Rethinking your resume

If you haven’t updated your resume in a while there’s good news and bad news: the good news is that in many ways resumes haven’t changed at all; the bad news is that in some ways they have.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to produce a resume in the first place. With relatively low unemployment the job market is pretty good, but that doesn’t mean you can walk into any role you like. For every position advertised in Australia there are an average of 19 applicants, according to a Department of Jobs and Small Business survey.

Maybe you’re happy with a 20-to-one shot at your dream job, but if your resume isn’t up to scratch the odds might not even be that good.

Award-winning resume guru Roland Coombes, director at Itouch Professional Solutions, understands that most people find the prospect of crafting a resume “daunting”. 

It’s not an easy task to sell yourself on paper, and not everyone has those writing skills,” Roland says. “Many of us are time-poor so devoting the time needed to craft a resume can be daunting. It also doesn’t help if it’s left until the last minute.

“A trick is to always have a current resume at the ready, even when you aren’t particularly looking for jobs. This way you’re never under any immediate pressure and you can build the resume over time.”

One size does not fit all

In the job market of yesterday a “one size fits all” resume was perfectly acceptable. In fact if you’re old enough you may remember the days when you had a few copies of your resume sitting in a drawer somewhere ready to go.

Then maybe once a year or the next time your boss said something mean you’d update it and then sneakily run off some fresh copies on the work printer during lunch.

But, as Roland says, “We’ve moved on since those days.

"More often than not recruiters are looking for exact matches. Tailoring a resume – or ‘hacking’, as I sometimes call it – is all about rewriting around a job description so it screams, ‘Hire me! I’m an exact fit!’

“In fact, I would go so far as to say that 80 to 90 per cent of the resume should fit the job description exactly.”

Learning to talk to robots

Yet it’s no longer good enough to simply convince a human being that you’re the perfect candidate. The recruitment process is now increasingly automated, with “applicant tracking systems” (ATS) often employed to screen resumes based on keywords and relevance. An ATS is designed to make recruiters’ lives easier, filtering out resumes that fail to meet basic criteria and leaving only those worthy of further consideration.

This means you need to pay close attention to the job advertisement and be sure that your resume includes words that speak specifically to the position’s requirements.

“Take for example an employer looking for a project manager with Agile experience in the retail sector,” Roland says. “The ATS software will screen each resume to score ‘matches’ – in other words it will produce a scoring report based on the keywords ‘project manager’, ‘Agile’ and ‘retail’ and how frequently and recently they occur in each resume.

“Placing these keywords in the introduction, skills sets and body of the text will help increase your score in the ATS.”

But don’t get too clever. Trying to game the system by “keyword stuffing” might help push your resume to the top of the pile, but at some point a human being will read it. Don’t sacrifice clarity and natural language for score-boosting trickery.

The rise of the resume machines also means that the days of trying to score bonus creativity points for dropping in some Clipart or using cursive fonts are over. 

“Avoid too many graphics and fancy formats because the document will be parsed by machines that will strip the document to raw text,” Roland explains. “If you don’t follow basic formatting rules your resume may be unreadable by software or you’ll score lower in their reports.”

Roland recommends structuring your resume into logical, easily interpreted patterns, dividing it into separate headed sections like “contact information”, “personal summary”, “skills list”, “education” and “employment history”. 

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