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How to Get Your Resume Past Online Screeners (Hint: Use Keywords)

Career

How to Get Your Resume Past Online Screeners (Hint: Use Keywords)

When was the last time you sent your resume to an actual human being to apply for a job? These days, many job seekers don’t encounter a real, live person until getting past an initial electronic screening round.

And because of that, some of the rules of resume writing have changed.

We asked career coaches and HR experts for tips on how to make your resume get past auto-screeners programmed to look for certain keywords, and then stand out once it meets human eyeballs.

Here are some adaptations to make to your resume — and some features to keep — to succeed in the world of online job searching.

The Old One-Page Rule Still Applies

Remember in high school when you first learned about resumes? Back then, lesson No. 1 was to keep your resume to one page.

That still applies, says Michelle Quinn, placement director for HireMinds LLC, a hiring and placement agency in Boston.

The one-pager, she says, is the first test of a person’s “ability to clearly articulate a wealth of information on a limited canvas.”

But, she says, if you think the stuff you have to leave off is still important for hiring managers to see, make a web copy and put it on your personal website and add a link to it.

Readability is Critical to Both Humans and Algorithms

Your resume must be easy to read, Quinn says.

“Don’t turn your resume into a .jpg,” she said. Keep it in .doc format or turn it into a PDF. Skip fonts that look like handwriting or scripts, as they can get muddy via electronic delivery.

Said another recruiter at HireMinds: “My personal preference is to receive a Microsoft Word document with simple formatting — meaning no graphics or photos. A text document is easy to upload to our database. If you want to showcase your design ability and work samples, the best place to do that is via your online portfolio, so be sure to include a link on your resume.”

Indeed.com suggests using a font like Arial or Times New Roman in size 10 or 12 for maximum readability. Also: Be aware of how much white space is on the document itself — too much makes your experience seem sparse, too little is overwhelming to the reader.

Play to the Keywords

Many job boards these days ask you to upload your resume and then “match” you to jobs that fit your experience and expertise. The key to getting those “matches” is keywords.

Keywords related to your past work and the work you’d like to obtain should be embedded into bullet points. For example, said Quinn, if you have expertise or knowledge of a specific software or technology platform, include those in your work experience and how you used them when you were in a specific job.

Another example: If you want to focus on UX and product design experience, talk about that instead of the furniture-making internship you completed sophomore year.

Adding a skills section can be another good way to call attention to specific skills and tools with which you have expertise, in addition to what you share in your work experience for each employer.

Remember, say the experts: The goal of a resume isn’t to get a job, it’s to land an interview for the job. No matter how your resume is designed, don’t overload it with extra, unnecessary information. Personal hobbies that showcase achievement are great to add, but something like “drinking craft beer” is not relevant.

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