Do you send out many resumes to jobs, only to never hear back again? Do you wonder why others are getting interview after interview, while you're still sitting at your computer, waiting for some good news to appear in your inbox?
This course will teach you how to write an American resume that gets you noticed by employers and invited to interviews, so you can ultimately get the job you've always wanted.
The course will provide you with all the information you need, as well as concrete action steps and checklists, to ensure you create the best possible resume for the U.S. job market.
Are you driven and ready to succeed? If so, this course is for you.
This course is NOT for you if you're looking for a magic solution that requires no effort. Implementing these steps will require a couple hours of work. However, if you want to start a job that pays well and makes you happy to come into the office each morning, the work you put in will be well worth it.
Welcome and congratulations on choosing to invest in yourself and your future career. The first step to your dream job is to create an amazing resume, and I'm going to teach you exactly how.
Unlike a lot of similar courses, which just tell you what to write and where, I'm going to help you understand what happens behind the scenes when hiring managers, recruiters, and automated systems are looking at your resume – how to bypass all the obstacles and make sure you get in front of a live person.
These insights will be divided into three main sections: content, formatting, and keywords.
I'm also going to provide some bonus materials. I really want you to succeed, so I've recorded some exclusive interviews with a hiring manager, an ATS specialist, and a recruiter.
I recommend having two things ready before you start. First of all, have your old resume in front of you. If you don't have a resume yet? Not a problem! Just fill out the worksheet at the end of this section and you'll be good to go. It's okay if it's not perfect, because that's what the rest of this course is about.
And second, I recommend having a job ad in front of you for a position you would like to apply to. And it's okay if you don't end up applying to that position – but it's important to have an example in front of you to work with when we talk about targeting your resume to a specific job. Having that job ad there will make it much easier.
I want to make it as easy as possible for you to follow this course. If you miss something, just use the controls at the bottom of the screen to go backward and forward, and hear what you missed again. And if it's easier for you to read some of the content, you can just look on the right side of your screen – in the “Lecture Description” – which will include the transcripts for all the videos.
Okay, let's jump right into irresistible content. A lot of people, when they start writing their resume, they want to focus on keywords and formatting. And we'll definitely get to that later, but what's much more important is to make sure you have irresistible content to work with, so that's what we're going to talk about now.
I want to begin by asking a question. And it may seem like a silly, obvious question, but, what is the point of a resume?
Well, a lot of people will say, “To get a job!” But actually, it's not. The purpose of a good resume is to make a recruiter or hiring manger want to learn more about you: in other words, to get you an interview. This is important, because it changes the way you think strategically about your resume. You don't have to put this pressure on yourself that this resume needs to get you the job. All it needs to do is get you to the next level, so that you can go to an interview and talk to a live person.
And you definitely don't want to think of it as a work history. You don't want to list everything you've ever done. Instead, you want to think of your resume as a “preview” to make the reader on the other end want to know more about you.
And here is the most important thing to keep in mind. You may think of a resume as a document that's focused on yourself. After all, it's about you and what you can bring to a job, right? But actually, this is NOT the most effective approach. Instead, this resume should really be about the job you are targeting, and the hiring manager or boss you will be working with.
Because the truth is, the people who'll be reading this don't actually care about you. As they go through your information, the question they'll be asking is: “How will the benefit ME?”
The hiring manager's number one question is: “Who are you, and how can you help me solve my problems?” We will talk more about how to do this later, but the job description in a job ad is the first place to start, in terms of seeing what the employer needs, and how you can help them.
We will talk about improving your content by following three steps:
-Be the solution
-Say it simply
Let's talk about how to be the solution.
A lot of the times, hiring managers and recruiters are only looking at a resume for 10 seconds.
So how do you grab their attention?
Well, remember. Their main question is, “Who are you, and how can you solve my problems?”
So every line on your resume should be answering that question.
And here's something really important. You have to be ruthless in cutting content. Anything that doesn't help answer this question should be left out.
Now some people say, “Well… I'm not sure, I'll leave this in just in case, it can't hurt, right?”
YES IT CAN. Remember, you initially have only 10 seconds of attention. What happens if some of that is taken up by information that's not really relevant to solving their problems, or the hiring manager doesn't care about? If it doesn't show how you're the solution, just remove it.
Let's look at an example. James Smith wants to write about video games. And he's applying for a video game journalist position for a print magazine. Here is his resume. Let's just take about 10 seconds to read it – the way a recruiter or hiring manager might.
[Go through resume]
So you can see how in the second version of the resume, John Smith is being the solution. His resume shows how he can respond to the hiring manger's specific needs, and solve those specific problems.
Now, let's talk about strategy #2: Say it simply.
This strategy means looking at every line on your resume and asking yourself: “What does this actually mean?” It might seem obvious, but when you really read it carefully, most people have at least a few lines on their resume that either aren't adding that much information, or they're not clear to the reader.
They might be too general. So if somebody didn't work with them at that position, they might not know what it means. Or it might be full of buzzwords and jargon.
So let's look at a few examples of things people have written on their resumes that can be improved. Here's one example.
“OBJECTIVE: To obtain a position of responsibility where my education and experience will be utilized in a career opportunity.”
First of all, you don't want to have an objective statement on your resume. Objectives were very popular in the 1990s, but today, your “objective” is to get the specific job you're applying to.
That said, let's look at the meaning behind this text. Basically, it says that you'd like a job that's somehow related to your education and previous work experience. So really, it's just taking up space. It's not adding anything of value.
Let's take a look at another one: “Prepared complex reports, ensuring full compliance with agency requirements and tight deadlines” Well, if I didn't work with you at your last position, I don't know what those agency requirements are. And tight deadlines? It basically means: “Did my job, on time.”
Here's a Better example: “Developed a new framework for preparing reports reducing processing time by 40%.” Now it's actually telling me something I can bite into. You created a new framework for preparing reports, and this helped your employer – it reduced processing times. That's much more concrete.
And here's another one. “Oversaw ORP procedures for the TSPC Communications Team and Safety Committees.” Okay, this is just full of buzzwords and jargon. If I didn't work there, I don't know what ORP is, what TSPC means, and I don't know how these procedures affected any of these teams. So this is meaningless to me.
But let's look at what happens when we rewrite it. “Liaised with Communications and Safety Teams concerning security for staff and clients, and improved safety for the children we served.”
Now, this is a lot more concrete and meaningful. Now, I understand that you were communicating with these teams to improve security for staff and clients, and you had a concrete accomplishment of improving safety for the children that you served. So this is much better.
All right, now let's talk about the third strategy for making your resume powerful: creating context.
In order to capture a reader's attention, you'll want to use concrete details and lots of figures whenever possible in order to create context for the reader.
This means that if you did something to increase your company's sales, don't just say “increased sales.” Say, “Increased sales by $2000 per month” or “Increased sales revenue to top historical levels (23% in 4 months)” This gives us a much better sense of what you did, and why it's impressive.
Don't say, “managed a small team of administrative staff.” Say “Managed a team of 5.”
Don't just say, “Led engineering workshops for at-risk youth”, say “Led weekly 2-hour workshops for groups of 20-30 at-risk youth.”
Sometimes, you'll be working in a position where you don't have a lot of figures you can provide. You're not sure how your work made an impact on the company, or that information is confidential and cannot be disclosed on a resume.
In this case, you can provide context in other ways. Name-drop if you've worked with impressive clients or companies. Instead of “Conducted market research for major corporations,” Say “Conducted market research for Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, and Toyota.” What if you haven't worked with any famous companies or individuals? You can drop names from within your own company. Did you work on a report that benefited executives at your company? Then say it. “Helped CEO and CFO by compiling feasibility report.”
Even if you don't have any quantifiable numbers or names you can include, try to create context about the importance of what you were doing in other ways. Did you get published in an industry journal? Specify that it's a prestigious industry journal.
And as you're doing this, make sure you make it very clear how this benefited your employer. What were the challenges, what action did you take, and what were the results? Use the Challenge-Action-Result framework.
You didn't just “Develop and implement logistics strategies.”
You “Developed and implemented logistics strategies resulting in 100% on-time delivery to customers with 0% delay on 3 projects.”
You didn't just “Successfully conduct outreach to NJ Development Authority”
You “Successfully conducted outreach to NJ Economic Development Authority officials that resulted in $6.8 million in additional funding to expand our project in Trenton.
So let's take a look at the Challenge-Action-Result framework in action.
Take a look at this bullet: Harmonized overlapping industrial processes. It's missing concrete details, and we don't know why this was mattered to the company.
Now look at this new bullet.
“Analyzed overlapping industrial processes and reduced inefficiency, resulting in $20m annual cost savings and 17% improved labor productivity.”
Not only do we have concrete details with the new figures – 20 million dollars and 17 percent – but we also have the context of why this mattered.
Here's the challenge: overlapping industrial processes.
Here's the action: reduced inefficiency.
Here's the result: 20 million dollars annual savings and 17% improved labor productivity.
Now sometimes, the information won't appear in that exact order. We'll talk about this more next week, but a lot of the time, you want to lead with what you did and then talk about why. But let's look at this example:
Produced comedy web series. Again, no real context for why this is great.
Now let's take a look at the new version.
“Increased viewership of Ha-Ha-Ha comedy web series through Facebook ads and blogger outreach, increasing from 15k to 60k views per episode on average.”
Here, we're actually starting with the action: Expanded viewership. And the challenge is implied with the result. Before they only had 15 thousand hits, but as a result of this work, they went to 60 thousand views per episode.
Another important aspect of creating context is that sometimes, it's worth telling the whole story, even if it's not directly relevant to your ability to do the work. Giving it real-world context can add depth to your accomplishments. Take a look at this example from a chemical engineer.
“Worked on synthesis and characterization of novel ChEH substrates; synthesized, purified and characterized 8 different compounds in 7 weeks.”
This is actually a very good bullet. It provides details and numbers, making it clear that it's a solid accomplishment. But what if we add some context for why this work was done?
“Synthesized, purified and characterized 8 different compounds in 7 weeks for use in a chemical formula currently undergoing testing for early ovarian cancer detection.”
Now, the fact that the chemical formula was used to help detect ovarian cancer has no relevance to this candidate's ability to do the job. But it makes the whole thing more interesting. We, as humans, are drawn to stories, and by turning this accomplishment into a little story, you're adding this compelling emotional element that makes us more interested in hearing about your work.
So what do you do if you have limited professional experience? This is an important question if you're just starting out in your career, or have a significant gap in your work history.
It's true that employers will often look negatively at a long stretch of unemployment, especially if it's between your last job and today. So what can you do?
One of the best strategies is to use unpaid or volunteer opportunities in your professional field as an example of recent work.
If you are young or just starting out in your current career, this might mean an unpaid or low-paying internship.
If you have more experience, you may consider volunteering at a non-profit organization where you can use your skills. Then, include that work on your resume under Professional Experience. It's okay that it was unpaid – and you can be very honest about that once you get an interview. However, it will really help overcome the negative first impression that an employment gap can create. Remember – the resume is a preview of your abilities and the stepping stone to an interview, where you can discuss your background with the potential employer.
And there are a lot of benefits to volunteering. You'll gain valuable additional experience… and you might make connections that can be helpful as you search for a paying job.
Now, this is only going to be valuable if you're volunteering in your area of expertise. So if you have an accounting background, don't volunteer by handing out flyers or doing secretarial work. Make sure you're doing something that involves accounting. However finding a volunteering position that shows you're using your skills will be very helpful in filling that employment gap.
So here is your first action step: go ahead and create irresistible content in your resume – particularly the Professional Experience section – by following the principles we discussed: Be the Solution, Say it Simply, and Create Context. You can use the Irresistible Content worksheet to guide you and help you along in this process.
Next, we will talk about how to format your resume so that employers want to read it, how to shape your content so it's especially enticing, and how to use keywords to ensure your resume doesn't disappear into the digital black hole.
Okay. So now, you've followed the action steps and you have some great content. The content is the most important part of the resume, because that's what employers are really looking at when deciding whether to invite you to an interview.
But here's the thing. If your resume isn't formatted correctly, then 1, it will make it harder for employers to read, and 2, it might never get read by a live person in the first place.
Because employers are looking for some very specific formatting on a resume. If you don't follow the standard American flow, they might find it hrd to read, and decide it's not worth it.
And moreover, there is a very high chance that your resume will pass through an Applicant Tracking Software system. We will talk about this in a lot of detail later, but this is software that parses your resume, that looks at the keywords and information inside, and decides whether to show your resume to a live person or toss it in the trash.
So in this section, we will make sure that your formatted correctly, so it's easy for a live person and for the software.
Here is an example of a pretty typical resume. And don't worry – there's plenty of room for variation and creativity, and I'm going to provide several examples of different resumes. But for now, I want to cover the most important basics.
