July 17, 2013
How to get your resume to the top of the stack
The most questions I get at networking events and on career panels revolve around resume writing. Two things have dramatically impacted the way recruiters look at resumes. One is search technology (keywords); the other includes federal government compliance initiatives.
The majority of large employers in Seattle (Boeing, Amazon.com, Microsoft, UW, all government offices) are subject to these compliance initiatives. Compliant organizations must have an auditable process that proves that they consider all qualified applicants for all open positions.
The caveat? They can only consider qualified applicants for all open positions. And the most common tool used to determine whether a candidate is qualified is keyword searching based on the minimum qualifications listed in the job posting.
What this means to job seekers is that you must hit all of the minimum functional (hard) skills listed on the job description, including the number of years of experience. If the job requirements include a bachelor's degree and you have an AA, you are not qualified; there is nothing you, as a candidate, can do to change that. (Most jobs that take experience in lieu of a degree will say "or equivalent.")
Here is the "golden nugget": Applicant tracking systems are set up to stack-rank candidates against keyword searches based on the number of repetitions of each keyword in the resume. So you need to highlight your skills in each position that is applicable. For example, someone with "sales" in his resume four times will show up as less relevant than someone with the same term repeated 16 times.
Soft skills (such as "well organized," "good communication skills," "able to deal well with change") should not be part of your pursuit of keywords. They should be demonstrated by example, and this is one of the primary reasons for the interview process. Instead of saying you are a good communicator, add a bullet point demonstrating it: "Trilingual English/Spanish/Portuguese native speaker with ESL teaching experience."
Don't go overboard, but be cognizant of your keywords and offer detailed examples of why you are the ideal fit for the job.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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