Most Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, organizations and recruiters screen resume files digitally to improve efficiency in retrieving resumes of applicants who match the specified criteria. The screening eliminates 75 to 80% of resumes submitted, resulting in only 20 to 25% of resumes emerging from this process. As a byproduct, the screening captures data that fulfills government requirements to report activity related to handicapped, gender, ethnic, and age hiring. For these and other reasons screening is here to stay. You may be successful in networking your way into interviews, but your resume will be screened to comply with organization policies. And it could get lost in the process, so be sure to follow through.
My advice is to create an eye-appealing resume in MS Word (.docx), then save it in MS Word as well as .pdf (Adobe) and plain text (.txt) formats. Your eye-appealing, graphically enriched resume will convert to a garbled mess when submitted to Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, also referred to as electronic or digital scanning. The least risky format for submitting your resume is the .txt format, which strips away all bolding and other enhancements. Use this file format when submitting your resume online and any time it will be digitally scanned.
This practice has a low probability of working — at all!. It is especially ineffective when you are applying online. To pass through the digital screening, you need sufficient key word matching density, and your key words need to be specific to job levels, functions, terminologies, and industries. Also, consider this: The hiring manager may see resumes of 4 to 8 applicants. A reasonable guess is that 2 to 3 applicants will already be working at the hiring organization; 2 to 3 will have experience in the same position at a competitor organization, and 2 may be qualified on some other basis. It’s a competitive world!
Only partly yes. if you have analyzed 12 to 20 job postings in your selected job category, and if you have identified the key words and requirements of the postings, and if you have used this information in preparing your resume, the amount of customizing for each resume you submit in that job category should be minimal, perhaps only 15%, and mostly limited to positioning headlines and capabilities lists. Making a few changes in headline, plus capabilities and skills lists, may be sufficient.
You need to explain a gap when you have been unemployed for more than 5 months since your last position. You may also need to explain a gap that occurred prior to your most recent position if you held your most recent job for fewer than 2 years. Prior to that employment, it is best to explain any gap of more than a year. Your explanation in your resume may include a simple note between Experience section entries or you may prepare your entry in a pseudo-employment style (looks like the real thing at first glance). Brevity of explanation is the rule because your primary purpose is to ensure chronological continuity to the scanning software. In addition, explaining a gap reduces the possibility that your reviewer will suspect you of having a problem that you have not had. (Yes, I have written resumes for people who have been incarcerated.)
No to both although a bulleted Summary section can impress your reader and create interest in learning more. I suggest 2 possibilities for using the space typically occupied by an Objective Satement; (a) a positioning “headline” that identifies you with a job category such as “CUSTOMER SUCCESS MANAGER”; and (b) a persona statement of 6 to 12 words that captures your commitment and motivation. For example, a Social Worker might enter “Inspired to assist homeless people in becoming housed, stable, and equipped to become the thriving version of themselves.” The Introductory paragraph is nixed because it is not easily absorbed in 3 to 6 seconds. It either stops the reader or the reader skips over it. The typical Introductory paragraph is a list of attributes separated by commas; lists are more effectively presented in table or column form.
Your resume needs to be written to open doors for your preferred next step. Then everything it contains is designed to reinforce your capabilities to excel in that position. Below your contact information you may use a positioning headline that announces your preferred job area. Near the top you might also include a 6 to 12 word persona line that expresses your zeal for the position. Then add a Summary section of one-line bullet points or short phrases before your Experience section to emphasize the most important factors that will lead to your selection and success in your preferred position. Abbreviate the less relevant, most recent Experience entries, but keep achievements. Elaborate and expand the way-back, more relevant Experience entries.
Not necessarily. Employers are using online tools including scanning, commonly known as applicant tracking software. Do the robots care about the length of your resume? Probably not. The screening software is designed to search for key terms, and a resume longer than a page allows you to add more information to increase your key word density. This improves the chances your resume will be selected for further analysis. If you are early in your career with almost no relevant experience or academic projects, one page may be appropriate.
An exception to the advice to prepare a resume beyond the one page is the senior manager or highly specialized professional who conducts their job search by networking. A one-page summary resume may be adequate if supplemented with complementing pieces that demonstrate breadth of capability. The one-page will highlight the most notable accomplishments, although it may lack the usual resume sections. Arguably the result may depart so far from the usual resume format that it may not be perceived as a resume by the recipient.
Yes! A recruiter I learned of will never read a resume unless it is accompanied by a letter, yet many recruiters claim they never read the letter. In the murky world of guessing which factors will tip you into favorability, I advise preparing a cover letter — always. Use your letter to introduce the strengths most likely to get you hired including your most outstanding soft skills. Your purpose in the letter is to inspire the reviewer to turn the page to red your resume. Always, too, read the instructions in the postings, which often include specific requests, such as “Tell us why you want to work here.”
