As a job seeker, your goal is to get a recruiter to look at your resume and bring you in for an interview. In order to do that, you need to understand what’s happening on the recruiter’s side of the table. Recruiters get hundreds of resumes, and they can’t possibly go through each one. And they definitely can’t go through each resume line-by-line. There’s just not enough time in the day. That’s why recruiters have learned to skim resumes for the most important information, which typically only takes six seconds. When a recruiter reads a resume, his or her eyes move down the page in a Z-pattern (left to right all the way down). They’re looking for key terms that relate to the job they’re trying to fill. If a recruiter finds what he or she is looking for in that first pass, your resume will likely get a shot at a more in-depth resume review. And, if they still like what they see, you might even get a phone call asking you to do an interview. So, it becomes critical that you pass that 6-second skim. In order to accomplish this, you need to make it easy for recruiters to find the information they need in order to move you to the second part of the process. How do you do this? You need to format your resume in a way that showcases your key skill sets, or keywords that relate to the jobs for which you’re applying. If you don’t highlight these things on your resume and make them easy to see, the recruiter is going to toss your resume. If you resume doesn’t have the right keywords and doesn’t showcase them with its formatting, your resume is headed straight for the trashcan. If you need help with your job search strategy, watch this free 20-minute video tutorial with career expert J.T. O'Donnell. WATCH NOW!
I’m often asked, “If I need nouns, how do I know what nouns to use?” Related: 3 Quick Tips For Keyword Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile Your personal brand is crucial, but how do you know what keywords to use? Here is a simple list of great keyword sources for your personal brand.
Why Custom Tailor A Resume At All?Why? Because many companies don’t immediately read your resume anymore. Instead, they file it with the other 700 resumes they received and feed it through a computer filter called an Applicant Tracking System, which only looks for ‘keywords.' This system excludes resumes that don’t contain keywords matching the job posting and spits out the resumes of applicants whose resume language closely matches the job skills required.
Think You Can Game the System?ATS technology is getting smarter every day - keywords in a block of text dumped into the resume at the end will be ignored. The filters look for ‘context.' That is, these filters want to see those keywords used with and near other relevant words. In other words, the system cannot be gamed. Also, real, live people still read many resumes - and they are open to being impressed and persuaded. A good resume makes the employer want to hire you based on your resume - that’s the reason they call you in for an interview (to make sure you are as impressive in person).
Start With Your Resume TemplateYour existing resume will act as the template for each custom/targeted resume. We are then going to take the keywords used in the job posting and work them into your resume. Your resume template is your master copy. It includes your name, but not your address (particularly if you are applying out of town), your nice, polite Gmail address, and your phone number. Then, you'll create blank sections you’ll label privately as “Professional Title" and “Summary." Your Summary is for your Featured Skills, followed by your relevant credentials. This is followed by your last 10-12 years of employment history (Job title with dates) in chronological order from the most recent to oldest. Designate any employment gaps of more than a year with an appropriate title and date range:
- 2011-2012 Furthering Education
- 2011-2012 Travel
- 2008 Seeking Employment
- 2008 Volunteering
- 2003-2005 Family Care
- 2003-2005 Military Service
Additional Notes:A series of short-term jobs can be grouped together as “Temporary Work," “Part-time Work,” or “Contract Work” depending on the facts. Never lie on your resume - nothing is a guaranteed barrier to employment but lying would be. Also see my article, “What To Do If You Lied On Your Resume." Then, Volunteering, Military Service details, Honors, and Certifications can follow.
BONUS TIPAsk yourself for each job, “What did I accomplish in this job that no one else would have done?” These accomplishments are VERY important. We are going to make an effort to use them with keywords tailored to each job application. You’re going to mention these accomplishments in the interview, too, so write them down!
How To Customize A Target ResumeKeep in mind that each of your target resumes should be tailored to a specific job or type of work. Starting with your master resume, here's how to convert it into a target resume:
1. Copy Keywords From Job DescriptionsRead the job description (noting the position title) then copy the whole thing into a separate document. Do a search for six other job descriptions that use the same title (search the web or an online job site). Copy these entirely into the same separate document. Finally, you can opt to check the free US Department of Labor Statistics’ free download, the “Occupational Outlook Handbook" since it happens to contain common job descriptions for US occupations that you can use in your job description collection (copy and paste the relevant job description to your list).
2. Determine Which Keywords Make The Most AppearancesThese job descriptions contain words in common – KEYWORDS, words relating to THREE categories: