I get why resume writing seems so difficult. There’s too much conflicting information online about how to create a resume.
There are graphic resume templates, career websites recommending best practices, and terms like “targeting” and “branding” circling around social media. Luckily, there’s a community of career services professionals that share insights with each other to keep up with evolving hiring practices.
I’ll cut to the chase, there’s more to resume writing than listing your work history. If you’re going to be applying for jobs online, you can avoid the frustration and discouragement that follows a time-consuming application process and start attracting the interest that you deserve from employers once you understand what‘s happening with your resume.
What Happens When You Apply Online
When you upload your resume for an online job application, your resume is collected, scanned, and stored in a database called Applicant Tracking software. Depending on the specific employer software, it may automatically rank your application against other applicants or simply store your information in that searchable database.
What ATS Can’t Read On Your Resume
This employer software is intuitive, but there are still 9 specific details that it can’t read correctly if at all on your resume. If your resume has any of these visual or textual details, it’s likely hurting your chances of getting through Applicant Tracking software and in front of a decision-maker.
Designations After Your Name
Let’s start at the top. Employer software can’t read designations that follow your name correctly. Designations are typically credentials like MBA or M.S. (for Master of Science), PMP (for Project Manager Professional), or LCSW (for Licensed Clinical Social Worker). Applicant Tracking software scans your resume, recognizes text, and stores it in the corresponding field within the database; and the name field is commonly First Name and Last Name with the potential Prefix (Mr. or Ms.).
In other words, adding designations to your name won’t help you stand out as much as you thought. Instead, place these designations in the body of your resume where they’re more likely to be picked up as keywords.
Headers and Footers
Employer software can’t read your contact information if it’s placed in the header or footer of a Word document. While PDFs are formatted in a way that makes all of the text able to be scanned, Word documents are formatted differently than PDFs. The information you want to share with employers needs to be in the body of the Word document.
You can include page numbers and duplicate contact information in the header or footer as long as you have that information listed in the body of the text first.
Graphic Visual Elements
Employer software can’t read photos, graphics, charts, or icons. These are commonly used to add visual elements that help your resume stand out, but they often replace critically important keywords in your resume that Applicant Tracking software will be looking for.
If you’re using these to replace text that indicates your skills, achievements, or other keywords, your resume won’t work to land you the job that you want.
Tables & Text Boxes
Employer software can’t read text found in tables or text boxes either. When adding tables or text boxes to a Microsoft Word resume, you’re changing the digital formatting of the document rather than adding text to the body of the resume.
These can be great visual elements for showcasing quotes from performance reviews or career assessments, but make sure you’re not losing valuable keywords.
Employer software also reads your resume from left to right. If you’re organizing your resume information using columns, that information isn’t being scanned and stored correctly. Another fatal flaw of using multiple columns to organize your resume information is trying to cram too much information into a single page. This makes your resume incredibly difficult to skim once it’s seen by that decision-maker, too.
You’re far better off stretching your resume to two pages (if you have more than 5 years of experience) with a one-column layout when applying to jobs online.
You must be thinking, “What can I do to make my resume stand out visually?” Bold font, italicized font, underlined font, colored text, borders, and shading are all fair game.
If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. I’ve created stand-out templates that take the mystery out of Applicant Tracking software-friendly visual branding. These templates are easy to edit and were designed specifically for college graduates (or students), major career changers, mid-career professionals, and IT professionals.
Get yours along with a Branding Statement Cheat Sheet, a Skills Inventory (with a bonus Work History Examples Guide), and a Resume Targeting Guide ($60 value) for only $45!
Are there any graphic elements that you’re rushing to remove from your resume?