If you are in the midst of job search, or know someone who is, the chance is you have probably encountered the dark abyss of the company application database to which you submit your resume and cover letter. I call it a dark abyss because, more than likely, once you have hit the “submit” button and receive the confirmation email, nothing else happens. It feels like your resume has been dropped into a very deep and dark hole and vanished forever. So what can you do about this frustrating situation? Well, the good news is that it may not be your qualifications. It is more likely that your resume does not have the magic keywords.
You need to know the three key audiences for your resume – computer, HR, and hiring manager. Your resume is first scanned for keywords that the hiring manager sets. Your resume’s second audience, HR, then makes sure your background information matches with the position you applied to in a very HR perspective (degree, major, objective). If your resume has passed these two filters, congratulations! The hiring manager will very likely get to read it.
Now, how do you design your resume such that it can be successfully scanned by the three very different audiences? I highly recommend reading The Real Secret Of Finding A Job by Rick Gillis. He breaks each section of your resume down for these audiences and gives you real tactics to follow, from content to layout design. In this post, I will give you the key take-away I learned from his book (and I got calls back from companies every single time after I used his approach).
The idea is basically to SEO (or search engine optimize) your resume by including keywords. These keywords are those the hiring manager would give HR as search criteria to locate a probable match in the application database. The more matching keywords your resume has, the higher it will score and the more likely it will land in the right hands at the end. Rick talks about including keywords in two places, your resume content and at the end of your resume.
Keywords are usually in the job description. What you need to do is to identify the ones that are unique to the job post, extract them, and incorporate them in your resume content in the appropriate places. For keywords that you cannot fit into your qualifications, Rick’s trick is to include them at the bottom of your resume, shrink them into font size 1, and change the font color to white. The words are not humanly visible but the computer can still “see” them. Keep in mind that you should include a keyword only if you really know or can do what the keyword asks for, especially if they are part of a task description. For example, if the job post has “HPLC” listed, but you don’t know how to do “HPLC”, DON’T include it.
His book further details how to select keywords, and other practical information and consideration for job search. I highly recommend it to anyone who is and is not on the job market. I already bought one for a friend who is graduating soon. In closing, I will leave you with Styx’s Mr. Roboto. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or ask me questions about a specific area of my experience. Until next post, keep on optimizing.