Resume Writing

Two resumes to use, the beauty and the beast.


It's a good idea to have two files of your resume. Actually it's really wise to have 3 files.

When you apply for a position you are likely to need either a Word document or a Plain Text document. These two, the beauty and the beast, are essential job searching documents. A third file enhanced specifically for handing out to people is valuable for interviewing and networking, but not good for applying for a job.

The vast majority of companies today use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to screen the resumes of job candidates and only sends those that score highest to a human for further review. It is most likely ATS will review your resume almost instantly when you apply, before a human ever sees it. It will establish a score for your candidacy and pass only the highest scored resumes on to HR for further action.

All ATS can read Word or Plain Text resumes. After creating and saving your Word document, it should also be saved as a plain text file so that all formatting is removed. This butt-ugly document is the safest to use for ATS scrutiny and is actually preferred by ATS. The Word file is also quite acceptable as long as issues that can cause problems for ATS are removed.

If application instructions ask specifically for a plain text file, don't assume a Rich Text Format file will work. It is simply not the same. Alternatively, instructions may say it's ok to apply with a PDF file. Then a PDF file is safe to apply with, otherwise don't assume it is.

It's important to realize ATS may cause you to be rejected even if you are well qualified. Ridiculous as that may seem there are over 40 reasons why it may happen.

One key reason is graphics. We can see graphics; ATS can only read the binary code that represents what we see in a resume. Since it cannot perceive beauty there is no reason to get fancy. ATS may become confused by graphics and completely ignore associated text information.

Since PDF files are nothing more than graphical representations of a document, is it any wonder some ATS software cannot handle PDF files properly? Is it also any wonder that sometimes ATS cannot handle the typical templates offered for writing resumes? Templates provide graphic boxes to enter information into.

Word processing tools are another problem for ATS. We all use word processing software to create documents. The tools make document creation easy by providing simple ways to create the features we want. Boxes are used that become invisible to the human eye, and make information located inside them potentially lost to ATS.

If these issues were not enough, some ATS parsing software is also particular about other matters that seem trivial to us, such as what section titles information is located in, the order of information it is looking for, nesting of sequential jobs under one company, and more.

The takeaway is this: The safest way to avoid rejection or non-response to a job application is to assure the resume is compatible with all ATS software.

Resumes that are enhanced with graphics, including PDF files, are a good idea to have available. However, they should only be used as handouts for interviews and networking, not for application purposes.



Want to get an interview? Focus on the hiring manager.



The fundamental reason for creating a resume is to get interviews. Some resumes achieve this. Why do others fail miserably? Usually because the resume does not answer what the hiring manager is thinking, "What can you do for me?"


A resume certainly is all about you, but what about the hiring manager's needs?


Resumes that win interviews are focused on hiring manager's needs, not the candidate's. The logical approach to writing a resume is to find out first what the needs are and then describe the accomplishments and results of your work that show the hiring manager how you fit those needs.


So to get interviews:

  • Focus on the achievements and results of your work. How did the things you have done keep business going smoothly or improve something?
  • Format for skimming, not reading. People don't really read resumes. They skim them, quickly glancing for key words, numbers, and phrases that interest them. Make it easy for them to find them without bolding, italicizing, or adding color. Position them where they will almost jump out at the reader.
  • Remember your resume is an advertisement, not a biography. Avoid writing paragraphs. Paragraphs are not as easily skimmed by eye as crisp bullet statements. Remove words and sentences that are not relevant to the position you are applying for.
  • Avoid excessive description of responsibilities. Responsibilities, positions and even job titles may not be as important as you think if you have not described the results of your work.
  • Avoid appearing ignorant or careless. Spelling and grammar are important. So is neat, orderly formatting.

The takeaway is this: Writing your resume is arguably the most important project you ever worked on. If you really want interviews, find out what the hiring manager's needs are and make sure you respond logically and professionally.



Resume templates are a perfect solution. Not!

If you believe in using templates, you better listen up.

We are bombarded with advertisements for resume and cover letter templates on LinkedIn, resume writer sites, and other sites. And when you open the links you are taken to a webpage that exhibits some beautiful looking documents. Usually there are many options displayed and they are very impressive to be sure. They are also convenient to use, an easy way out when you aren't an experienced resume writer.

However, you will not be warned about their use. Resume templates typically place text inside graphic boxes. Text located inside graphics cannot be read by ATS resume parsers. The graphics are usually hidden to the human eye, but computers know they are there. So that is a problem if you use them to apply online.

