Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Resumes for the Digital Age 7 tips for mastering keywords and electronic formatting

by Margaret Steen, for Yahoo! HotJobs

When you're applying for a job, you work hard to make sure your resume will command the attention of the first person who reads it. But it's increasingly likely that the first reader of your resume won't be a person at all.
Inundated with hundreds--or thousands--of resumes for some positions, many companies are using technology to streamline resume screening.
"Any time you submit a resume, you should expect to have your resume scanned for keywords," says Chandlee Bryan, career coach and owner of Best Fit Forward.
Companies use applicant-tracking systems to electronically sort through and store resumes. The systems search for keywords, sort the resumes, and give hiring mangers the most-promising candidates.
Although designing a resume that will impress both a computer and human readers may seem intimidating, there are some advantages.
"It used to be that when a recruiter said, 'We'll keep your resume on file,' it meant it was going in the garbage can," says Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers and the author of "Happy About My Resume." Now, they may actually mean it.
Experts offer these tips for making sure your resume stands out electronically and in person:
Choose the right keywords. Hiring managers and recruiters will use the applicant-tracking system to search for keywords related to the job they're looking to fill. To make your resume rise to the top of the list, you need the right keywords.
"Review the job posting for the position and try to mirror that language," Safani says. Find words and phrases that describe what the company is looking for and use them as much as possible.
Use variations of keywords. Some systems check how often a particular word or variation on a word is used. For instance, if you're looking for a job in accounting, use both "accountant" and "accounting."
Use keywords smartly. Some resumes have a keyword section that simply lists keywords for the computer to pick up. Others include a keyword list in white text on white paper, so that it is read by the computer but not seen by a human reader. Safani and Bryan don't recommend these techniques, though, because although they might help your resume get picked out initially, they can hurt you when a human reader takes a look.
"You don't want to write something that doesn't read well just because you're trying to get the word 'accountant' in 10 different ways," Safani says.
Make your job title generic. If most companies would call you a business analyst but your title is "process improvement specialist," consider listing "business analyst" on your resume (and perhaps putting your actual title in parentheses after it). Do not, of course, give yourself a loftier title than you actually have.
Don't go overboard. It can be useful to have a list of key skills on your resume, both for search engines to scan and to give human readers an idea of your strengths. But Bryan recommends listing no more than nine: "I don't think it fools anyone if it's not very deep."
Use text only. If you're asked to paste your resume into a website text box, make sure you use a text-only version. If you copy and paste from a Word document, for example, some characters and formatting may not translate properly (em dashes, bullets, indentations, italic or bold type, and even quotation marks, for instance)--making your resume illegible (for machines and people). You may want to save a copy of your resume as a plain-text file and make any adjustments in that file before you paste the text (plain text is offered as an option when you save a file in almost all word processing programs).
Follow directions. Every system is different, so the most important thing is to follow the directions on the site that's accepting your resume, Bryan says. 

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