When you upload your résumé for an online job posting, the first place it goes is through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to identify whether or not you have the skills and qualifications required for that position.
Follow these steps to increase the chances that your résumé will pass each scan:
Fill your résumé with keywords that relate to the industries and professions you’re targeting. An ATS is based on keyword scans. Does your résumé have the skills and qualifications the company wants? That will include both hard skills (electronics engineering, supply chain) and soft skills (project management, communication). Job postings and descriptions are a great resource for finding the right keywords for your targets.
Keyword scans might also be looking for specific degrees and certifications (BS, PMP), schools (OCS, UVA), employers (USAF, Motorola), locations (Annapolis, Md.), ZIP codes, area codes or more. Don’t worry too much about these, since you don’t have any control over what the employer wants unless it’s specified in the posting.
Use standard headings – Summary, Experience and Education – to be certain your information is read. If you were to put your experience under a heading called “Military Career,” the typical ATS would overlook the heading and all the information in that section. The technology doesn’t recognize that heading, and your entire career is lost in the upload.
Integrate design elements wisely. You don’t want to create a résumé that’s so overly designed an ATS cannot read it. More and more people are including company and military logos, graphics, tables, charts, images of medals, etc., on their résumés. If used well, these can be great additions to make your résumé stand out to the people who will be reading it after you pass the scans. Just be certain that no graphic elements touch any text. If an ATS doesn’t read the graphics, it’s fine, but you want every word to be read.
Wendy Enelow is co-author of “Modernize Your Résumé: Get Noticed ... Get Hired” and “Expert Résumés for Military-to-Civilian Transitions.”