In some companies, online application systems screen resumes before a person does. That means that if your resume doesn’t meet specific requirements, it could be screened out, never even getting a chance.
You may think this only applies to larger companies, but small to medium-sized companies use basic electronic screening tools as well. For example, if you submit your resume via Indeed, recruiters and hiring managers can set search criteria that help them create a short list of all applications submitted.
Here are my top 10 tips for ensuring your resume successfully gets through online systems.
1. Carefully answer knockout screening questions. These are the questions that you need to respond to before uploading your resume. By answering a question wrong, you may take yourself completely out of the running.
Also, don’t take too long as some companies track the time it takes you to complete your online application.
2. Stick with standard headings for each section on your resume. The online systems look for headings in your resume to know how to categorize information. By sticking with general headings like “Work Experience” or “Education,” there’s a greater chance your resume content will show up in the right places.
3. Job titles matter. Specific job titles are very common search criteria. Your application may be more successful if your most recent job title matches the job posting title.
If it makes sense, adjust your job title to align with the posting. For example, I used to be called a Career Strategist, but the industry terms for the type of work I did was Case Manager. If applying online to a Case Manager position, I’d change my job title to Case Manager instead of Career Strategist.
4. Incorporate keywords from the job posting. Carefully review the posting to ensure that you are using the right keywords in your resume. To test your keyword alignment, use Job Scan. You can use industry acronyms, but make sure you also spell them in full form as well.
5. Know what will scan. You may have a beautifully designed resume, but keep in mind that graphics and images won’t scan. And systems can also struggle to read text in columns and text boxes.
That doesn’t mean that design doesn’t matter or that you shouldn’t use more graphic elements. It just means that those elements won’t be parsed in an online system. Eventually, human eyes will scan your resume and this can help you stand out.
6. Spell properly. Of course, you want to ensure that you check your spelling and grammar before submitting a resume. But it’s even more important with online applications. If you misspell a critical keyword, the system isn’t smart enough to know that.
7. Don’t cheat. The advice used to be to put the job posting in white font at the bottom of your resume in hopes of tricking the system. But systems have gotten smarter over time and using out-dated tricks like this could result in your application being black-listed.
8. Put your contact information in the right spot. For online applications, you should keep your contact information at the top of your resume. If you put it somewhere else, it can easily get lost. Also, do not put your contact information in the header as not all systems can read information in headers or footers.
9. Resume length doesn’t matter. You have probably heard that a resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages. Well, with online systems, it doesn’t matter. Focus on using the space you need to explain your background in alignment with the job.
10. Keep your font simple: Stick with some of the more popular fonts like Calibri, Arial, Cambria, Garamond, or Times New Roman.
Hope this helps you with your next online application.
Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace.