These days, a good resume is key to securing you an interview for that coveted job. Once you are shortlisted for an interview, you are already ahead of your competition. The interview gives you a chance to position you as the ideal hire for the job opening.
But writing a resume is not as easy as it used to be. You have to write a stellar resume to demonstrate your suitability for the position. AND your resume must have most, if not all the correct keywords to pass the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that some companies use as an electronic gatekeeper to sieve out the right job applications.
Hence, it is essential to spend some time on crafting your resume. It will be well-worth the effort.
A typical resume should be about two-pages long. But HR professionals I spoke to shares that it is okay if it over-ran to 3 pages. What is more important is your work knowledge/experience is amply highlighted in the resume.
When writing your resume, think of it as your campaign to be top candidate for the job position. Ask yourself these two questions:
* Do you have the skills, knowledge and attributes to do the job?
* What is the hiring manager looking for in the candidate? Do you meet the criteria?
If you answer “YES” to both questions, then you are already a strong contender to be shortlisted for the job. Now, you have to work on your resume and make sure it meets the hiring manager’s or the ATS requirements to qualify for the interview round.
Here are a few tactics that may help get your resume noticed by the hiring manager:
1. Study the Job Description & Mirror It In Your Resume.
The job description offers many clues as to what the hiring manager is looking for. The job descriptions (JD) share the knowledge and skills required for the job as well as the duties and responsibilities of the staff undertaking the position. The JD will also spell out the required qualifications/requirements (eg. degree, certifications, experience) of the candidate.
- Mirror the language used in the job description by using same or similar words (synonyms) in your resume.
- Use active words like create, design, implement, organize to demonstrate the actions you took in your previous job roles.
- Try not to copy and paste the exact same words from the JD as it show that you are not putting in effort to think through your job scope in your resume. Use the thesaurus in your word document to help you find words that reflects the same meaning.
- Be clear about what your job role entails.
2. Identify Keywords To Use In Your Resume
Because companies screen applications manually or use the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, resumes without the “identified” keywords are tossed to one side. Make some effort to identify the keywords in the desired position or from the JD. Then, plant these keywords in your resume.
You can identify keywords by studying the description in your job posting. Highlight the keywords and incorporate them in your resume. The following categories shows a list of where keywords can be found:
- Industry-Specific Skills – eg. Bookkeeping, product launch, and proposal writing
- Soft Skills – eg. Problem solving, communication, sales, and team management
- Hardware and Software Used for the Job – eg. Dreamweaver, SQL, and VOIP
- Job Titles – eg. UX Designer, Business Development Manager, and Full stack Developer
- Training and Certification – eg. Six Sigma, Project Management, and ITIL
- Education – eg. MBA, PhD, and BS
- Industry Jargon – eg. Asset management, A/B Editing, and digital video editing workflow
- Impressive Terms – eg. Fortune 500, top salesperson, award-winner
- Company Names – eg. Big name companies are sometimes used when finding applicants for top positions.
- Locations – eg. Asia-Pacific, Southeast-Asia, USA. Roles that have a regional or global or previous work experiences in a different geographic location
3. Insert Keywords Strategically in Your Resume.
Where do you place keywords in your resume after identifying them? We identified the following places in your resume that you can strategically placed keywords.
- Your executive summary section is one of the best places to include relevant keywords. This section is in context, so it’s ATS and human friendly.
- Another great place to insert keywords is your Core Competencies or Skills section.
- Highlight relevant keywords in your work history as association with other skills or experience related to your job, or tied to accomplishments.
Use keyword analysis tools like Jobscan or Resunate to help you assess if it will pass the ATS test. Or you can google for keyword writing tools such as WriteWords to help you identify how often a keyword or phrase appears on your resume.
4. Highlight Your Professional Assets In Your Resume.
What makes you a good fit for the advertised job? Your resume should answer this with an emphasis on the skills, knowledge that you have to get the job done.
These hard skills are abilities that enable you to finish a task. You acquire hard skills from learning on the job, through training, formal education, or courses. Good news is hard skills are teachable, quantifiable and related to a specific job.
Typical examples of hard skills include computer software, marketing, writing, accounting, finance. Job-sites like LinkedIn and mycareersfuture.com are very helpful in identifying key hard skills for your specific job positions.
Soft skills are difficult to assess on a resume. When you score an interview, you can validate these soft skills like creativity, leadership, communication skills. In your resume, emphasizing your hard skills, training and experience to demonstrate your competences and proficiency. This will increase your chances of being noticed by the human recruiter.
5. Your Resume Should Impress the Reader That You Are “The Right Candidate”.
The employer is looking to hire someone who can do the job indicated in their job description. So, it’s only logical to assume that if your resume reflects that, you have a higher chance of being shortlisted.
We want to caution you to be as truthful as you can in your resume. Everything in your resume should be able to withstand any scrutiny by the Human Resource or hiring team.
What To Do If Your Job Applications Are Unsuccessful?
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are not shortlisted for the job that we applied to. Most companies will respond with a positive or negative email to your application or indicate that if you do not hear from them after a period of time, it is safe to assume that you have not been shortlisted.
Do a short analysis of your resume, then MOVE ON. Continue to submit your resume for other job openings. It is not productive to spend time decrying the unfairness of a system that you cannot beat. Keep your eye on the ball, you final aim is to land yourself a job.
It is understandable you might feel discouraged after months of job applications, without much success. Here are some things you can do to boost your low morale.
1. Take a short break from job applications.
Give yourself a break & embark on new experiences other than applying for jobs. Enroll yourself in a course relevant to your profession to upgrade your skill or attend workshops that add value to your resume. These activities may inspire you to re-engage in submitting job applications.
2. Gather positive support.
Encouragement from spouses, family and friends can help to re-ignite your waning motivation. Avoid negative nay-sayers. Connect with people who are or have been in the same boat as you. They are more likely to understand your challenges and offer constructive and supportive advice.
3. Get help from career advisors or coaches.
As experts in their field, career advisors or coaches are primed to offer you different perspectives. They might be able to help you discover what is holding you back or offer advice on the missing link in your job application process. Read more on how career coaches can help you and where to engage them.
4. Network actively & purposefully.
Update your LinkedIn page and use your social media platforms to help you reconnect or meet other professionals on the career highway. Inform your network of friends and contacts of your job hunting intentions, so they can also help be your look-out for potential job openings.
This is not the time to be shy or embarrassed. Let them know if you are looking for a permanent or part-time position. Is it in the same industry or are you looking at a new one? Connect with relevant recruiters or ask your contacts to help you make the connection to one. Your resume stands a higher success rate when it is recommended as opposed to being one from an ocean of resumes.
Word of caution: Do not get so caught up in the networking activities that you forget the main goal: send in tailored resumes to land an interview, and ultimately a job.
Did the above tips help your job search? What other ways helped you secure a job interview? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to get more updates on career planning and professional advancement.