview resume— the one that is eye-pleasing, with a nice font that is easy to read.

DESIGNERS PLEASE NOTE: Most job postings for designers do not employ an ATS because of the often graphic, artistic approach taken to their resume. Along with my typographic content, my resume contains my logo, infographics communicating my skillset, elements from my personal icon set, and even a script font... my resume would be instantly rejected by tracking systems. Designers, take every opportunity to be creative, especially your resume.

Typography Matters

Choose your font wisely. Use sans-serif fonts (ie. Arial, Helvetica or Verdana), instead of serif fonts (where the letters have little feet) such as Garamond or Times New Roman. Some screening software will reject serif fonts. Also, avoid using a font size smaller than 10 pt. and don't center text.

Keywords Are Gods

Keywords are Gods in the world of resume optimization. If you do not display the same exact keywords that are listed in the job description, you may be rejected right off the bat.

In place of your Objective section (which is redundant and takes up too much space, so get rid of it) list your Core Skills in bulleted format (2 columns will give you space for 6-8 core skills). This new section will be tailored to fit each specific job application. It's much easier to change a few bullet points, than it is to write and rewrite sections of your resume in order to tailor it to each new job application.

Take the keywords straight from the job description and make sure they are listed in your Core Skills section which is now located under your name, so that is appears in the top third of your resume. Some systems are set up to boost resumes that have specific keywords high up on the page and multiple times throughout your resume. It is good practice to sprinkle specific keywords throughout your resume multiple times, to boost your position.

There Is a Method to the Madness

There are specific formatting rules you should implement before you submit your resume for your next job application. In the Experience section, avoid listing dates before the company and position you held. Listing dates first confuses ATS. Instead, begin with the name of the employer, your professional title and last, the date range.

Submit resumes in text format rather than PDFs or Word. Word causes a slew of parsing errors and PDFs often cause problems with even the less sophisticated tracking systems. Save your resume in text format. These tracking systems favor text format over the rest, for now.

Keep Your Chin Up & Optimize

Only 25% of all resumes submitted for any one position, are actually seen by recruiters and hiring professionals. If you want human eyes to view your resume, use these easy tips to optimize your resume and help you move past the resume screening software. Keep building your personal brand and industry authority by engaging both online and off.

Keep moving forward.

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