The job search turns maddening when you're engaging in a one-way conversation between yourself and seemingly every single company in America. What happened? Where did your resume go and why are you only hearing crickets?
The Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) system happened. And it likely catapulted your work down a resume “black hole”.
In this instance, you could try sending up a Hail Mary prayer, but most would prefer to have a bit more control over their careers. A resume fit for the modern-day job seeker is more than just bullet points and power verbs. I've seen it all during my time as a Certified Professional Resume Writer and here is what I think is really happening. I think you’re committing common resume mistakes you didn’t even know existed. No, we’re not talkin’ typos. The internet has already covered that, and frankly, there’s not much more I can squeeze out on the topic. Companies today are implementing robot-like software systems that scan, sort, and send a tiny stack of approved resumes to a human recruiter for review. This demonic software, otherwise known as Applicant Tracking Software, opens the door to a whole new set of potential resume mistakes threatening to derail your professional trajectory.
It's 2018, and these nine all too common resume mistakes are no longer acceptable. Here is what you can do to ensure your resume beats the bots.
1. Listing your full street address
Entire street addresses are so last decade. Ditto your references. It's less than likely that a company will submit a written letter response via USPS. Therefore, the time has come to stop including your mailing address on your resume. Replace the snail mail deets with a general location instead, like Charlotte, NC or Philadelphia, PA.
While we're trimming fat, know that a note proclaiming “references available upon request” is also a waste of valuable resume real estate. This extra verbiage is redundant. Most employers assume this to be the case already.
2. Offering "standard" contact info
Submitting outdated contact information is considered one of the top modern-day resume mistakes. Replace the street address with focal URLs recruiters really want. Think: links to your social media handles (where appropriate), your LinkedIn profile, or digital portfolio. Make it easy for hiring managers to get to know you by putting the links front and center.
3. Using the header or footer sections
Applicant tracking software has improved immensely year after year, but it is still a bit wonky. Virtually buried contact information -- such as unidentifiable contact information hiding in a doc’s header and footer -- can take your resume from ATS-ready to unreadable in seconds. Job seekers hoping for a callback should place important details (i.e. your name, number, email address, and weblinks) outside these sections for optimal robot readability.
4. Saving your resume in the wrong file format
Given that most large companies rely on ATS software to sort through the mounds of resumes they receive daily, it's important to save and submit your documents in the proper format. ATS scans word documents most efficiently, but PDF files are best at preserving design and formatting elements. PDF's are also more reliable when sending an application via email since they maintain their shape when opened on a smartphone. Countless recruiters and HR professionals have told me they LOVE applicants who attach PDF resumes to their application because it shows they've taken a little extra initiative to save a doc in a more "readable" format. It's an effort all busy hiring managers appreciate.
That said, we think having It’d be wise to have multiple file types of your resume ready would wise, just in case.
5. Purchasing resume design templates
To template or not to template? Reviews are mixed when it comes to creative resume templates and their functionality. Resumes with elaborate designs and non-traditional formats are visually appealing but they also run the risk of being rejected by ATS bots. Most computers cannot read information presented in fancy graphs, pie charts, pictures, or vector art, rendering any and all information hiding in these graphics useless. You have a better chance at making it to a human review by focusing on a balanced design and easy-read text.
My clients have seen the most success with clean, simple, and unique resume layouts. Forgo Times New Roman font and grab Veranda instead. Make use of bold, underline, and italics, too. If you’re feeling really inspired, try adding a little color to your text headers.
6. Stuffing keywords without a proper strategy
In the land of redundant resume advice, “including relevant keywords in your verbiage” probably takes the cake. Experts everywhere agree that sprinkling applicable words and phrases from the job description into your resume is key, but there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Aim to add relevant terms two to three times throughout your resume for best results. Bonus points if those keywords are written in both list form and throughout your "description" sections.
7. Not having an online portfolio
I usually advise clients to steer clear of "trends" in the career industry, but here's where I make an exception. Job applications today require extra effort and attention. Offering employers access to digital add-ons -- especially in many creative industries product demonstration is relevant -- can give you a leg up from other applicants who stick to resumes only. Artists, designers, and writers who forgo creating a digital portfolio of their work, and a link for readers to review, are missing an opportunity to demonstrate qualifications and leave a lasting impression.
8. Copying and Pasting
I'm fairly certain I just made up words there, but stick with me. Almost every resume that slides across my desk lists every job and every task in chronological order. Resume writing is often such a daunting task for job seekers that they fall victim to the “copy and paste” method to describe their job history. This strategy will tank your job search. Avoid listing everything you’ve ever done -- and the exact verbiage of your job description -- into your resume. Proper detailing is all about weaving accomplishments and statistics throughout your descriptions that accurately paints a picture of your value to a reader.
9. Including a headshot
The interweb’s most involved resume design templates often include a space dedicated to professional headshots. Abort, abort, abort! Unless you’re an actor or a model, leave pictures to your LinkedIn profile. For one, recruiters will surely peruse LinkedIn to get more information and see what you look like. Second, you run the risk of seeming egotistical if your job doesn't require photo evidence. Eeek!
We've only begun to scratch the surface on proper resume etiquette. We can help formulate a professional resume with restrained pizzazz that will demonstrate value over flair?