Many well qualified candidates are rejected every day because graphics embedded into their resumes prevent ATS parsers from reading the text located within the graphic. Excellent candidates get rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications and everything to do with graphics, even graphics people cannot actually see.


The takeaway is this: If you choose to use a resume template, do NOT use it to apply on a job board or company website because it is very likely you will be rejected outright or not responded to. You can use a resume created from a template to hand out to people, but it is not safe to apply electronically with it.



Instead of saying it, Prove it!


Some self-assessing words candidates tend to use to describe themselves in a resume are also used by so many others that they become meaningless to resume readers. Readers see them so often they develop a bias against those who use them. That's not what a job seeker needs to have happen.

People are not likely to believe you just because you say things like "successful, motivated, results oriented, accomplished," or a myriad of other self-assessing terms. A far better use of precious resume real estate is to 'prove it without saying it' by writing effective statements of accomplishments and results of your work.

Because readers of resumes are looking for any sign to disqualify you, it becomes critical to demonstrate the outcomes you have achieved. The reader can relate your accomplishments to their needs, the things they need to have happen. The position they are trying to fill exists because it is needed. Your job as a candidate is to understand what the most critical needs are and describe how you can help resolve them. Only if you can describe your achievements successfully will you get interviewed. 

The takeaway is this: Self-assessing descriptions without backup simply aren't going to get you an interview. It is necessary to prove what you claim or the words simply sound hollow and echo what the rest of the 'herd' says. You will be better off by differentiating yourself from the herd.



What's wrong with stating an objective on a resume?

Hey, it's your resume. You can write whatever you want. But isn't your objective the job you are applying for? If not, why are you applying?

Too often objectives are inane statements, like "A challenging and rewarding job that would benefit from my experience." That may have gotten you an interview in the last century, but it does nothing to make the reader want to interview you today.

Wouldn't it be better to use the valuable real estate at the beginning of your resume to describe your personal brand? A good personal brand describes what you do, with a marketing hook that entices the reader to read further.

Here are a few examples of personal brands that have resulted in interviews and jobs for professionals of various levels.

"An Industrial Engineer who is passionate about analyzing systems to identify opportunities for quality improvement and cost reduction. Has achieved significant process improvement in a various areas, e.g., freight logistics, production line rates and patient wait time satisfaction. A natural leader respected by peers and management."

"A Sales Professional with extensive international and domestic experience who has generated over $65 MM in product, accessory and professional services sales for three manufacturers. Knowledgeable in international contract negotiation and business development in diverse cultures of 30 countries. Knowledgeable in U.S. Department of State regulations."

"Recognized licensed Architect specialized in urban planning, land management, architectural design and Real Estate development who has developed major outstanding projects, notably the Resort City “Mediterranea Saidia” in Morocco."

Each of these examples tell the reader what the person does and provides some interest generating information. They can be enhanced by interjecting information from the descriptions of jobs the person applies to.






Templates are great for some things, but be cautious when considering using templates for a DIY job search, particularly those that have been embellished with features designed to make them look fantastic to the human eye.
Most resume and cover letter templates cause ATS parsing issues.
Computers cannot 'see' what humans can see.  We see words and graphics. While  we can see the word "and" on our computer  screen and printed copy, computers see only it in binary code. "And" looks like "010000010110111001100100" to the computer.
What's important is ATS parsing software only reads binary coded text. It cannot read graphics and may stop reading as soon as it runs into a graphic. Graphics are stored on your hard drive in one of several different methods, none of which can be read by text parsers. Most templates contain graphics or other attributes that will confound ATS parsers. Many well qualified candidates are rejected every day because of non-text attributes embedded into their resumes that have nothing to do with their qualifications.
Complicating matters, word processing techniques designed to make document creation easier introduce graphics into which you enter your text, such as headers, footers, tables, and text boxes. You may be rejected or not receive a response because of using these "tools", not necessarily because of what you wrote. In addition, there are over 40 document creation rules to follow to make ATS happy.
If you insist on using a template, make sure you save it in plain text format, *.txt, and apply on line with that file. After you save it, open it up and look at it. It may require a lot of editing to make any sense out of it.
If you want a beautiful document for handing out directly to a human, create a second "For Handout Only" document with whatever graphics, color, etc., you want. Just don't use it to apply with.



2 ways to make your resume stand out

One way is to have a perfectly horrible resume that gets tossed immediately.

