Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Résumé Tips for the Digital Age

When you are applying for a job, your résumé must command the attention of the first person who reads it. Unfortunately, it is increasingly likely that the first reader of your résumé won't be a person at all.

Companies are inundated with hundreds of résumés for many advertised positions and many companies are using technology to streamline résumé screening. Any time you submit a résumé, you should expect to have your resume scanned for keywords.

Many companies use applicant-tracking systems [ATS] to electronically sort and store the résumés they believe ‘worthy’ of taking up space in their databases. These systems search for keywords, sort the résumés, and give hiring mangers the ability to focus on the most promising candidates.

Although designing a résumé that will impress both a computer and human readers may seem intimidating, there are some basic “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that will help ensure that your résumé will not get tossed.

Choose the right keywords. Hiring managers and recruiters will use the applicant-tracking system to search for keywords related to the job they are looking to fill. To make your résumé rise to the top of the list, you need the right keywords.

Use variations of keywords. Some systems check how often a particular word or variation on a word is used. For example, if you are looking for a job in accounting, use both "accountant" and "accounting" throughout your résumé.

Use keywords smartly. Some résumés have a keyword section that simply lists keywords for the computer to pick up. Others include a keyword list in white text on white paper, so that it is read by the computer but not seen by a human reader. While theses tactics might help your résumé get pulled out and placed on the ‘worth reviewing” pile initially, these same tactics can hurt you when a human reader takes a look.

Make your job title generic. If most companies would call you a ‘business analyst’ but your current or former title was "process improvement specialist," consider listing "business analyst" on your résumé and putting your actual title in parentheses after it.

Don't go overboard.
While it is useful to have a list of key skills on your résumé, both for search engines to scan and to give human readers an idea of your strengths, be cognizant of the number of skills wherein you claim expertise.

Incorporate Hyperlinks. All job seekers should have an on-line presence. All hiring managers will take the time to search your name on the Internet before they call you in for an interview. Make it easy for hiring managers to search and/or contact you by including hyperlinks in your résumé.

Use text only. If you are asked to paste your résumé into a website text box, you use a text-only version of the document (ascii, or plain-text format). If you copy and paste from a Word document, some characters and formatting may not translate properly making your résumé illegible for both the computer software and people in charge of reading the document. You may want to save yourself some time by storing a copy of your résumé as a plain-text file and make any adjustments in that file before you paste the text.

Follow directions. Every applicant-tracking systems [ATS] system is different, so it is critical that you follow the directions on the site that is accepting your résumé.