Five Steps to Building a Resume that Gets Noticed

up stepsIn most sectors of the economy, jobs are scarce and because of the high unemployment rate the jobs that are available are receiving significantly more applications. In fact, it’s not uncommon for new jobs at well known companies to receive several hundred resumes.

Most companies do not have the manpower to handle that kind of volume. So they’ve turned to technology that automates the initial review of resumes.  These systems are known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems are designed to scan, match and score your resume so that hiring managers receive the resumes of only the most qualified candidates.

While these systems simplify the selection process for organizations – they add a layer of complexity for the resume writers.

Why?

Because your resume has to cater to two distinctly different “audiences” -

  1. an ATS that is searching your resume for job relevant keywords and phrases and -
  2. a hiring team (HR and line managers) that will evaluate your resume for the requisite skills and experience

It can be very difficult to get your resume past an ATS. However, if your resume succeeds in getting past these systems, the chances are much greater that you’ll be selected for an interview.

So what do you need to do to build a scanner friendly resume?

  1. Develop a list of relevant keywords – Keywords are nouns or noun phrases that identify the skills unique to your profession or industry.  Unfortunately, there is no exact science when it comes to identifying key words but there are some strategies you can use to discover them: Job descriptions, Professional association websites, Recruiters that specialize in your field, Company websites, Occupational outlook handbook, Industry magazines, Annual reports.
  2. Use a Standard Heading – This must include: Your First Name, Your Last Name, Address, Phone Number and Email address. Why? An ATS is designed to capture information in fields in that order. If your heading displays other data such as a career objective or job title, the risk is increases that it won’t be scanned properly thus lowering its chances of getting through to a hiring decision-maker.
  3. Build a key word rich summary - Use the key word list you developed in step one to build your summary. The summary should immediately follow your heading and it must consist of several brief statements that highlight your most noteworthy qualities, achievements and skills.  Tailoring every word in this section will enable you to make it keyword rich.  A well written summary typically includes some key career highlights, such as years of experience, unique mix of skills, range of environments in which you have experience, significant professional accomplishments, awards and promotions.
  4. Use Standard Fonts: ATS software systems are designed to match characters scanned from your resume with standard letter shapes. That makes it imperative that your resume be formatted with a font that these systems can easily recognize. In fact, font choice is the single most important factor in creating a scanner friendly resume. The most effective typefaces are Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Verdana and Courier.
  5. Format properly to maximize performance:
    • Use standard paper size 8-1/2 x 11; printed on one side
    • Use no more than two fonts in sizes between 10 and 12 points
    • Use lots of white space and headings to enhance readability
    • Headings should be either Bold or ALL CAPITALS.
    • Don’t italicize – as it causes confusion to scanners
    • Don’t use underlined text – again, confuses the scanner
    • Avoid using vertical lines, graphics, shading or boxes
    • Place your name and contact details in the header so that it appears on every page
    • Write your descriptions with a focus on accomplishments rather than tasks
    • Ensure that there are no typos

Your resume is the most important weapon in your job search arsenal. It must be refreshed periodically to ensure that it is adapted to the latest technologies and preferences of your target companies.

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Mantel Featherson
Mantel Featherson is the Founder of The Labor Academy - a career development learning community that helps professionals become successful employees and entrepreneurs. Learn more at www.laboracademy.org and follow him on Twitter - @laboracademy