If you’re like most applicants, you put painstaking effort into building your résumé. It’s a testament to your skills and knowledge, and your desire to change your life. When it’s in your hands, your résumé is the most important document in the universe.
But what happens once you apply to a job and send that résumé out into the world?
With online job boards and electronic submissions, it can seem like your résumé disappears into a black hole. But that’s not actually true.
Here’s the journey of your résumé revealed—plus some tips to get past the gatekeepers.
Keyword scanning software
Here’s a sad fact: Most résumés are dismissed before they’re even seen by actual humans. That’s because companies often use software called applicant tracking systems (ATS), which scan résumés for relevancy. This is particularly true of large companies that receive hundreds of résumés per job posting.
So, how do you get through these robot gatekeepers?
First, don’t use any fancy layouts or fonts. These might be appealing to human eyes, but they can confuse the ATS and direct your résumé straight to the virtual trash.
Also, be sure to carefully read over the original job posting and pull out important keywords. These usually include job titles and functions, like “Health Information Technician” and “analyzes medical records.” Include these keywords so that you tailor your résumé to what the ATS is most likely looking for.
Also make sure to spell out any acronyms. Instead of saying “RHIT-certified,” for example, say “Registered Health Information Technician.” This will help make sure that the ATS reads and understands the words.
One the other hand, don’t try to jam your résumé full of keywords. For one, the ATS will probably recognize this and reject your résumé. Also, if your résumé does move on, hiring managers won’t be impressed by keyword gobbledygook.
Bottom line: don’t try to play the ATS. Just write your résumé in a way that’s friendly to the evaluation.
The 6-second scan
So now your résumé has made it into the hands of an actual person! Congratulations. But the journey doesn’t stop there. Studies show that hiring managers only spend an average of 6 seconds on a first pass of each résumé.
What do they look at? Most often it’s your name, your present place of employment (including dates) and your previous place of employment (including dates). Then they’ll jump down to your education.
And that’s it.
So how do you get through this test?
For one, make sure you’re applying to jobs that actually suit your qualifications. Hiring managers are most likely looking for the experience that makes you qualified. If they don’t find it, they’ll likely toss your résumé away.
Even if you don’t have experience in the role you’re applying for, you can still tailor your skills and content so that your past experience seems relevant on this first, quick glance.
Also make sure to put your best stuff front-and-center in these hotspots. You might also want to use strategic emphasis by adding bold or italicized words—although be careful not to go overboard with this technique.
The thorough examination
Your résumé passed the 6-second do-or-die stage! Yes! Now it’s time for the third—and possibly the toughest—review. Your résumé is now competing against the best and most qualified candidates. The pile of hundreds has dwindled down to just a few.
This is where your detailed bullet points and list of skills come into play. Be sure to put as much time and thought as possible into showcasing your previous work experience, and use strong action verbs in your bullet points. Include skills that are specifically requested in the job posting—but only if you actually have them!
Show tangible evidence of your accomplishments, as well. For example, instead of saying, “Performed administrative tasks in the front office,” say, “Orchestrated a new organizational system that decreased patient wait times by 10%.” You want to show the ways in which you helped your previous office or facility run better. You want the hiring manager to understand why you’d be valuable beyond just your qualifications.
If you can all show that, then might just get called for an interview. And that’s a whole new skill-set to work on. You can do it!