HR managers want to find the right candidate for the position, so they rely on job seekers to put their best foot forward. To weed out applicants, recruiters may run your resume through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which relies on related keywords, not human input. Why?
What do Employers Look for When Scanning Resumes?
According to Indeed, employers take six to seven seconds to review a resume. If a position has a large number of applicants, recruiters will shortlist candidates by using technology or eye scanning techniques. For these reasons, employers will expect a certain flow in your resume.
It’s vital to know what employers will zone in on, so you can develop a resume that stands out. Thanks to a survey completed by Workopolis, we know that employers will scan for your:
- Current Employer
- Current Job Title
- Job Title Start and End Dates
- Previous Employer and Job Title
- Previous Job Title Start and End Dates
Although education is pressed as being essential to employers, the Workopolis survey found that less than 1% of keywords relate to specific education or degree type.
Related: Work 1-on-1 with an experienced writer and get a professional resume that lands you interviews
The Importance of Keywords
Speaking of keywords, hiring managers expect you to add keywords based around hard skills (like accounting, design, and reporting) that match the job description. For example, if you’re applying for a retail position, you must include “retail” at least once in your resume.
The experts at Jobscan have a keyword best practices article you have to read on the subject because you need to include a large variety of related keywords to pass ATS software. 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies currently use ATS, so it pays to get comfortable around keywords.
To see how ATS software will scan your resume based on your industry, use a resume keyword scanner. Both Jobscan and Skillsyncer have incredible free tools that help you get interviews.
Best Resume to land your Dream Job
To make those six seconds count, you’ll need to optimize your resume format, write a compelling summary, and include all relevant information in a logical way that bypasses ATS.
Choose the Right Resume Format
A resume template specifically designed for the position in question can increase the chance of getting that position you’ve been preparing for. However, you need to make sure the resume format you’re using reflects your education, experience, skills, and other factors appropriately.
There are three common resume formats to choose from:
You can use all formats for most industries, but reverse-chronological is often the best option among the available resume formats.
Why Use the Reverse-Chronological Format?
According to Jobscan, most recruiters prefer the reverse-chronological format because it requires less guesswork. Your experience will be laid out in an easy-to-understand manner that highlights your most recent job title, high-level skills, and most relevant accomplishments first.
The reverse-chronological format works for all industries and is set up as follows:
At the top of your resume, include your name, home address or location, email address, phone number, and social media links (LinkedIn). Your recruiters will look at your social profiles anyway, so make it easier for them to find you.
List your work experience starting from your most recent. Each position should include the company’s name and location and your job title, and start and end dates. Be consistent with your formatting style, aka, keep the same font size, highlight your job title, and stick to a date style (either MM/DD/YYYY or written).
List your education starting from the most recent. Include the name of the institution, degree, school location, and years attended. There’s no reason to add your GPA, as it could lead to discrimination, but you can include extracurriculars.
List your skills inside the work experience section. You don’t have to make a separate section, as you would with the functional or combination (hybrid) resume formats.
Why Use the Functional or Combination Format?
The functional resume format features a skill summary at the top, an accomplishment section below it, followed by work history and education. The combination resume format combines reverse-chronological and functional by highlighting both a candidate’s work history and skills.
A functional resume format may be optimal for new graduates with no experience, job seekers who have a large gap in their resume, or candidates who want to make a career change.
However, recruiters tend to dislike functional resumes because they conceal information and are often difficult to scan. Recruiters are more interested in your work experience than your skills.
If you add keyword-related skills within your experience, you’ll pull recruiter eyes and bypass the ATS, so it’s better if you stick with a reverse-chronological or combination resume format.
Write an Incredible Summary
A resume summary, located directly under your contact info and name, gives recruiters a good idea of what you’re looking for and why they should hire you. Remember that recruiters take short glances at your resume to see if you’re a perfect fit, so you need to perfect this section.
The goal of a statement is to narrow down your experience, skills, and value to four or six bullet points.
This isn’t easy to do, but you can maximize this part of your resume by:
Rereading the Job Description
See what your future employer is looking for. What do they want their candidate to bring to the table? How would you hire for this position?
Consider Your Top Selling Points
Name three or four things that define your professional career. Are you a sales master? Do you excel in customer service?
Think of How You Can Solve the Employer’s Problem
Need for a particular position, and how can your skills really help? Does your summary align with their pain points?
Name Your Career Highlights
Did you increase your company’s ROI? By how much? How does what you want intersect with what the company wants and needs?
Omit Certain Phrases
To keep your summary fresh, use action verbs and omit jobs or tasks you don’t like to perform. Don’t include skills that don’t relate directly to the job.
Here’s an example of a summary you can create using our best practices:
“Skilled SEO copywriter with 7 years experience working in marketing. Committed to producing exceptional and creative content, including internet content, articles, blog posts, whitepapers, brochures, and eBooks. Advocate of SEO integration to optimize click rates. Committed to broadening companies’ consumer bases by increasing public appeal through advertising copy.”
This summary works because it’s short, highlights the person’s accomplishments, and identifies the quality of their services. Plus, ATS software will be able to pull a lot of keywords from this.
Highlight Your Best & Key Skills
What does a hiring manager look for in a job candidate? It depends on the job. If you want to impress your next employer, you need to tailor your resume to every job you apply for.
Although it’s easier to use the same resume every single time, you may miss out on several job opportunities if you do this. Generic resumes can’t demonstrate your alignment with the job or emphasize that you meet the employer’s needs, which may leave you without an interview.
However, if you highlight your skills based on the job title, job description, and relevant ATS software keywords, you’re proving that you’re really interested in this new job opportunity.
This sentiment also applies to cover letters. According to Career Builder, 53% of employers think a resume isn’t enough, but only 47% of job seekers write cover letters. Career Builder also stated you should always write a cover letter, as it shows you’re willing to go that extra mile.
You can highlight your best skills by doing the following:
Choose a Standard Font
AI-friendly fonts, like Times New Roman, Calibri, and Helvetica in size 11 font will make you popular with recruiters.
Use the Right Tense
If you’re referring to an old job, always use past tense (organized). If you’re writing about a current job, use present tense (organizing).
Back up Your Achievements
Did you increase your company’s ROI? Instead of saying “increase company ROI,” say “increased ROI by 60%,” as employers can clearly see what value you can bring to their company.
Keep Your Resume Short
Your resume shouldn’t be longer than a page unless you’re a seasoned professional. Only include 1 or 2 past job titles.
Omit First-Person Pronouns
Instead of saying “I increased ROI by 60%,” say “increased company ROI by 60%.” This makes your resume sound more professional.
Brag a Little
It’s okay to say that you worked closely with a high-profile client or you were a senior executive’s right go-to person. Employers would love to hear it.
Consider the ATS System
ATS software can’t read information in headers and footers or pull words that are colored, on photos, or in charts. Custom bullet points and underlined and bolded text won’t be picked up by ATS, either.
Don’t forget to proofread your resume, even if you aren’t applying for an editing position! 59% of recruiters will reject a candidate because of a single spelling error or consistently poor grammar.