First of all, you see the name up on top, Jane Jones. Jane's name has its own line. Because of ATS systems, it's important for the name to be on the top line and be the only thing there. So don't add MBA, PhD, or anything else.
On the next line, you have the street address, the email address, and the phone number.This is basic contact info.
You can also add the URL to your LinkedIn profile, if you have one.
You actually don't need to include your street address if you don't want to. You can just include the city, state and ZIP code. But if your address is in the US, don't forget to include the ZIP code. The reason for that is that sometimes, employers don't want to consider anyone who would need to relocate. So they program the ATS to only show job candidates who come from within a certain distance of the company's office. And the way they measure that distance is by looking at your zip code.
If a lot of your job experience is outside the United States, or your resume might otherwise imply that you're an immigrant or an expat, then you might consider including this line: “Authorized to work in the United States.”
The reason is that many employers get requests for visa sponsorships, and often, they're not going to check with you if you're looking for visa sponsorship, they'll just toss out your resume.
So if you do have authorization, put “authorized to work in the United States” or “U.S. permanent resident; no visa sponsorship needed.”
Let's move on to the summary section. Let's assume that Jane is applying for a job as a Machine Tools Engineer. You can go straight to the summary, or you can write a headline that states exactly who you are, and summarizes why you're a good fit for the position.
And in the summary, you want to include just one or two lines, or three bullets, that really highlight the most important and relevant elements of your experience specifically for that job.
So for example, if you've won awards, of if you've done something really relevant for a particular job, then you want to highlight that.
And one of the reasons it's good to have up there, is that maybe, the relevant work you did was in a position that's further down on your resume, and you want to have that right up at the top.
Same thing for the award. If you have an awards section, it should be at the bottom, but you emphasize that particularly interesting or relevant award right at the top, in the summary.
After that, you typically follow with your professional experience. The only exception is if you have a particularly impressive education, for example, if you went to a very famous university that's going to impress the employer – then maybe you want to put the education section and then professional experience.
You'll want to go in reverse chronological order.
Now, you have most of your content for professional experience from working on Irresistible Content earlier.
Each position should include the following information: company name, location, the position you held, the year you held that position.
But what's really important is that this info stays in the same order everywhere on your resume. Otherwise, the ATS might not read it correctly.
If you've held several positions at the same company, you may be tempted to save space by putting the company name at the top, and then listing the positions. But the problem is, the ATS might misread it. [See example in video] So it's much safer to include the name of the company in each position, even if it's the same company several times.
There are three main approaches to presenting the info. The first approach is to have everything as a paragraph, but when it's one block of information, it's really hard to read.
A much better approach is to use bullets. The information is separated out logically.
But there's another approach I like even better that combines these two ideas: the Harvard Resume Format.
It starts with a very short paragraph that provides info on the scope and scale of the company, and some of the more general information about what you were expected to do – your job duties and requirements.
Then, it uses bullet points to highlight your specific accomplishments and achievements.
What happens if you've been at the same job for a long time, or you just have a lot of achievements, and the list of bullet points is too long?
[see example: visually, it's too much]
My suggestion is to break them down into categories so they're easier to read.
Take a look: this is a classical example of the Harvard Resume Format. [see details in video]
She uses the same bullets she had before, but categorizes them. So it becomes much easier to read all this information, and it's in categories that allow us to really appreciate how much she's achieved in each individual domain.
Remember: you are customizing your resume for each individual job you apply to. So you want to look at the job description and see what problems they really need solving, and what they really care about. Then, you want to be sure that you're ordering the information accordingly.
For example, if you've done both sales and advertising at your past position, and you're applying for an advertising position, then switch the order of those bullets – even if advertising was only a small part of what you did, it's going to be more relevant to what that employer is looking for, so you want that right at the very top.
And don't forget: it's not a job history, it's a job preview. You don't need to include every single position you've ever held, especially if it's not relevant to the job you're applying for now. Ideally, your resume should be 1-2 pages long, the shorter the better. Because the risk with a longer resume is that the hiring manager will simply lose patience and lose interest. Make sure you include only the most interesting, relevant parts of your background.
Now, let's talk about the education section. Typically, it should follow after Professional Experience, unless your education is especially impressive, or you are just starting out in your career and do not have as much professional experience yet.
You're only listing your higher education, so you don't need info about your high school.
Like professional experience, you want to go in reverse chronological order.
