It’s a well-known secret that bots are sifting through your resumes.
All that effort, all that energy, all that time spent fashioning the perfect application…it was for nothing, all because an Applicant Tracking System failed to identify you as a top priority candidate.
Large companies are increasingly reverting to ATS technology to scan thousands of resumes at a time and speed up recruitment efforts.
The downside is that even winning applications that don’t appeal to certain sweet spots prioritized by the machines are getting left by the wayside.
But don’t be disheartened! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The fact that we must harness the qualities of specificity favored by digital recruitment processes doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for being able to showcase our uniqueness or write a people-pleasing resume.
Instead, it’s a chance to bolster our applications to become more attention-grabbing, thorough and target focused.
And if there’s one way to get spotlighted by the bot, it’s to optimize your resume with keywords. The question is, where to place them?
The simple solution is to include an objective.
What is a resume objective?
Not to be confused with a ‘personal statement’ or ‘career summary’, an objective is a short, targeted introduction to your resume which immediately pinpoints you as the ideal candidate for the specific role that you are applying for.
The general concept for writing one is very easy. Think one or two lines of text that link your strongest skills or experience to the job at hand – that’s your magic formula. A good starting point would be to have a look at some examples.
When used correctly, the objective is a fantastic way to give a resume that extra edge needed to pick up on the requirements of an ATS system.
Let’s run through the top three types of critical keywords you should be using here to surpass the tricky tech and successfully impress a recruiting manager.
1. A matching word
The objective is meant to appeal to the specific, desired qualities laid out by the hiring company. So, first thing’s first – use the wording of the job advertisement.
The exact wording.
To take cue from Jobscan (the brainchild of Seattle-based James Hu, a website which endows jobseekers with knowledge of ATS algorithms), tweaking your skills and experience to suit the work that you are applying for is perfectly acceptable.
Say, for instance, that you want to highlight your adeptness at using Adobe Premier Pro, because the applicant specification favors those with knowledge of the software bundle Adobe Creative Suite – swap out ‘Pro’ for ‘Suite’!
Same goes for occupations. If you’re applying for a role in human resources, but state previous experience in ‘HR’, the ATS may still exclude you from results. By playing to matching keywords, your resume is far more likely to be picked up by a recruitment manager and get the attention it deserves.
2. An action word
Yep, we’re stripping it back to basics. Just like in elementary school, a cleverly used ‘action word’ is still your best friend – and can most certainly help to make the difference between giving off a bland or bold first impression.
This is because action words (verbs) immediately bring an objective to life. Verbs show targeted thought, and are a good way to centralize yourself as having played a proactive role in your professional development thus far. We want to demonstrate that the natural conclusion of this journey is to receive a job offer from the company!
Consider, for example, that you wanted to convey past experience of sales management and simply wrote that you were ‘responsible for increasing sales’. It’s impartial, boring – and unlikely to grab attention. ‘Developed a new sales strategy’ presents you in a far better light. The action word repositions you as innovative, forward-thinking, and renders your objective punchier and deserving of notice.
Just bear in mind that ATS systems are notoriously bad a picking up on tenses. While the meaningful use of verbs is highly encouraged, make sure not to miss out on matching words where you can use them. ‘Project manager’ (a keyword) may suffice better than ‘managing projects’ (verb), for instance.
3. A profile-enhancing adjective
Remember, the aim of the game here is to translate your skills and experience into an employer’s success. Don’t simply describe yourself in the objective – make sure that whatever you say is adding value to your profile.
Ok, yes, ‘value’ sounds very vague. What does this mean?
The biggest drawback of using a resume objective is running the risk of coming across as self-centered. By ‘value’, I’m talking about adjectives that you can use to invest your experience with drive and emotion so that hiring managers still get an impression of your enthusiasm without you having to big yourself up.
Rather than declare yourself as ‘an innovative and thoughtful web designer’, imbue your experience using similar adjectives. You might then say, ‘web designer with experience of solving complex technical issues, looking to deliver inspiring creative content’.
‘Complex’ and ‘inspiring’ both add value to the objective and improve your keyword count, without losing authenticity. The upshot? A larger likelihood of being picked up on by the ATS machine, and one impressed hiring manager.