Even More FAQs
No! Why should you be limited to a task listing when you can gain advantage by showing your awesome achievements related to the requirements. In the unlikely possibility you are invited to an interview after following this copying approach, be extra diligent in acquiring insights from your research about the company, become articulate about industry trends, and spice the interview with your stories of achievement. Additionally, you should impress by executing your carefully rehearsed responses to expected interview questions.
One method of testing the result is to upload your resume to Indeed (the job board) or your online job application and click the Edit button. You will see the conversion result and can correct any problems from that screen. The least risky way to ensure effective conversion is to create your resume in MS Word, then save it as a plain text formatted file (.txt). Use the .txt file to cut and paste individual experience entries into online dialog boxes. Also create a .pdf-formatted resume to upload your resume in entirety when this capability if available. Look for this option after you have completed the online application. Avoid the uploading the resume you prepared in MS Word resume if it includes feature enhancements such as columns and tables.
If I take a 180-degree twist to upend my perspective and adopt a marketing and branding approach, how will my resume be different?
It will capture attention and draw in the reader, earning more than the usual 3 to 6 seconds skim. Its visual layout will be structured for easy reading, following time-tested principles that engage readers. The Summary section bullet points will introduce you and impress the reader as a recounting of the building blocks of your career, as well as your strengths, relevance to the position, and knowledge. All sections will be clearly separated and labeled to allow your reader to focus on their interests. You will be positioned within your job category of choice. Your Experience section will include your accomplishments and value. It will focus on challenges you met by applying your ingenuity; changes you made as a leader, and differences you made.
Remedies include: (a) send more resumes (6 to 12 weekly); (b) submit only when you meet 70 to 80% of the hard skills requirements; (c) improve your resume’s readability including visual layout and eye appeal; (d) use the first third of your resume’s first page to show the high points and compel your reader to want more; (e) bring your resume to life with action terms emphasizing your ability to meet challenges and achieve results; (f) clarify the value you bring; (g) integrate your soft skills into bullet points including your ability to lead, collaborate with others, and follow through.
Compared with job seekers, freelancers are less likely to find new opportunities through announced open position listings or from recruiters, although specialized agencies or online boards may be helpful in connecting freelancers to prospective clients. In addition to submitting a formally prepared resume, freelancers may be required to register with online services that match them with clients. The predominant way freelancers find new clients is through networking and loose collaborations with other freelancers. In addition to information required of job seekers, freelancers need to demonstrate their specialties and client work in the form of portfolios, online examples, user cases, and other means that supplement their resume and LinkedIn profile.
Professionals are highly educated, offer specialized expertise, and have gained extensive knowledge through years of experience in resolving issues similar to yours. In addition to solving dilemmas and guiding you with advice, often beyond the resume itself, an expert can lead you through the mysteries, mazes, and conflicting opinions about how to produce a resume that represents you advantageously.
Consider slogans that appear on billboards and TV: “Got Milk?” “Just Go For It,” and “Expect More.” To reduce a message to these few words, brand researchers interview people on the streets, brainstorm with white boards, meet with focus groups, and test ideas repeatedly with important audience segments. Their mission is to find the one unifying slogan that epitomizes the message. Then they add drama, images, and catchy tunes that stay with us. The process requires many talented specialists who execute multiple phases, and these people are paid very well. Preparing a one-page resume that delivers your most powerful messages benefits from professional expertise.
If minimizing your expenditures is critical, you can resort to at least four options: (a) ask a friend or family member to help; (b) find a word processing firm or transcription service; (c) search online for a resume template to use; and (d) find an online resume writing service and select one in your price range. Also search for “best resumes” in your area of specialty to find models that can inspire you to add topics and express your accomplishments more effectively.
Yes! It will be powerful through the big 3 obstacles of its journey: (a) first impression, (b) recruiters, and (c) hiring manager. The initial visual impression is followed by the scanning software, then recruiter, and finally the hiring manager. Your resume needs to resonate with your prospective employer’s mindset, which is; “What’s in this for me?” Your resume needs to be a quick read that allows the reader to find what they are interested in with ease. It should conjure images of you succeeding in the position. It should acquaint the reader with you and launch a relationship, as well as spark interest in knowing more about you. Perhaps most important, it can set you up for the most effective interview you could expect.
This seemingly easy practice can severely compromise the effectiveness of your resume. An important purpose of your resume is to support your claim on the job you want. This often means modifying, elaborating, and deleting points from your past jobs as well as emphasizing information from your most recent experience to gain advantage for the job you are pursuing now. In addition, the work environment and hiring requirements continually change. You should review job postings to identify methods, techniques, and software, as well as leadership qualities and other soft skills that are in high demand. Be certain your resume reflects the applicant qualifications employers value most now.