Include the name of the school, the degree you got, and you can include the year your graduated. However, if you graduated a long time ago and you're concerned about age discrimination, you can actually remove the year, and that's okay too.
If you received any awards, mention them. They'll make you look good. And you may consider listing some of your coursework. This is useful if you don't have a lot of professional experience yet, or if your coursework is particularly relevant to the job you're applying to, and you don't have as much professional experience that involves those subjects, but it's not strictly necessary.
If you went to school in another country, or one you think your employer might not know very much about, you can include some info about it on your resume – especially if it's a prestigious school.
[Example: “Number 2 national program in engineering”]
And if you did any outstanding or interesting school projects that are related to your career, you might also want to mention that.
If you got a certificate that's relevant to your current work, you might put it under “Education” too. But you should look into the best practices in your industry. In some industries, it's expected that you'll get additional training and certificates, and that you'll put them in a separate “Training” section. So do a little bit of research and see what the standard practice is in your field.
Next, depending on your industry and background, you should consider including a “Skills” section, especially if you have hard skills that are relevant to the job. There are different ways to format these.
There are a few different ways you can organize it.
In this example, they're broken down by section – industrial and mechanical engineering skills, languages, and computer skills.
In this example, this filmmaker organized has two columns of bullets.
(If you have multiple columns, format them using the Tab key, not a table, to avoid ATS problems.)
And here's another example where skills and software are grouped together. This is a good approach if you want to include keywords from the job description, but you don't want this section to take up too much space.
Other sections will depend on your bavkground and profession.
For example, if you have certifications that are relevant in your work, you'll definitely want to include those.
If you have professional affiliations that are relevant or impressive, you might want to include a section for those too, but that's not going to apply to everyone.
And there are a two other sections you may consider including, only if they won't make your resume too long: Volunteering or Community Engagement, and Additional Information.
For Volunteering, you want to approach it with the same attitude as “Professional Experience.” You want to show why this makes you a more interesting and well-rounded candidate. And if you can provide figures, do so, especially if you did something that's impressive, as in this example:
“Managed the organization's budget. Raised $7000 for a low-income after-school program.” This is a lot more interesting than “Volunteered for a fundraiser”
And as I said earlier, if you have volunteer experience that is directly relevant to the work you're seeking, and you have a job gap, you may actually include it under Professional Experience.
And finally, you can include an Additional Information section, where you can mention anything that you didn't' say earlier that you'd like to include.
For example, if you didn't put languages in your skills section, you can include them here.
And if you have any personal interests you want to mention, you can put them here too.
I bring this up because in some countries, it's standard practice to finish the resume with an Interests section.
Here's my opinion on this: there are only two cases when you should include your interests or hobbies on the resume:
First, you can include them if they're relevant to the work you're doing. So for example, if you're applying for a technical writing position, and you write a tech blog in your spare time, you can definitely mentyion that.
And the other case when you can include hobbies is if they're especially interesting, or if they might serve as a conversation starter – something that's going to make the person reading your resume want to learn more about you.
Take a look at this example: “Avid baker. Won 3rd place (out of 458 contestants) in the Best Chocolate Cake division of the New York Bakes Competition.”
This is really interesting, because it adds a completely new dimension to this candidate, it tells us something about her – frankly, it's a pretty impressive achievement – and it plants this seed in your mind that maybe, if you hire this person, she might bake a nice cake for the entire office.
Compare this to an Interests section I sometimes see on people's resumes which is very generic: “Biking, reading, music.”
It tells me nothing interesting about the candidate, and essentially just wastes space on the resume. So if you want to share something personal about yourself, make sure that it's interesting and intriguing, like the baker example – something that can lead to a great conversation, or make the person reading want to know more.
[Transcript coming soon]
So now that we've talked about how to write and format your resume, let's take a couple minutes to discuss what NOT to do.
Here, I'm going to show you an example of a resume with a lot of elements that you'll want to be sure to avoid.
First of all, let's look at the name and contact info. In this resume, the contact info is at the top, above the name. And although this looks fine to a human reader, it can create problems for the ATS. Plus, if we click here, we see that the name and contact info are actually inside a header. This can be a serious problem, since ATS systems don't read headers, so they might process your resume as incomplete, and exclude it from consideration.
