You’ve worked hard to establish a distinguished career. You worked hard to craft a resume to match. But all of the effort could be undone by something as seemingly insignificant as the dates on your resume.
Little noticed on the paper document, the dates on your resume — specifically the ones attached to your job descriptions — are vital to the electronic data gathering systems, called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), that most large employers and online job boards use to store and sort your resume. If you don’t include dates of employment or render them exactly as the computer expects to find them, it may skip over your jobs altogether, and the recruiters using the software may never see your resume.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a technical whiz to avoid these problems. The three most common mistakes that could keep your resume hidden from recruiters are also the easiest to fix.
I am the principal search architect at TheLadders, where we have reviewed thousands of resumes and fixed hundreds of the very issues we describe below. I am sharing some of these simple “secrets” with you, the job seeker, so that you can ensure your information is out there and available to be searched. Read the three tips and real examples below to be sure your resume is in compliance before you post it anywhere or apply for another job. Remember, you can’t be a star if you can’t be seen!
First, look over each of your jobs at each company. Have you had more than one position at a single company and listed each separately? Then make sure you’ve associated dates with each. Without dates, the ATS will read them as a single job and won’t recognize the progression you made at the company.
It will also recognize only the one title attached to the original date. If the recruiter is asking the ATS to return resumes for applicants who held a specific title and you buried the title without a date, the recruiter will likely never know you exist.
For each position, even if you do not repeat the company name, you must add the dates for the job to be seen by the parser.
Consultants often add dates to specific projects they note on their resume (“ Storage system integration, 9/2008”), and salespeople love to showcase sales results by date (“Increased sales volume 33% from 6/2009 to 11/2009”). But doing so tells the ATS it’s a separate job entirely.
It is best never to use dates inside the description of a job. Often you will find those dates are not essential to communicating the achievement you wish to describe. If you feel you must, try to write around the dates or spell them out in text form without using numbers (“June two-thousand eight” or “second Quarter of two-thousand nine” ).
Now that you have dates for every job (and only every job), make sure the dates are written the way a computer wants to read them.
Avoid “extra material” in date ranges. For example, avoid “summer,” “winter,” and so on. Express the ranges in terms of months and years, preferably in numbers (such as 6/2009).
Make sure that you use “current” or “present” to represent your current employer (“6/2009 to present”) instead of terms like “today” or “now.”
Congratulations, you are finished! These three simple steps go a long way to ensure your resume is among those the recruiter sees when she enters a search into the online job board or the ATS software at her company.
Good luck and happy hunting from The Ladders Search Team.