I heard that a lot of companies use software to weed out "good" from "bad" resumes. How do those systems work and is there anything I can do to improve my chances of my resume getting through the system and into the hands of a real person?
It's true: Employers and hiring managers are turning more than ever to resume-screening software, thanks to the overwhelming number of job applications they get. It pays to know how these systems (called Applicant Tracking Systems or Automated Resume Screeners) work so you can make your resume more relevant to the job you're applying for. Here's a brief overview of how the software analyses your resume and what you can do about it.
Resume Screeners Score Resumes On Keyword Relevancy And Experience
- Your resume is run through a parser, which removes the styling from the resume and breaks the text down into recognised words or phrases.
- The parser then sorts that content into different categories: Education, contact info, skills and work experience.
- The employer's desired skills or keywords are matched against the results from above.
- Your resume is scored on relevancy — using semantic matching against the employer's search terms and your years of experience.
So, clearly, it's vital to include relevant text in your resume — but rather than just dump all the keywords from the job description in, for best results you'll need to employ a strategy. (Most savvy job applicants are likely using the same keywords in their resumes.)
How To "Hack" The Automated Resume Screeners
First, don't just focus on the keywords that are in the job description. Sophisticated resume screeners have gone beyond just keywords to look for semantic matches — related terms (e.g., not just CPA, but also accounting, audits, financial statements, etc.). Resunate co-founder Mona Abdel-Halim told me that this is how sites like Monster.com and others use technology to help employers find the best candidates (you can see Monster's concept-matching resume search engine here).
Prioritise the words in your resume. The Resume Help blog recommends auditing the job description to build a list of priority and secondary words to include:
Priority resume keywords: words used in the company's listed job title, used in the description headlines, used more than twice, called out as success criteria.
Secondary resume keywords: mention of competitor companies or brand name experience, keyword phrases (phrases surrounding priority keywords), notable industry qualifications (training, associations).
Consult an insider for help finding relevant words. It never hurts to get friendly with an HR manager or employer in your field — you can go straight to the source and ask them if they could either look over your resume or suggest what kinds of experience/skills they look for in a candidate.
Another possible contact to make is a person in a position similar to the one you'd like to have. LinkedIn, which is can be a great resource for job hunters, might be the best place to make these connections, especially in the industry groups forums.
Pepper all the job-related words across your resume. As the screeners also factor in the depth of your skills (i.e., analysing your length of experience), it's also important to place those important words, where appropriate, throughout your resume, in all job positions if possible. Order your bullets in descending order of relevancy to the job description, Abdel-Halim advised.
Create a relevant category expertise section. Make sure your resume matches the special categories for the job you're applying for. Resume Help gives these examples:
Companies are looking for specialists, not industry generalists, so identifying a category match is a critical first step. One way to do this is by creating a separate section in the top one-third of your online resume that captures the relevant category expertise.
Examples of generic category expertise: Management, Operations, Communications, Marketing.
Examples of specific, relevant category expertise: Client Relationship Management, Revenue Growth, Risk Management, Negotiation, CRM Program Development.
Don't use photos on your resume. Background images and photos might trip up the system, making your resume unreadable.
Use bulleted lists, not paragraphs, to describe your work. Resume screeners may have a harder time separating long paragraphs. (Bulleted lists are also easier on human eyes.)
Use social networks to enhance your resume. Some resume screeners add other features to check up on you. Reppify, for example, checks your social network posts and how you use sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. So make sure what you post on those networks vibes with what you say on your resume.
Finally, don't forget the basics: Make sure your resume includes all the job requirements. Your resume should address all the listed job requirements, such as years of experience and education.
Don't forget, of course, that the ultimate goal will be to get your resume in the hands of a real human. Luckily these tips should also help your resume's chance of getting past human screeners and hopefully land you an interview.
So while there are a lot of ways to get a job, if you're concerned that your resume may never actually end up in anyone's hands, these suggestions are a good starting point. Good luck!
Got your own tips for strengthening a resume and making it more relevant? Help job hunters in the comments.