Next, we see that this candidate has included a photo. This is common practice in a lot of countries, but in the U.S., we never put a photo on a resume. You might be asked for a photo in some very specific cases – like if you're applying for a job as an actor or a model – but even then, it would typically be separate from your resume. If you're applying for one of those jobs, research the best practices in that industry.
And you don't want to include your age or birthdate, marital status, gender, ethnicity, or any other personal information. The reason for this is that it's actually illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on these data. So you don't want to put them in any kind of awkward legal position.
You also shouldn't include your passport number, social security number, or any other kind of ID. If any employer needs this type of information further in the hiring process, they'll ask for it, but you don't want to just send out this confidential info everywhere.
And you don't need to mention your nationality, even if you're not a U.S. citizen. As I mentioned before, you can put “authorized to work in the United States” if it's true and you feel like the employer could have and doubts about it, but you do not need to go into any more detail than that.
I said this earlier: don't include an “Objective statement.” It's outdated, and it doesn't provide compelling information – it's about you, rather than the employers needs, and usually wastes space.
And I really don't recommend graphics. Unless you are applying for a job where the employer is specifically looking for visual creativity – such as a graphic designer – graphics are often viewed as unnecessary and unprofessional.
Now, let's talk about the layout. I mentioned before that you don't want tables or textboxes, since they may not be read properly – or at all – by the ATS.
You don't want a design that seems too complicated, with a lot of different fonts, colors, and an overly fancy appearance. It can be distracting, and cause the employer to wonder whether you're afraid that your skills and experience won't speak for themselves.
Be consistent about how you present your information. If you include the months and years in one position (June 2011-Jan. 2013) then don't forget to include the months in the next position (2008-2010). Choose one approach and stick to it. Personally, I prefer to include years only, unless you have several shorter experiences one after the other, since it helps to smooth out any employment gaps you may have.
In your skills section, include hard skills that are relevant to the job. Don't include basics like Microsoft Office, Windows, faxing, answering phones, and so on, because it is assumed that you should have these skills already. The only exception is if they are specifically mentioned in the job description; in that case, you do want to include them for the keywords, which we will discuss later. But in this example, if you have a Masters degree and have worked as a finance manager, don't waste space on your resume explaining that you know how to use a computer.
You also want to avoid phrases like “great leadership skills” and “motivated and hardworking.” – again, unless they're specifically mentioned in the job ad for your target position. Because these phrases are very vague, anyone can write them on their resume, and being “hardworking” should be a given. Instead, try to show these things through your accomplishments and experience.
Don't use the words “I” or “my” in your resume. Write in the third person.
And if you're used to British, Australian, or any English spelling that is not American, ensure that you're using the U.S. spell-check on your resume. It's organize, not organise, and Color, not Colour.
In some countries, in addition to writing your educational experience on the resume, you are expected to provide copies of your diplomas, too. That's not the case in the United States. You never need to provide your diploma when applying for a job. Sometimes, an employer will request a copy of your transcripts, and very rarely, they may want to see your diploma later in the process... but not in the beginning.
Now, what do you do if your education or experience is from another country and in another language? Don't assume that your American reader will be familiar with your country's degree, educational system, or any untranslated concepts. You should translate everything. The only exception may be a school name, especially if it's obvious that it's the name of a university. But if there's any doubt, translate it. If your education was in another country with a different system, it's also a good idea to specify how this compares to the American degrees the reader is more familiar with.
You shouldn't include your high school information unless that is the only degree you have, or an employer specifically asks for it. Even if you went to a specialized high school and took courses that are specific to your current profession, U.S. employers generally want to see only your higher education – your college, university, or graduate education.
Never put your salary expectations on a resume. Some jobs will ask you to include your salary requirements in your application, and if you really feel like they're required, include them in your cover letter – but never your resume. And if you can, it's better to avoid the question of salary entirely until later in the application process, when you've had some interviews and they're clearly interested in you.
You may find a few sample resumes online that include the phrase “references available upon request” at the end. Don't do this. It's outdated and a waste of space. It goes without saying that you can provide references when the company requests them, so there's no need to state this.
A few other general notes:
I recommend creating your resume in Microsoft Word. It's the format employers most often request, and causes the fewest problems with ATS systems. Some people use google docs instead, but I've seen multiple cases when resumes that looked great in GoogleDocs had bad or messed up formatting when opened in MS Word, making them look sloppy and unprofessional. You should also be careful about PDFs. They're usually okay and don't cause problems for ATS systems, but you should check to make sure that you can select the text on your PDF, like this. Because sometimes, when a PDF is created, it creates an image, rather than text, so if you can't select it, chances are, the ATS won't be able to read the words.
