Applying to big brandname companies can feel like throwing a pebble into an ocean. How can one stand out when so many people apply for the same job? On average, every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes, but only 4 to 6 of these people will be called for an interview. To stand out, candidates need to follow these tips in order to get past the candidate filtering software and in front of recruiters.
How can candidates stand out to recruiters with 250 competing applicants? Read this:
The Resume is Alive and Well
Custom websites, portfolios and showcase documents can be a great way to add extra flair to the candidate package...but they do not replace the resume. Resumes continue to be the industry baseline in which hundreds of applicants can be compared to the same standard. Despite all the latest trends for candidates to show off their skills, resumes still reign supreme when it comes to communicating experience, education and work history.
Need more info? 8 Fail-Proof Ways to Optimize Your Resume's Format for the ATS
“Resumes are a universally accepted tool because it’s easy for recruiters to absorb, compare and contrast. Employers have created entire systems to manage and evaluate resumes quickly, they have a vested interest in keeping them.” -Elena Bajic @elenabajic, Founder of Ivy Exec and Contributor on Forbes
"Employers have created entire systems to manage and evaluate #resumes quickly, they..." @elenabajic
The Machines That Read Resumes
Large companies have departments dedicated solely to recruiting and hiring, but that doesn’t mean a human reads each resume. 75% of hiring and talent managers use either applicant tracking or recruiting software to improve their hiring process and over 95% of large companies and over 50% of mid-sized companies use an ATS.
Applicant tracking systems are used to comb through the digital piles of candidate documents for relevance and qualification. The ATS is programmed by the hiring manager to match resumes based off of the job description. The main point for candidates to understand is to make their resume as easy to analyze by a computer as possible. This means homogenous formatting, simple language and universal formatting. By formatting the resume with a machine reader in mind, the chances of getting through the first stage is increased.
- Do choose a common and simple sans-serif font like Arial, Calibri, Open Sans, Tahoma or Times New Roman
- Do repeat the usual section headings like “Qualifications, Education, Experience and Skills”
- Do save as a Word document instead of a PDF
- Do spell out in addition to listing acronyms (example: “Masters of Business Administration (MBA)”
- Do write out the full year (example: “2014-2017”)
- Don’t add in extraneous images, styling, symbols and shading
- Don’t miss any typos
Pro Tip: There are numerous resume generators and makers which can help with formatting, spelling, keywords and overall professionalism of the document.
What About Keywords?
Since resumes are programmed based off of the job description, start there when drafting the body of your resume. Each resume should be customized to the specific job to which you are applying. The ATS will be looking for words and phrases as key points of evaluation. For example, if the position calls for “CRM software,” the resume should match those exact words.
If you are unsure about what words the ATS may be looking for, look to the job advertisement itself. As in the example above, if it lists a specific software, you should list that in your resume. If it says MBA preferred, put down your business school experience, even if you didn’t graduate. If the job advertisement says Excel experience, don’t just say Microsoft. If the job advertisement describes a marketing job as sales support, ensure those words appear in your description of past experience.
Do: Focus on hard skills on the resume. These are more easily digested by the ATS and are usually a baseline qualifier for the position. Soft skills aren’t as easily quantifiable and are better suited for interviews.
Pro Tip: Tools like http://www.wordle.net/ and http://tagcrowd.com/ help figure out keywords. Insert the job description into one of those and add those keywords throughout your resume. Looking through various job boards can help you see different job advertisements and even scan a few resumes to see which are the most “search-friendly.”
In Human Hands
Once past the software, the human aspects of the applicant can shine through. This does not mean a recruiter or hiring manager will take ten minutes to comb through each line of the resume to gauge experience and fit. In fact, seconds is more like it.
Since three seconds goes by quickly, ensure you make a strong impression. Provide a qualifications summary at the top of the resume that highlights your most relevant skills for that specific position.
Instead of posting an “Objective,” use the white space available to provide a succinct two to three sentence qualification and fit summary. Remember, it’s not just about the job you want but what you bring to the job. This way, without having to read the full document, the hiring manager can tell within the first couple of seconds what you bring to the table that other applicants might not.
By inserting keywords, keeping formatting and language simple and mirroring back the job description, your resume can make it past technology and into human hands.
Some applicant tracking systems can be frustrating for job seekers, but all of them ensure the right person is being interviewed for the right job. For those applicants that wouldn’t quite fit, the ATS saves both the candidate and the recruiter time and effort. If an ATS could help your company hire more efficiently, check out ClearCompany’s software solutions.
As ClearCompany's HR Business Partner, Laura focuses on all things HR including managing employee benefits, onboarding and engagement initiatives. With a keen focus on best-practices, she serves as a strategic partner to the leadership team by acting as a trusted resource on a wide variety of human resources topics including policy interpretation, creating and recommending enhancements to the HR process, and career development.