4 Ways to Get Past the Resume Gatekeepers

by Krantcents · 29 comments

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It’s been estimated that for every job posted these days, there are over 100 people that apply for it. And if the job is in a sought-after profession, you can easily expect to go up against hundreds of others who likely have qualifications that are similar to yours – or better! How can you expect to catch the attention of hiring managers with so much competition? Learn the four secrets to a great resume.

Focus on accomplishments. This seems obvious, right? After all, you want your resume to show potential employers how amazing you are. Why, then, do so many people fall into the boring, long-winded trap of simply bullet-pointing (or worse, writing a paragraph about) the different responsibilities they had at their previous jobs.

If you’re applying for a janitorial position, the hiring manager is going to assume that you’ve used cleaning products and taken out trash – there’s no need to mention the fact that you’ve done them on your resume. Same thing if the job is an assistant in an office. Oh, really, you answered phones and kept your previous boss’s calendar? How fascinating.

Instead of “made cold calls to people to get sales,” try something along the lines of “increased sales by 50 percent” or even “made more calls to clients than anyone else in the office.” No, that second example isn’t as impressive, but sometimes you have to work hard to spin what you’ve got, and it’s still more interesting than “made calls.” You’re also showing potential employers that you know how to sell yourself, which is usually a valued skill.

Know your audience. Some of this is simple. Your dream job at the fashion magazine doesn’t care that you worked at McDonald’s last summer, so either don’t include it at all or spend as little space as possible on the job. That non-profit is probably going to laugh at the fact that you put your picture on your resume, but someone at an entertainment company might enjoy getting to put a face with the name. Or not. That’s why you need to study the industry, the job, and the company as much as possible ahead of time.

A great first step is to use a site like CareerQA to get an overview of different jobs, then try to connect with someone in that industry or company (hopefully both!) and pick their brain before submitting your resume.

Keep it clean. Another obvious one, but no one seems to remember this: don’t make mistakes on your resume! The number one reason that resumes get tossed by hiring managers is because they notice a mistake on it. In fact, for a lot of those in the business of hiring people, that’s an automatic trip to the circular file. Don’t just trust in Spellcheck to catch your mistakes; double and triple check your writing to make sure that you’re not doing something stupid. This can include but is not limited to: misspellings, grammar errors, dropped words, and incorrect dates. Cover letters and emails are perhaps even more important in this regard because some people make the egregious error of putting the wrong person’s name – or even the wrong company name – in the message.

The other way that you want to keep it clean is to make sure that your resume looks good. That means creating a consistent look, using bullet points, and above all remembering that brevity is the soul of wit. Few hiring managers want to slog through a resume that is more than one page, and God help you if your resume has giant, intimidating paragraphs of information on it. Find a way to break them up, cut them down to their essence, and make them look good.

Choose your words carefully. Part of this is good writing, but where resumes are concerned in the modern world, there’s more to it than that. A lot of people don’t know this, but many companies employ software to sift through the resumes they get before a person ever even sees them. They have specific keywords attached to each position, and if you’re not using enough of them or using them in the right way, there’s a good chance that your resume won’t ever make it into human hands.

So, how do you know the right words to use? Take a look at the job description. Most of the time there will be specific words that employers use to describe each aspect of the position. When you are writing your resume and tailoring it to them, part of that should be looking for places where you can include those keywords in ways that seem organic to the work you’ve done in the past. It’s becoming more and more important to do this as time passes and these programs get smarter and smarter.

Josh Weiss-Roessler is a professional resume writer and co-owner of Weiss-Roessler Writing. He loves offering career advice and job-search tips, along with writing about a wide variety of other topics. When he’s not working, you’ll likely find him hanging out with his wife, playing with his one-year-old boy, or walking their two tiny dogs.

Photo by:  Flickr

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{ 26 comments }

Michelle September 5, 2013 at 5:19 am

Showing accomplishments is definitely something that needs to be put on more resumes. Those reading resumes want to see PROOF of what you have done.

Krantcents September 5, 2013 at 7:38 am

A resume is a marketing document! It is supposed to persuade the reader you are the right person for the job.

Money Beagle September 5, 2013 at 5:47 am

From a ‘looking good’ perspective, it takes me back to a piece of advice I got from a college adviser almost 20 years ago, and that’s to have your most recent job take up the most real estate, with every job having a little less detail. Every time I add a new job at the top, I consolidate the detail for every job below accordingly. Most recruiters are probably going to give your current job a look, anyways.

Krantcents September 5, 2013 at 7:39 am

I agree, although the number of years at each company is another element.

Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia September 5, 2013 at 8:39 am

I’ll admit I need to do a better job of focusing on accomplishments rather than job descriptions (although sometimes performing the job descriptions feel like major accomplishments!). Plus, sometimes job titles are vague so purely listing accomplishments might not give enough insight as to what your job actually entailed.

Krantcents September 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Employers want you quantify what you did! Accomplishments fits that to a tee. It is not enough to have management experience unless you accomplished something.

Andy Hough September 5, 2013 at 7:38 pm

This is good advice. My resume doesn’t have any errors, but it still has room for improvement.

Krantcents September 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Sounds good! The key to a good résumé is making your accomplishments fit the job description. It is a way of marketing to the job requirements.

Bryce @ Save and Conquer September 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Good tips in the article. We have a niece who just graduated as an RN with a Bachelor’s of Nursing degree. I told her I would give her resume to several contacts I have in the industry. Her resume looked pretty good, but had a major typo in one line near the top. I told her about it, and she sent a new resume with another typo. I used Adobe Acrobat to fix that typo on the copy I had, but was annoyed that I had to tell her to fix her resume, again.

Krantcents September 6, 2013 at 6:56 am

Mistakes like that reflect on the candidate particularly for a RN who deals with life and death.

Holly@ClubThrifty September 6, 2013 at 6:10 am

These are great tips!

I would also add to make sure that your resume is *clean.* My old boss used to throw away resumes that smelled like smoke, were wrinkled, or had food on them.

Krantcents September 6, 2013 at 6:57 am

It is amazing that people send resumes like that I remember receiving many that I threw away because of mistakes etc.

Tammy September 6, 2013 at 7:25 am

The idea od double and triple checking your resume cannot be stressed enough. After years of searching for a job, I noticed my CGPA was mentioned as 9.94. It was a minor error but I wonder how many offers I got passed over because of this negligence.

Krantcents September 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

When I was an employer, I always read entire resumes. If I saw one error, I threw it out. In my profession (accounting), errors are not acceptable. I think this is true for every profession.

John@MoneyPrinciple September 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

These are good points. It is sad how sloppy some writing has become. Email and texting hasn’t helped but writing a good covering letter is important as long as it is short and to the point. It was probably taught as part of the school curriculum but that was the boring bit so was quickly forgotten.

Krantcents September 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Marketing yourself begins with a cover letter/resume and yet there is no class to teach it. Has college lost it’s way? There seems to be a push for accountability for college degrees and employment. Value for an education is an interesting thought.

KK @ Student Debt Survivor September 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I’m always shocked by how many cover letters I get that say “dear sir” when the posting clearly states “Ms.”. If they can’t even take the time to read the job posting, I’m certainly not going to take the time to read their resume. Good tips.

Krantcents September 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

A really clever candidate might call so they can address the person by name. A little creative marketing can distinguish you from the crowd.

Untemplater September 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Yeah it can be hard finding a job with the amount of applicants these days. Networking and using a head hunter can help too. And having someone else proof read your resume always helps too. You’d think people wouldn’t turn in a resume with typos but it happens all the time.

Krantcents September 9, 2013 at 6:45 am

As an employer, I was always surprised how many people would submit resumes with mistakes.

Average Joe September 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I can’t believe how many mistakes I’ve found on resumes. Ugh. Have a few people proofread it or stop wasting your time actually handing it out. You’ll never get the job with me if you can’t spell.

Krantcents September 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm

As an employer, I always needed people who were detail oriented. If they were making mistake son their resume, how could they perform detailed work such as accounting or cash?

RezdentG September 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Um…Did you mean “mistakes on their resume”? As an employee, I am also suspicious of job postings with typos; if someone can’t communicate what they are looking for then I worry they will have trouble outlining the job duties, etc. Then again, maybe it’s just me. I might just be a little sensitive regarding typos due to having been in payroll services for many years.

Krantcents September 11, 2013 at 6:52 am

I agree mistakes on resumes or job posting give a negative impression. It is the first impression that is lasting!

Kim@Eyesonthedollar September 9, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I have received many resumes over the years with typos. The worst one spelled the name of her home town incorrectly in her address. If your attention to detail is lacking so much that you make several spelling or grammar mistakes on your resume, I wouldn’t give you and interview, even if you might be a great candidate otherwise. It’s like showing up for an interview in jeans. I wonder if some people are just born without common sense.

Krantcents September 10, 2013 at 6:52 am

I view resumes as the first opportunity to make an impression. A poor impression due to mistakes says so much about the candidate.

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