If you feel like the job search landscape isn’t what it used to be, you’re not alone. Not long ago, your best shot at getting a job might have been dropping a physical copy of your resume in the hiring manager’s hands. Today, that may not even be possible—and it’ll often hurt your chances rather than helping them.
Companies are putting more time and effort than ever into their recruitment marketing processes, but your resume will have to get through the early screening stages before you can really be considered. Here’s how to optimize your resume to stand out.
1. Be concise
In general, cut back on text as much as possible. Make sure each word, phrase, and sentence across your resume is adding valuable information for recruiters. This tip sounds simple, but recruiters are extremely busy people who are often managing several job postings at once.
Make their jobs easier by keeping your resume simple and focused. Use headings and bullets to call out the most important information and help recruiters navigate your resume quickly.
2. Use common keywords
Next, make sure to use common keywords across your resume. Most of today’s companies will run your resume through an ATS (applicant tracking system) before a recruiter or hiring manager ever gets involved.
The ATS is looking for specific keywords that the company has identified in alignment with the position. If you have enough of those keywords, you’ll likely move forward. If not, you won’t. With that in mind, use common terms and phrases that anyone in your industry would be familiar with.
Better yet, look back at the job description and mimic the terminology that the company uses when describing the role. Just don’t stuff your resume with keywords to try to trick the ATS. Recruiters can see right through this tactic, and it may hurt your chances later if you don’t have the skills you’re listing.
3. Link to supplemental material
Since the goal is to keep your resume as concise and value-packed as possible, you may be wondering where to share more detailed information. The answer is to include links to your supplemental material, like a portfolio site or social media page.
Sharing these outside pages gives recruiters the option to see more of your work if they’d like while keeping your resume itself streamlined. Just don’t actually set up a hyperlink in the resume—links don’t always play nice with the ATS software we mentioned above. Instead, spell out the URL, but don’t make it clickable.
4. Keep design elements minimal
While you may be tempted to brand your resume with over-the-top designs and color schemes, it’s best to keep these touches to a minimum. Some resume formatting choices can disrupt the way the ATS parses your resume, and these details introduce opportunities for bias.
If you work in a creative field, you may want to have a straightforward resume for the ATS system and a designed option that you share later in the process.
5. Attach doc or PDF files only
Lastly, make sure you follow the directions when you attach your resume to the job application. Most applications will specify whether they’d like a doc or PDF format. If no preference is listed, opt for a PDF with a clear file name, like “FirstNameLastNameResume.” Don’t underestimate the power of these small touches!
Taking the extra time to optimize your resume for recruiters is guaranteed to pay off in your job search. Stay tuned for more resume formatting tips and tricks and let us know how these recommendations worked for you.
About the Author:
Oliver Feakins is the Chief Executive Officer for Trusted Search Marketing, a digital recruitment marketing agency based in Pennsylvania. Oliver has a rich career in recruiting multiple disciplines and is a featured author in multiple publications.