In all cases, pay attention to what it says in the application instructions. If the employer requests your resume in a specific format or file type, make sure you follow those directions.
I want to mention another issue. If you've searched for information online about resumes, you may have come across the debate on “chronological vs Functional” resumes. Throughout this course, everything I'm showing you concerns chronological resumes: resumes where your previous work experience is listed in reverse chronological order, and each of your jobs is described in detail.
There is a different approach called a functional resume, and I STRONLY advise against using a functional resume, and I'll tell you why in a minute. Here is how a functional resume looks: instead of listing your experience under each job you've held, you group different categories of experience together, and then have a very short work history that just lists your jobs and dates, without details. Some people will tell you that this approach is good if your skills and experience for the target job are limited, or if you have a scattered job history or job gaps, a functional resume can help hide this fact and focus on the skills and experience you do bring to the table.
But here's the problem: employers KNOW This. I have spoken with multiple hiring managers and HR professionals who all say that when they see a functional resume, they immediately know the candidate is trying to hide something and are much less likely to call them. If you do have problems with your job history, consider creating a longer summary section that really stresses your strengths, but don't leave out the chronological job history.
Plus, even if you can make it look good and compelling to a human reader, you'll get in trouble with the ATS. We'll discuss this more in the ATS and Keyword section, but the newer, more sophisticated ATS systems will rank you based on keywords in your most recently-held positions… and if you have each position listed with the dates but no content, you can end up with a very low ATS ranking, so your resume might never be viewed by a live person.
Now, let's talk more about keywords and applicant tracking software systems, or ATS. I already brought them up earlier. An ATS is a piece of software that “reads” your resume and determines whether you're a good fit for the position based on information and keywords, and ranks your resume before a live person ever sees it.
All Fortune 1000 companies and 80% of small and midsize businesses use ATS systems. Plus, just about every recruiter is using it.
So the ATS will take your information and rank you in comparison to other job applicants.
Here's the problem. Most jobseekers don't know anything about this process. All they know is that they're applying to job after job, but no one seems to be replying.
In this section, I'm going to teach you all of the insider tips and tricks to make sure the ATS reads your resume properly and, if you're genuinely a good match for this job, that you're going to be ranked at the top of this digital resume pile and get seen by a live person.
The ATS will parse and analyze your resume, and use the information it reads (such as years of experience, education, and skills) to rank you in comparison to other job applicants. Most importantly, it will calculate the number of relevant keywords in your content, and rank how well your resume matches the employer's needs for that position compared to other candidates.
What are Keywords? Keywords are either individual words – or, more often, two- to three-word phrases – that the employer lists in the ATS as important – what they want to see in an ideal candidate's resume. They don't actually expect real candidates to have every single keyword on their resumes, but the more you have, the more highly your resume will be ranked. Only the most highly-ranked resumes will then be read by a live person.
It's impossible to know all the keywords the employer plugs into the ATS. But you can get a pretty good sense by reading the job ad. The posting will often include many of those keywords the description, “requirements” “responsibilities” and other parts of the job ad.
Some of the older systems only look at the number of keywords that appear, but the newer, more sophisticated systems actually put those keywords into context. For example, if they're looking for someone with industrial engineering experience, your resume will be more highly ranked if the keyword phrase “industrial engineering” appears in your most recent work experience, which lasted 4 years, than a work experience you had earlier, or one that lasted only 2 years.
To better understand all this, it might be helpful to understand how this process looks from the employer's side. Here's what's happening on the employer's side in terms of ATS.
First, the hiring manager creates a job description (if it doesn't exist already).
Then, HR extracts keywords from the job description and enters them into the ATS.
Then, the job is posted on the company website or job boards online.
So what happens after the job is posted publicly? Well, there's a great infographic from the WSJ that shows what happens next.
According to the Wall St Journal infographic, when a job is posted online, 1000 people see it, then 200 people start the application process, and 100 people complete the application. This varies from job to job. Some hiring managers work with jobs where they receive 200-300 applications for the posting.
Next, the ATS does its work, and the hiring manager ends up looking at only about 25 of those applications.
Finally, 4-6 candidates are invited to an interview, 1-3 of them make it to the final round, and then 1 person is offered a job.
