Readers, everywhere (paraphrased) : How do I write a résumé that will get me hired?
Karla: I have a confession: The shame of my first résumé — savaged by an academic adviser for its bloated, clumsy prose — haunts me to this day. Also, it’s been years since I submitted a résumé with a blind application or reviewed any to fill a position. So while I know the basics, I have no idea what makes a résumé stand out today.
But after five years of dodging your résumé questions, I’ve decided to bite the bulleted list and seek out professionals who live, breathe and love this stuff.
“Oh my gosh, I hate résumés,” laughs Diana Funk, senior consultant with Human Capital Strategic Consulting in Washington. “They’re so stressful to write … and they do not receive the same level of scrutiny that you have to put into [writing] them.” But, she adds, “there’s no other way” to present your bona fides to prospective employers.
Even Lauren Milligan, who makes a living writing résumés as chief executive and founder of Chicago-based ResuMayDay, says the goal is to need no résumé at all: “Network, network, network so the résumé and application become nothing more than a formality.” But even as a formality, it has to represent your best face: “There’s no time when you can skate by with a subpar résumé.”
In most cases, before your résumé reaches a human, it will have to pass muster with a machine. An increasing number of employers are using applicant-tracking software to winnow hundreds or thousands of applications down to a qualified handful. According to Milligan, a surprising number of résumés are kicked out for reasons having nothing to do with the applicant’s suitability for the job.
Milligan lists three factors to help keep scanning software from rejecting your résumé:
●Keywords: Applicant-tracking software is programmed to select résumés that contain certain keywords relevant to the job opening. Milligan recommends you brainstorm for those keywords, including software and skills — the job ad itself probably contains clues — and write your résumé around them.
●Format: Not only should you submit your résumé in the requested file format, says Milligan, but you should also make sure it has a scanner-friendly layout. Text boxes — including page borders — may be eye-catching, but they can also cause the software to overlook your carefully curated keywords.
●Headings: Stick with the standards the software has been programmed to recognize, Milligan advises: “Work History” and “Education,” rather than “Milestones” and “Matriculation.”
Those tips will help you get past the robot guardians. Tune in next week for tips on impressing the humans.
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PRO TIP: If you’re writing a résumé for a sales job, Milligan says, one vital keyword to include is a dollar sign. Awards and client testimonials are great, but employers want to see that bottom line, too.