Think someone is reviewing your resume? Not a chance. It’s not a person; it’s a computer. And there’s tons more to know about how your resume is processed before people ever get a chance to review it.
In the old days, people would spend time making sure they picked the perfect combination of font, paper style, and layout to get the visual attention of the reader. If everyone else’s resume was on white paper, maybe you’d try off-white, with a heavier bond weight. But today, none of that matters. Why? Because today, your resume will not be read by a person, at least not the way you think. Instead, it will be parsed (a technical term that means “the computer will try to read it”) and loaded into a computer system’s database. And if you put your name and contact information in the header of a Word file, it may get missed. If you put key information in the footer of the document, it too might get missed. And if you try some fancy layouts, it might not get read correctly by the computer. The net result of all this – if you don’t start shaping your resume for computers, you might never get that look you’re hoping for.
So what can you do? Here are 4 quick tips to help you.
First, make sure you don’t just throw key words, without context, on your resume. Today’s systems are looking at terms in context. So if you do company turn-arounds, make sure the phrase is in the context of an accomplishment – as in, “Turned around 200 person organization in 6 months, with a new executive team of 4, and increased profits by 15% in the first year of a 3 year effort.” That kind of context is actually leveraged by the computer. And it’s more powerful than, “business executive with turn around experience.”
Second, make sure your company names and job titles are next to each other, with the year close by. Computers are looking for your job progression and some fancy layouts may not make it easy for them to get a good sense of what you were doing.
Third, make the layout as simple as you can. Assume that only the text will remain, without all the fancy formatting. It’s the words that will create the “umph” so make sure your accomplishments are clear and assembled in a way that can be read and processed. Further, don’t cut and paste your resume into systems, but rather, upload your Word document to the system, which often has better parsers than when you cut and paste (sticking in needless crud into their form fields).
Fourth, and this is not any different than before, make sure that your accomplishments are what’s highlighted. Not titles, not companies (unless you were the VP at Coke or Dell), not “skills”. Computers are pretty advanced today. They distinguish between skills used 10 years ago and today – after all a computer degree in 1980 isn’t the same as coding for 5 years as a senior architect from 2004-09. So don’t spend much time on what you “could” do, and instead, focus on what you “have already done.” That’s the leading indicator to your future success and a good reason why someone may want you.