The other is to have a resume that clearly shows how you meet the specific needs of the hiring manager and is compatible with the ATS parsing software that will 'read' it.

To get an interview the resume should focus on by citing achievements, results and skills that are needed by the hiring manager. Lacking these, the hiring manager will have no interest.

To respond to needs, after every statement you write ask yourself, "So what? Others can do this too. What did I achieve? What was the result? How did it benefit the business?" Since all managers must achieve certain goals, it is logical that they are chiefly interested in what you have achieved that may help them. If your resume says nothing about your achievements it is unlikely they will want to talk to you.

In addition, most medium and large size companies today utilize ATS software on the front end of their hiring process. When you apply online on job boards or company websites, your resume is analyzed by parsing software associated with ATS before any human ever knows about you. Information in your resume is extracted, scored and entered into a common ATS form for everyone that applies. Only those candidates who receive a high score will be sent to a human for review. The reviewer receives the forms created by ATS, not your resume. Your actual resume can be retrieved later if they so desire.

Because of ATS technology, resume writing has become complex. Not only must you know what keywords ATS will be looking for, you must use them in context. But that is the simple part. ATS parsing software will not be able to 'read' your resume if you have unwittingly built in attributes commonly used in word processing software. Some of the more common are headers, footers, tables, and columnsEven the file type is important.So be careful. 



11 Tips to Make Your Resume ATS Compatible


ATS parsing software is used to reduce many candidates to a short list. To get on the short list your resume must contain key words and phrases the parsing software is looking for, used in context. But ATS can be confounded by other attributes you may unwittingly build into your resume. 

The following provides guidance on how to avoid being rejected because of some of the key attributes.

Keep it Simple. Use a simple document format, not a fancy one. Keep in mind that computers do not have eyes.

Put your Name on the First Line, By Itself. The last word on the first line will be interpreted as your last name. 

Do Not Use Graphics! Period! Make sure you understand what constitutes a graphic.

Do Not Use word processor Toolbar tools that utilize graphics in the background. Not always obvious.

Do Not Nest job titles under one company. ATS prefers you to repeat the company name for each position held with dates for each position. No, ATS will not think you are a job-hopper.

Do Not Use Columns.

Use Only One Font, preferably san-serif one like Arial 12pt.

Use Section Titles that ATS looks for, e.g., Summary, Experience, Education, Skills, etc.

Avoid Using Company Names without their legal structure suffix. Eastman Kodak could be interpreted as a person's name. Eastman Kodak Company is the legal name. Kodak is a trademark, not a company name.

Two additional tips:

Don't Use PDF files for Electronic Application, e.g., on company websites or job boards.

Be Compatible with Scanners and OCR, occasionally used in conjunction with ATS.


Why all the fuss about resume length?


The three bears nursery rhyme comes to mind. There are probably as many opinions about how long a resume should be as there are people who write them. So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that resumes are a job searchers primary written document for enticing hiring managers to interview them.

Therefore it is logical to do two things:
  • Understand what makes a good advertisement.
  • Understand what the hiring manager's needs and wants are and be respond to them. Showing how one can satisfy the hiring manager's needs and wants is the critical factor in getting interviews.
Content is king! So is intelligent writing, knowledge of contemporary resume writing practices, spelling, grammar, resume appearance and readability.

But when it comes to length, the question always is, what is too much, too little or just right. 

The answer to the right length question is "That shortest length that contains the content that generates interviews." 

Don't get too hung up with length. But also don't write a biography. It won't get read.




What happened to adverbs? Where did they go? How quick did they get there?


I'll be the first to agree English is not an easy language to learn. Many Americans butcher English constantly.

Many people probably see nothing wrong with the title of this post. If you are one of them and you are looking for a job, pay attention. An adverb tells us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent an action is performed. An adverb is typically used to modify a verb, but an adverb can also modify an adjective or another adverb. Adverbs often end in "ly".

Failure to be grammatically correct in resumes paints a picture of ignorance of the English language. Why would a job candidate want to diminish the reader's perception of him or her? Some may believe it's unimportant, a rather naive stance to take in my opinion. Good grammar is equally as important as good spelling. If you need help writing your resume, make sure whoever prepares it writes correctly.

"How quickly did they get there?" is the grammatically correct question in this post title.

You can learn more about adverbs here. 



What did you say you do?


