Mobilize Your Professional Resume

Invest in a professional resume that will make it past any gatekeeper and outsmart applicant tracking software.

This week I want you to focus on one of the core marketing materials you’ll use during the job search – your resume.

When was the last time you printed out a job application and mailed it to an employer? While it’s not unheard of, it’s certainly not the norm these days. And chances are, you surf the web rather than open a newspaper when you want to find job listings.

Since job boards emerged in the late 90s, the way we search for and apply to jobs has radically changed. With just a few key strokes you have access to thousands of job posts from all over the world. Unfortunately, this also means you’re competing within a much larger, less-qualified pool of candidates. Your resume needs to not only speak to the recruiter and hiring manager; it must first make it past an electronic gatekeeper known as an applicant tracking system (ATS).

Below are five tips to help you craft a professional resume that will make it through the gatekeepers – human and otherwise – and impress the hiring manager.

1. Tell the right story

Research conducted by Ladders shows that recruiters spend an average of six seconds (!) looking at your resume to decide if you’re a fit. It’s incredibly important that you first clarify your job goals, and then build a resume that supports these goals. Highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments, and eliminate extra information that isn’t necessary. Don’t make the recruiter guess – spell out your goals and qualifications.

2. Include relevant buzz words

Incorporate common terms and key phrases that routinely pop up in job descriptions you’re interested in applying to (assuming you honestly have those skills). The ATS software is programmed to scan your application for specific buzz words to determine if you’re a likely fit for the role. You typically have to make it past that check point before a human will ever set eyes on your application.

3. Avoid a scrambled view

Don’t include tables or images in your resume and avoid using the actual Header and Footer sections of the Word document, as these will only confuse the ATS and scramble your application. When choosing your resume font, stick to ones that are easy to read and ATS-compatible like Arial, Tahoma, Cambria, and Book Antiqua. New Times Roman is fine too, though I normally avoid it because it’s so common. Stay away from Arial Narrow, Calibri, Georgia, and Garamond because they are incompatible with many ATS systems and can be difficult to read on mobile devices and tablets.

4. Control the communication

Make it easy for recruiters to contact you by including only one phone number and email address. I recommend using your cell phone since you have control over the voicemail, who picks up the phone and when. Use a professional email address such as Gmail, which won’t be considered outdated. Add in the URL to your LinkedIn profile (and personal website, if applicable). This will help control communication and steer the recruiter toward the right online profile.

5. Consider a professional re-write

Here at Ladders we say there are three things you should never do on your own: write your will, do your taxes, and write your resume. Even though I’m a certified professional resume writer, I’d turn to a colleague for a resume re-write because it’s hard to remain objective when you’re writing about yourself. And frankly, not all of us are born writers. Make the investment and hire a professional who can turn your laundry list of experiences into a story that supports your goals and outsmarts ATS software. You’re 40% more likely to land the job you want with one.

Use these tips to craft a resume that will help you land interviews. Next week, we’ll talk about using a smarter phone in the job search.