In today's job market, your digital resume is often the first impression you make on recruiters and hiring managers.
With more companies using automated screening tools like Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), job seekers need to optimize their resumes for both robots and humans.
This article explores key strategies for crafting a digital resume that will stand out and get you interviews.
The Rise of Automated Hiring Systems
Over 90% of large companies now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen and filter resumes before a human recruiter ever sees them. These automated systems scan resumes looking for specific keywords and criteria related to the open position.
To successfully get your resume past the initial ATS screening phase, job seekers need to understand how these technologies work and adapt their resume content accordingly.
Understanding How ATS Works
ATS software allows companies to automate much of the initial screening and sorting of job applications.
The system uploads and scans resumes, checking for the presence of relevant keywords from the job description. Any resumes lacking the right keywords and criteria get automatically rejected and never make it to a hiring manager's desk.
To optimize your chances, it's crucial to understand what the ATS is looking for. Tailor your resume's content to each specific job posting by working in keywords and phrases from the advertisement. Highlight your related skills, education, certifications, and experience using ATS-friendly language.
Adapting Your Resume's Content
When applying for a job, take the time to carefully review the job description and note the key requirements and responsibilities.
Then, work some of the exact keywords and terminology into your resume where relevant. Quantify your achievements and accomplishments using facts and data. This helps the ATS recognize you have the necessary background for the role.
It's also important to use clear section headings, such as "Work Experience" and "Skills." This makes your resume easy for both ATS and recruiters to quickly scan for information. Avoid using tables, columns, headers, footers, images, or other fancy formatting that may confuse an ATS.
Formatting Your Resume for ATS
Proper formatting is crucial for ATS readability. Use a simple, consistent structure and template. Choose standard fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri in size 11 or 12. Include plenty of white space and avoid dense blocks of text.
It's best to save and submit your resume as a PDF to preserve formatting. If submitting your resume directly through an online portal, paste the text into the form without any special formatting.
With these strategies, you can craft a resume tailored for getting past picky ATS gatekeepers and onto hiring managers' desks.
Crafting a Visually Appealing Digital Resume
While resumes must be optimized for ATS-friendliness, digital resume formats also allow more creative freedom to showcase your skills visually. A polished, eye-catching design can help your resume stand out from the competition once it makes it to human hands.
Incorporating Visual Elements
Online portfolios, personal websites, infographics, charts, photos, videos, and other visual elements can help demonstrate your abilities in digital resume mediums.
However, it's important to balance visual appeal with ATS readability. Once you decide to build a resume online, incorporate simple designs, alt text for images, and enough plain text for the ATS to digest your document.
Choosing the Right Digital Platform
Take advantage of digital platforms to expand your resume's reach and visibility. Directly upload your resume when filling out online job applications. Post your resume or a link to it on your LinkedIn profile.
Upload it to major job search sites like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. If relevant, develop an online portfolio website showcasing work samples.
Formatting for Quick Scans
Remember that recruiters only spend about 7 seconds initially scanning a resume. Make their job easier by using bullet points, quantified achievements, and keywords to help them quickly grasp your background and value at a glance. Use white space, headings, and clear organization to improve readability.
Draw the eye to important details you want to emphasize about your candidacy. A clean, scannable format allows recruiters to easily pick out your top selling points.
Promoting Your Digital Footprint
Your digital presence extends far beyond just an online resume. Leverage social platforms and professional networks to boost your brand and visibility. Developing a strong digital footprint makes you more discoverable to recruiters and demonstrates your professionalism.
Building an Impressive LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn has become a go-to resource for recruiters checking out candidates. Develop a robust LinkedIn profile that serves as a dynamic, expanded version of your resume. Flesh out the Experience and Summary sections with detailed descriptions, media, examples, recommendations, and links to your work.
Establishing Industry Connections and Followings
Follow leading companies, thought leaders, and influencers in your target field on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Share and comment on their content to get on their radar. Participate in relevant LinkedIn Groups and Facebook Groups to connect with those in your industry. These actions boost your brand and credibility.
Monitoring and Managing Online Reputation
Conduct regular Google searches on yourself to monitor what comes up on the first pages of results. Try to get positive mentions of yourself on professional sites like LinkedIn, Medium, and industry publications. Take steps to suppress unflattering articles, photos, or social media posts if needed to craft how you want to be perceived.
Showcasing Awards, Achievements and Extracurriculars
Spotlighting additional accomplishments beyond just work experience helps convey a sense of your talents and well-roundedness. Recruiters look for candidates who go above and beyond.
Adding Relevant Awards and Honors
Did you receive recognition as “Employee of the Month” or have you won prestigious employee service awards? List relevant awards, grants, scholarships, or honors under your Experience or Education sections. Briefly explain the significance of major achievements. However, avoid including minor awards that don’t relate to the job.
Detailing Volunteer Positions and Causes
Vividly describing your contributions to volunteer programs, community service projects, and causes highlights desirable soft skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication abilities. Even unrelated volunteer work shows you’re a caring, motivated person.
Conferences, Publications and Patents
If you’ve presented at major industry conferences, been published in trade journals, or earned a patent, mention these as well. They convey subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
Network and Seek Referrals
One of the most effective ways to stand out in the job application process is by leveraging your network and seeking referrals. Reach out to connections within the industry or company you're applying to and ask if they would be willing to provide a referral or put in a good word on your behalf.
Having someone vouch for your skills and abilities can significantly increase your chances of getting noticed by hiring managers.
Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and engage in online communities relevant to your field. By actively networking and building relationships with professionals in your industry, you increase your visibility and create opportunities for referrals and recommendations.
Optimizing Your Resume for Human Recruiters
While resumes must be ATS-friendly, also optimize them for readability by the human recruiters and hiring managers who will review them. Take steps to emphasize the information that will catch their eye.
Emphasizing Transferable Skills
Draw clear connections between your background and the role’s requirements so recruiters instantly recognize how you’re qualified. Highlight transferable skills from past jobs or academics that translate to the new position. Use keywords from the job ad.
Showcasing Personality and Culture Fit
Let your resume reflect enough of your personality, work style, and values to give recruiters a feel for whether you’ll fit well within the company culture. But keep it professional – no need for hobbies or interests.
Minimizing Potential Biases
Craft your resume objectively to minimize possible unconscious biases around your age, gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Exclude photos, graduation years, and extraneous personal details. Focus on qualifications only.
Tracking Your Application Progress
The job search process can feel like sending your resume into a black hole. Make use of technology to monitor your application status and see if your resume needs improvement.
Leveraging Application Tracking
Enter your job applications into a spreadsheet or job application tracking app. Note the company, role, date applied and application status. Follow up appropriately if you don’t hear back within 1-2 weeks.
Checking Application Status Online
Frequently log into your online job portal accounts to check for status updates on applications. Some portals like LinkedIn allow you to see if your application has been viewed.
Getting Feedback from Recruiters
If you make it to the interview stage but don’t get the job, politely ask the recruiter for feedback on your resume and interview performance. Their insights can help you improve.
By mastering both the human and automated elements of the modern job application process, you can craft a stellar digital resume that grabs recruiters’ attention. Keep your content and formatting ATS-friendly, but also appealing to the human eye.
Promote your brand and achievements beyond just your resume. And track your application progress so you can continually refine your approach. With persistence and savvy, your digital resume will help you stand out among applicants and land that life-changing interview.