When you hear the brand name Ford, Kraft, Coke, Aspirin, or Pampers, etc., your mind automatically creates an image of the company's product because you are familiar with the name. That is one-word branding. When you see MD, CPA, DDS, etc., after a person's name you immediately understand what the person does. But when you see the name of a person you don't know, with no clue about him or her, you have no idea what they do, unless they are a celebrity.

When it comes to writing a personal brand for a resume it can be difficult to convey the message in a way that is, crisp, clear, and understandable without creating a mini-biography. Yet in resumes it's important to quickly enable the reader to understand what you do and to create interest in reading the rest of the resume message.

Because you are probably not well known, it's important to concisely say what you do and add a summary value added statement to piqué the reader's interest. The value statement provides the marketing 'hook' that excites the reader's interest.

"And there's more", he said. The reader also wants to know what you are good at doing. This can be accomplished in a tabulated list of your core competencies. The list should contain the most important skills (key words) required by the position being applied for at a bare minimum. This is necessary for ATS scoring.

Once you have captured the reader's interest in 5 seconds or less you can focus on the accomplishments and results of your work. These details are the primary values you bring to the hiring manager and are the reasons you will be called for an interview. The better able you are at providing quantified business value you bring, the stronger the motivation to interview you.

It all starts with your personal brand statement.



Could you lose your job tomorrow?

It’s logical to ask “Since I am currently employed why should I bring my resume up to today's standards?" The answer is "for the same reasons you buy insurance". It's for recovery from the potential things that upset your life.



Most people wait until they lose their jobs before updating their resume. Often they find themselves in a panic mode, worried about finances, about their family or loved ones well-being, and they may already be financially stressed. They fail to realize that changes have occurred since they last wrote their resume. It's no longer written in contemporary form.

Competition is more difficult today as well. Although the economy is getting better it’s hard to deny that it is still not strong. There are a lot fewer jobs today than there were when the economy was very healthy. Employers continue to be reluctant to create many new openings and making new financial commitments. 

There are still more people searching for fewer available jobs! Companies are overwhelmed with applicants. They use ATS extensively to handle the load. ATS parsing software often rejects candidates because of resume attributes having nothing to do with a person's qualifications. It's not a trivial task to prevent that from happening. Beyond key words there are over 40 different word processing software features that can cause ATS issues! And there are additional parsing error causes beyond the 40 features.

Because job searching today is more complex than in the past it is logical to get "insurance". Get your resume ready for hiring practices used today. Either get help while you are employed and can afford it, or figure out how to do it yourself. Whichever you choose, get it done! 

If you find yourself unemployed without a contemporary resume you are very likely headed for an extended search until you get it right. 



“It’s not who you know, but who wants to know you"

That quote makes a very good point. 

When we are job searching it is important to be thinking about what the hiring manager's needs are, not just ours. That applies to how our resume is written and what we say when networking.

When writing our resume it is common for us to be thinking, "What have I done? I better think of everything in the hope that something I say will interest the hiring manager."  Wrong!

Those questions apply when we are creating a base list of accomplishments we can use to pick and choose items from when we write a resume that responds to a specific hiring manager's needs. Today there is really no such thing as a resume that is "all things for all people". Everything changed in the mid 90's with the beginning of the web. With access to a computer, word processing software and the web, we could easily create, edit and distribute documents. Forget about mail and 'sneaker-net'.

To be competitive today it is necessary to find out the specific needs for each job we wish to apply to and tune a resume that responds directly to those specific needs. This makes it possible for readers to quickly see those things that are of interest to them. The rest of our background is of significantly less importance to them.

Likewise, when networking, it is key to focus on the person we are talking to, not ourselves. That is accomplished by asking more questions about them and their interests and opinions than talking about ourselves. This is the approach that will most often lead to them liking us and wanting to help us later on when they ask us about our interests (our opportunity to ask for help).

It is important to find out who wants to know us, and understand why, so that we can be responsive to needs!



6 resume mistakes that could make you look clueless

Doing these things could make you look like you just fell off the turnip truck:
  1. Putting the word "Resume" on the top of the page - It's obvious, isn't it?!
  2. Writing an Objective - Superfluous! Your objective is the position you are applying for, otherwise don't apply. Objectives have been replaced by personal brand statements.
  3. Writing a biography of everything you ever did - Get over yourself. No one will take the time to read it. Keep your resume relevant to the hiring company's needs. Eliminate superfluous, non-relevant information.
  4. Grammar or spelling errors - Don't display carelessness.
  5. Poor formatting - Don't display sloppiness.
  6. References - Don't use up resume space. You will be asked for them if a company is interested in you.

