These days, the first step towards getting your foot in the door is making it past the “applicant tracking system,” or ATS, that HR pros are using to flush out the best resumes from a mountain of candidates. Notice how we said the best “resumes” rather than the best “candidates.” These computer systems are using a number of scanning tricks to pick and choose people who move on to the next round. On paper, at least, they’re the most qualified of the bunch.
AOL Jobs has pulled together a few tips to help you get past this first digital stage of the application process. At the top of the list, they suggest using appropriate keywords. How do you determine the right keywords? They’re in the job description. If you’re applying for a managerial position at an insurance company, be sure to include the words “manager” and “insurance” in your resume. They don’t necessarily have to be at the same company, but your resume should reflect that you have the desired experience somewhere in your background.
As a matter of fact, you should include those most important words in your cover letter as well. ICYMI, here are a few tips to make that portion of the application even better.
Another piece of good advice: “Demonstrate flexibility and adaptability.” AOL makes the point that experienced employees sometimes have a hard time convincing potential employers that they’re capable of learning new tricks. Also worth keeping in mind is the fact that, unfortunately, more companies are working with fewer employees these days. It’s possible, if not probable, that you’ll be asked to step in when a colleague is out of the office on vacation or maternity leave. Or called upon to step in if there’s an abrupt job vacancy. Using your resume to demonstrate that you can roll with the punches is a positive.
Finally, the article advises that candidates “highlight results.”
“When you create bullet points that draw direct connections between what you did and what the employer wants you to do, it will be easier for the reader to envision you in the job,” the article says. Another way of putting it, and a great tip that we once heard from a college employment center specialist, is to use “action words.” Verbs describe what you did and what you’re doing; the work that you’re accomplishing. Someone who gets things done is someone that employers want around.
Separately but related, AOL Jobs also has a story outlining the things that a modern resume does and doesn’t need. We’d like to call special attention to the “Objective,” something that no resume should have. Every “objective” says the same thing and says it poorly: You want a good job that will help you build the career of your dreams. That’s obvious and there’s no need to re-state the obvious. We have never, ever, ever, ever, never, ever read a worthwhile “objective” so just avoid it altogether.