Creating a Sharp Resume

John Krautzel
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Due to the rising popularity of applicant tracking software, up to 72 percent of resumes are never even read by human eyes. To maximize your resume's potential, you have to know the tricks of the trade. Give your resume the edge it needs to make it past the applicant tracking software and into the hands of a hiring manager.

Highlight Contact Information

Make sure your basic contact information is right at the top of your resume so it's easy to find. All you need is your phone number and email address for further communications; in many cases, the applicant tracking software sends an automated email with additional information, so make sure your email address is correct and up to date.

Eliminate Graphics and Fancy Fonts

Artsy, creative-looking resumes may appeal to human eyes, but a machine won't be so impressed with your efforts. For best results, keep it simple and easy to read. Most ATS systems can't recognize or understand images, so focus on crafting a text-heavy resume instead. Stay away from fancy borders, colors and shading as well. Convert your resume text to a standard, 12-point font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Helvetica. Avoid using special characters other than standard bullets. It may seem boring, but a plain, black and white, text-heavy resume is much easier for a computer to read, so it has a greater chance of making it past the initial screening and in front of a live person.

Mirror Language From the Job Description

You should tailor your resume to each company and job. Start by reading the job description thoroughly; here you can find the keywords and phrases that are most important. Your resume should include some of the same words and phrases, including industry-specific terms and acronyms. Try to include only the most relevant experience and skills, as the resumes with the most relevant keywords tend to make it through the filter.

Proofread Carefully

Once completed, scan through your resume to catch any misspelled words or other typos. If the ATS program comes across a word or phrase it doesn't recognize, it may reject your entire resume. Once you've looked over it, give it to a friend to edit and proofread. A fresh pair of eyes is better at catching subtle mistakes that you might miss.

Not every company uses applicant tracking software, but most medium- to large-sized firms do. If you're fortunate enough to know beforehand whether the company you're applying to uses ATS, it's in your best interest to optimize your resume to help you get past the initial screening. Formatting your resume to appeal to both computer programs and hiring managers takes skill, but it also significantly increases your chances of getting the job.

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