Be contemporary, not "old school".



Trying to make people you meet drink from a fire hose?
Are you a job seeker and not getting interviews or job offers?

One of the biggest mistakes some job seekers make is to assume that if they write enough and say enough, something will stick, they will be remembered, and they will get the job. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Like it or not, job seekers become salespeople the instant they start searching. Selling is about human behavior and mindset. Successful salespeople are good listeners. They ask questions about what the buyer needs, what is important. They listen carefully. Only then can they offer a solution. (Think about that the next time you are networking).

Trying to force people to absorb too much information or irrelevant information is like trying to make them drink from a fire hose. It has a negative impact. It turns people off.

So what is the solution?

First of all, find out what the hiring manager needs and why. What problem needs to be resolved?

Focus your resume on those needs. Listen, then refine your resume. Respond by addressing how you can help resolve the problems. Make your resume crisp and succinct, removing things that are not relevant to the need.

Focus on the needs as you respond to interview questions. Don't lose sight of what the hiring manager needs as you answer. Practice answers to typical interview questions before the interview. Remember this: If you are asked what time it is, don't respond by telling how to build a watch!

Focus on the needs as you negotiate a salary in the job acceptance process. Don't think that you are at a disadvantage because you are searching. The hiring manager has needs too.



Resume Writing is like learning to ride a bike.

You start out Unconsciously Incompetent, trying to figure out how to do it.

After generating numerous iterations you become Consciously Incompetent, wondering why you are not getting interviews.

As time passes without results you become frustrated and begin to reach out for help. If you get professional help you begin to learn how to write a resume that will get response. You are becoming Consciously Competent. This is the minimum level all job seekers should strive for.

As you write and re-write you resume so that it is responsive to each position you apply for, you become more competent, finally reaching the Unconsciously Competent stage. All professional resume writers should be at this level.

Resume writers can be expensive so why get professional help? An extended job search is usually much more costly.




Can you prove you are what you claim to be?

Does your resume say you are innovative, world-class, results-oriented, motivated, creative, dynamic, passionate, unique, strategic, collaborative, etc.?

Do you think people will believe what you say simply because it is written? Maybe some will be gullible and accept anything you tell them, but good hiring managers will not!

Imagine you are the hiring manager. You have been charged with the responsibility of achieving many goals. Your personal performance depends upon delivering results. Your pay and promotability depend upon your results. And now you have a hiring need.

You know that hiring people who claim to be one thing and turn out to be another can be worse than not hiring anyone. Making self-assessing claims can raise doubts thereby having the opposite effect then their intent. A good hiring manager will question your claims unless you can demonstrate them. And if you simply describe your results and accomplishments there is no need to make self-assessing claims.

For the hiring manager, not only is making a wrong hire a waste of time and money, it can make results worse and consume much time to correct. So a good hiring manager will not take self-assessing claims at face value.

For a job seeker, the conclusion should be obvious. Demonstrate what you claim to be by providing examples. Clearly indicate the results of your work. Talk about what you have achieved and why it was important. By doing so you will attract the hiring manager’s attention and enable him or her to vet you. You will not need to make self-assessing claims that come across as having questionable merit, thereby raising doubts about you.




Why should anyone believe a resume that is full of self-assessing adjectives?

Job seekers, the best way to market yourself is by stating the results of your work, not by describing yourself as being‘innovative’, ‘effective’, ‘self-motivated’, ‘creative’, ‘dynamic’, ‘results oriented’, etc. Why should anyone believe unsubstantiated, self-assessing descriptions of you? That’s just resume “fluff”.

Please! Prove it to us. Tell us what you have accomplished, what the results of your work have been. Let us conclude how great you are. Your accomplishments are all the proof we need.




How quickly can your resume be read?


Creating too much to read is the bane of resume writing. The hiring manager will give you about 5 seconds to decide if he/she will read further and about 30 seconds to decide if your resume goes into the ‘possibly interview’ pile or is tossed. Generally the decision to interview you is made very quickly because there are many candidates to choose from and only a limited amount of time to make a yes/no decision. Therefore you must crisply and succinctly convince the reader to interview you. This cannot be achieved by writing paragraphs of detail.