So as you can see, the whole application process is very competitive. But again, if you get on top of that digital resume pile by optimizing for ATS, then you'll be competing with far fewer people.
So now that you know all this, how do you make sure your resume come out ahead of other job-seekers?
And how do you know which keywords to include? Well, let's take a look at this job description. Here, I'm going to highlight the words and phrases that are most likely being used as keywords. You can do the same thing yourself on your target job ad. Go through the job ad and see which words and phrases seem important, and then highlight them.
After that, you can look through your own resume and see if they appear there. And if they don't, you can ask yourself – could they? Is this something that I've done? Is this a piece of information I could add?
Now you never want to lie. For example, “confidential information” is one of the keywords here. If you've never worked with confidential information, don't insert it. You're not expected to have every single keyword from the job ad.
However, if you've worked with databases and Outlook, but you didn't include this on your resume before, you can see that here, these are things they're specifically looking for, so it's a good idea to add them to your “skills” section.
So how might you modify your own resume for each position? Well, let's take a look at the resume of a computer camp teacher and curriculum writer. Here's what he has on his resume in his “professional experience section”
“Prepared, wrote, and taught curricula for multiple computer courses.”
“Created and led daily activities for campers age 9-17, including an outdoor activity class that earned the highest camper rating in camp history.”
Okay, so this is a pretty good place to start. But now, let's look at the job description in the job ad for the job he wants to apply to. They're looking for a technology counselor.
You can see here that he's gone through and highlighted words and phrases that look like they could be keywords.
“Tech workshops, supervise campers, Designing Video Games ,HTML, Java, C++, Game Maker, swimming and recreation.”
Now, let's take a look at how this job candidate has modified his resume with these keywords in mind:
“Prepared, wrote, and taught curricula for several tech workshops and classes, including C++, Java, HTML, and game design.”
“Created and supervised including an outdoor recreation class that included hiking and swimming.”
So, again, this has to all be true. You can't just make stuff up. But in the previous version, the job candidate was not as specific. Now, though, he's read the job description and knows exactly what they're looking for. So he can be a lot more concrete in his new resume, and describe which elements of his previous experience are particularly relevant to this job.
Here is the previous version – which is not as specific – followed by the new version, which includes keywords.
Here's another example. Let's say you're a marketer and you started out with this phrase on your resume: Created marketing strategy, including brochures, collateral, and branding images.
Now, let's take a look at the job description. They're looking for someone with experience creating marketing plans, branding, and writing copy.
So in reality, when we compare these two phrases, they're very similar, but the wording is different. So how can we modify this to take the keywords into account? Let's look at the new wording.
“Created marketing plan” instead of “marketing strategy.” They're the same thing, but the wording matches the job description. “Wrote copy,” which refers to the wording this jobseeker wrote for the brochures, and “created branding.”
So now, we see that this phrasing matches the job description much more closely, and should be ranked more highly by the ATS.
We already talked about some formatting tips earlier, but here are a few more things to keep in mind to ensure the ATS processes your resume correctly.
Don't use text boxes, tables, or columns, since the ATS usually can't read what's inside, or reads it incorrectly.
Avoid templates – especially the kind that come with your MS Word – because they're usually full of those boxes.
Avoid special characters. Some ATS systems won't be able to read them correctly. For example, the word “resume” with the accents will come out looking like this.
Ensure correct spelling. This is important not just for the human reader, but for the ATS as well – if you misspell a keyword, the ATS won't read it and add it to your ranking.
And finally, leave white space – blank space between the sections. That your resume is not one giant block of text. Not only will this make it easier for human eyes, but an ATS also uses it to differentiate sections.
So here are the action steps for this section.
Take a job ad for a position you'd like to apply to, and go through it, highlighting words and phrases that are likely to keywords. Pay special attention to the information listed as “duties”, “requirements” or following the word “must”
Now go through your resume and see which ones already appear there, and which ones can be added. Add any skills mentioned in the job ad that aren't already in your resume. And look at the specific wording used by the employer – if you can rephrase your own experience using their terminology, do so.
Finally, go through the ATS checklist to ensure that your resume will be fully ATS-readable.
Lidia Arshavsky is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and career coach who has helped clients around the world land the jobs they've always wanted. I give you a behind-the-scenes look into the hiring process so you can get the job you've always wanted and enjoy going to work in the morning.