How to Write a Resume Computers Will Notice

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Growing up, your parents may have told you getting a job was simple. You may have heard that asking to speak to the manager of a local business and giving them a firm handshake was what would be required. That may have been true at one time. But these days? You have to face background checks and drug tests. Applications and other materials have to be polished and primed. And if you don’t know how to write a resume that will get past automation software, don’t expect many calls for interviews.

In today’s job market, your resume needs to be tailored. But not just tailored to match the job description. Your resume needs to be tailored specifically to beat filters. That begs the question: How to write a resume that shows you’re the perfect fit and also beats the computers? It’s tricky, but it can be done. First, you’ll need to take a lesson from Sun Tzu, the philosopher, general, and strategist behind The Art of War. That lesson? Know your enemy. Or, in this case, research and get an idea of what you’re up against. To beat the computer, you need to know what it’s looking for.

Beat the Computers

The objective of screening software (or applicant tracking systems, ATS) is to weed people out. Essentially, it acts as the first barrier to separate the wheat from the chaff — or, the qualified from the unqualified. It’s designed to save on costs and act as an artificial intelligence. Instead of paying a human to sort resumes by hand, companies use an ATS at the initial stage to quickly and efficiently winnow the candidate pool.

Given that the average human recruiter only looks at a resume for six seconds, it’s hard to say whether your odds improve with an actual person calling the shots.

So, your goal is to hurdle that initial barrier. To do so, you need to know what the computer is looking for.

If you’ve spent any amount of time writing or working with computers before, you know that a few things are key. First, brevity and simplicity. If you were going to search Google, for example, you’d do so with as few words as possible. You’re looking for hits on keywords or phrases to get the best results. The same is true with an ATS.

You’ll also want to keep things relatively simple. It’s a computer you’re trying to impress. That computer breaks everything down to 1s and 0s, which is about as simple as it gets. Also, aim for density. You want the text to be brief, simple, and packed with relevant information.

Using that as a starting point, you can piece things together.

How to Write a Resume: A Primer

Formatting

Formatting means the basic layout of your resume. Again, because you’re trying to exploit a machine’s weaknesses, you need to make it easy for the machine to read. When it comes to formatting, that means keeping things conservative and simple. Do away with objective statements or professional summaries — they’re only muddying the waters.

Aim for a straightforward resume, in the traditional style. That should include your personal information at the top, your relevant work experience and history, education, and your relevant skills.

Keywords

Keywords are incredibly important. The ATS is looking for certain words and phrases in your text, so make sure they’re there. Use basic SEO principles, and make sure that you’re using the job description as a guide. If the job description mentions teamwork and communication skills, then you need to mention your teamwork and communication skills. Tailor your writing to match what the employer has laid out. Don’t lie, of course, but do your best.

Don’t go overboard with keywords, however. If your resume is unreadable because it’s stuffed with keywords and phrases, the system will know it’s being cheated.

Watch for Mistakes

Finally, make sure your finished document is mistake-free. Use spellcheckers and tools like Grammarly.com to point out any glaring problems. This is when you actually get to use the computers for your own benefit. If your resume is filled with grammar and spelling mistakes, the ATS is probably going to get jammed up. It’s not going to recognize misspelled words, and think you’re spouting nonsense. And just like a human screener, it’ll probably send your resume to the recycle bin.

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.

[Editor’s note: Many employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process, so it’s a good idea to know what’s in them and to dispute any errors that may be weighing you down. You can see your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.]

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The Big Resume Mistakes That Can Kill a Good Job Opportunity

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There is a line in the novel “Anna Karenina,” that says, “be bad, but at least don’t be a liar, a deceiver.”

Tolstoy most likely didn’t intend for that to be applied to the working world, but it does. And it’s something more people should probably take note of. In fact, a recent survey conducted for CareerBuilder, an online job board, found that 77% of human resources (HR) managers reported discovering a lie on a resume.

While many outright lies were spotted, those surveyed also noted that they discovered several errors on resumes they received. These were two of the most notable.

  • An applicant’s name was auto-corrected from “Flin” to “Flintstone.” His name was Freddie.
  • An applicant stated they had great attention to detail, but “attention” was misspelled.

Some other resume cringe-worthy blunders reported in the survey included:

  • An applicant listed a skill as “taking long walks.”
  • An applicant claimed he would work harder if paid more.
  • An applicant wrote the following at the end of their resume: “I didn’t really fill this out, someone did it for me.”
  • An applicant used a resume template with cats in the corners.
  • An applicant listed smoking under hobbies.

Methodology

To gather this information, CareerBuilder used Harris Poll to survey 2,153 hiring and HR managers ages 18 and older. All those surveyed were full-time employees who are not self-employed and do not work for the government. The survey, which was conducted from May 11 to June 7, 2016, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.11 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, according to the press release.

What Employers Really Want to See

The survey reported that more than two in five hiring managers spend less than a minute looking at a resume, with nearly one in four saying they spend less than 30 seconds. To stand out, 63% of those surveyed said they are more likely to pay attention to a resume that is customized to the role they’re applying for, while 41% said they look at those with skill sets listed first. Other items that caught their eye is when a cover letter is included, an application is addressed to the specific hiring manager and a resume includes a link to a candidate’s blog, portfolio or website.

It’s also important to remember that many employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process and your credit is certainly something you can’t fib your way around. So, it’s a good idea to take a look at your credit reports and get an idea of what’s on there — and to dispute any errors that may be weighing you down. You can see a free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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10 Free Classes You Can Take to Build Your Resume

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The Resume Booster That Only 30% of People Use

Polishing your resume and LinkedIn profile may be part of what you do when searching for a new job. But if you are only covering your professional and educational experience in these snapshots of your work history, you may be missing out.

At least that’s what a new survey found. The Deloitte Impact Survey, released on Thursday, found 82% of those who influence hiring decisions said they are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience — but only one in three resumes in the United States cite volunteer work.

The survey polled more than 2,500 respondents in 13 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., targeting those who are currently employed and either have hiring influence or are directly in charge of hiring. A large majority of respondents (92%) felt volunteering expands a candidate’s skill sets while 86% said putting volunteer time on a resume ultimately makes a candidate more competitive.

“Despite volunteering’s well-documented benefits in the workplace … the survey results seem to indicate that there may be a disconnect between employees and businesses about volunteering’s role in the workplace,” Doug Marshall, director of corporate citizenship at Deloitte Services LP, said in a press release.

Preparing for a Job Search

If you’re searching for a job and don’t list your volunteer work on your resume, you may want to consider doing so. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report, as some employers check a version as part of their application process. (You can get your annual credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.)

Though employers don’t check credit scores, it’s a good idea to monitor those, too. A sudden change, such as a drastic drop in your scores, could signal a problem like identity theft. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

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