Navigating the Resume Application Minefield

Craft a resume that clears the gatekeepers and lands in the hiring manager’s hands.

Ladders conducted a study finding that the average recruiter spends six seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if it’s worth a closer inspection. Translation: you have six seconds to make the right impression!

The recruiter isn’t the only gatekeeper you need to worry about. Before your resume reaches a human being, it will typically get screened by a piece of software known as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Here are 5 resume tips to help you get past these initial application gatekeepers.

Keep it clean Given the amount of time a recruiter spends reviewing a single resume, it’s best to submit a document that’s easy to scan. To do this, choose a clean-looking layout that incorporates white space. Avoid dense blocks of text. Save your bullets for the bragging points – your major contributions and accomplishments. Be consistent with your use of font and styles, bullet types, dates, headers and other problematic formatting.

Size matters

If you’re an entry-level professional, stick to a one-page resume that highlights your education, leadership skills and relevant internships, achievements and skill sets. Seasoned professionals should limit themselves to a two-page document that includes the past 15 years’ experience, listed in reverse-chronological order. Anything longer will not be read by recruiters.

Avoid ATS scramblers

Don’t include embedded tables, pictures or other images in your resume; this can confuse the ATS system and scramble your application. Additionally, don’t use the header or footer portions in the Word document for the same reasons. Create your resume heading outside of this area, at the top of your document.

Stay focused

Remember, your resume is part of your advertising plan. It shouldn’t read like a laundry list of your experiences and skills. Rather, it should clearly spell out what role you’re targeting and demonstrate why you’re qualified for such a position. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing content to describe your work experience and highlight your accomplishments. Use the professional summary of your resume to succinctly deliver your elevator pitch.

Include appropriate keywords

Before you craft your resume, review a number of postings that match your desired role, regardless of their location. Identify the common terminology and key phrases that routinely pop up in these descriptions, and incorporate them in your own resume. Not only will you look well-versed in your industry, but if your resume is published online, you’ll also enjoy highly-effective SEO. Carefully selecting the most-popular word variations will help you make it past the initial screenings – especially with an ATS – and on to the recruiter. Consider these tips before you edit your resume to help you make it past the screeners and on to the decision maker: the hiring manager. Looking for more help with your resume? Click on the following link to access Ladders’ library of resume advice.