Adoption of screening software by employers has added a new layer to the puzzle of how to write a job-winning resume. It is no longer enough to think about how to capture and hold the attention of a hiring manager. Before your resume has a chance of doing that, it may have to pass the electronic portion of the hiring process. That means it must include the terms the computer is looking for. It also means, of course, that the resume must be in a format the computer can read.
How to Create a Digital Resume
Remember that a digital resume is, for the most part, just a resume. Avoid getting so caught up in making your document computer-friendly that you forget to make it people-friendly. Pay attention to the same points that good resume writers have always kept front and center: Getting your point across concisely, creating an attractive layout, and producing a resume that is free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Compile a list of keywords. Your resume is likely to go through electronic screening before it reaches the hands of a hiring manager or even a human resources representative. If it does not have the keywords the employer is looking for, it will never even be seen by a human. You cannot know what key terms the company will look for, but you can make a good guess by looking at the language used in the advertisement for the position you want. Names of positions you have held, skill sets you hold and software you know generally make good keywords.
Weave your keywords in throughout your resume. Include them in the bullet points of your summary of qualifications and use them in the descriptions of your accomplishments that you place below job titles. In this way hiring managers can see not only which skill sets and software you know, but how you have used them to the benefit of your previous employers -- to increase revenue, for example, or to design a new product. You can also include a "keywords" section where your terms are listed in a block without context.
Set up your resume in several formats: Microsoft Word, PDF and for pasting in the body of an e-mail, plain text. Different employers want resumes in different formats; and if you send yours in the wrong format, it may be deleted immediately. Job ads frequently include the employer's preferred resume format.
Customize your resume as needed for different jobs. Though it would be easier to write one resume and be done with it, you are more likely to get noticed if your resume is targeted for a specific opening than if it is generic. You can change or add keywords that relate to concepts a particular company seems to value. You can also change the order of items in your summary qualifications to highlight skills or experience the employer has said are essential.
Tips & Warnings
- Avoid padding your resume with keywords that describe skills or software knowledge you do not really have; the terms may get you noticed, but the truth will come out later, perhaps in an interview.
- If you are having trouble thinking of keywords, check out trade journals, industry websites and company annual reports to get a feel for popular terminology in your field.
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