Get to the point! Get your message across by eliminating as many words as possible. If your resume is lengthy or if its appearance is dense, the tendency is to trash it immediately without reading it. It is critical to eliminate words and format the resume for fast reading. Paragraphs are not easily skimmed; simplified bullet statements are. Narrow margins and poor choice of font and/or small type size result in a crammed, forbidding appearance. White space is important. Apply the KISS principle to resume writing.



Write your resume as if you were the hiring manager.
Hiring managers are charged with the responsibility of achieving results through leadership. They need people who can achieve results. Feed their needs.

Use the experience section of your resume or CV to focus on the accomplishments and results of your work in brief bullet statements. Try to quantify as many results as possible. Place the result or accomplishment at the very beginning of the statement and tell how it was achieved afterwards. This will focus attention on the result more than on what was done. You will then appear to be results-oriented without saying do.

Minimize the real estate you devote to your responsibilities and the things you have done. This will further focus on results. Responsibilities are important but resumes that speak only to responsibilities are not likely to result in interviews.




Your personal brand is an important introductory part of your resume.

What you do and what your core competencies are makes a sufficiently complete brand statement for a resume.

Your brand should be presented crisply and concisely (no long paragraphs). What you do should be written as a strong marketing statement that excites the reader.

Your expertise should be presented in a neatly organized, tabular format. The idea is to make it easy for the reader to quickly decide to read further to find out about your specific accomplishments and work results presented in the experiences section.

Hiring managers will hire you if they believe you can help them achieve the results they are signed up to deliver. Find out what their key needs are and feed them!



Your resume should be saved in at least three file formats.

Every job seeker needs at least three files of their resume, each for different purposes. One purpose is to be compatible with different hiring processes. Some processes are manual, some are fully automated and some are a mix of the two.

So that your resume submittal fits their hiring process, a company may ask you to submit it as either a *doc or *.txt format. These are the first two file types. You may be asked to attach your resume to an email, copy/paste it in the body of an email, or copy/paste it into their online application form. If ATS software is used in the front end of their hiring process the document needs to be ATS-ready.

The third file format you need is one I call the ‘FOR HANDOUT ONLY’ copy. That is the document you might wish to hand to a person you are meeting with. It is an attractive version you would be proud of and the recipient would appreciate as a well-prepared, professional looking document. 

The FHO file should never be used to apply electronically to a job online because to make it beautiful requires using word processing creation techniques that will usually cause ATS parsing issues! Since you will not be applying electronically with this file, it can be saved in any file format you find convenient to use.




What a personal brand Is, and what it Is Not.

When it comes to understanding what a personal brand is it is easiest to understand what a product brand is first. A product brand might be “Ford Mustang”, “Kleenex”, “Kraft Cheese”, etc. It is a short statement. It might include a brief modifier to attract attention such as, “A Ford Mustang that will do zero to 60 MPH in six seconds”.

Your personal brand is similar. It simply answers the question, “What do you do?” in a brief few words. It is not a long, detailed description about how great you are.

You might be “A School Teacher who has improved the math test scores for fourth graders from 62% to 88% over a five year period”, or “A Manufacturing Process Engineer who has saved companies millions of dollars in production costs”.

It is important to avoid the temptation to embellish the statement with lots of extraneous information, particularly self-assessing adjectives. But it is very worthwhile to follow the statement with a tabulated list of your core competencies, perhaps 3 columns by 3 rows, written in short phrases. These identify the primary skills you have that support the personal brand statement.

These two elements will give the reader an easily read picture of what you do in a manner that encourages them to read further. Your name, contact information, personal brand statement and core competencies should fit in the first one-third of the page so that the reader can quickly get to the results you have achieved in your most recent job experience on the first page of your resume.

If you can achieve this you will get more interviews.




Resume writing vis-a-vis ATS parsing software.

There are over 40 attributes that you can unwittingly build into a document that can cause ATS parsing problems. When creating a resume it is sheer folly to ignore this fact; parsing issues may cause rejection, non-response, or dropping a candidate into the ‘black hole’. Making sure a resume is ATS-ready is as important as making sure the written text is responsive to the hiring managers’ needs. 

There are over 200 ATS software packages on the market and probably that many variants of parsing software the ATS uses to filter out candidates. The software is very useful for streamlining hiring processes and keeping hiring costs in check, but they are the bane of existence to job seekers because the parsing part of the software is unable to ‘read’ anything but pure text. If attributes get in the way, the text may not get ‘read’ and all the hard work the job seeker did may be lost.

It takes in-depth knowledge of ATS parsing to assure a resume will not be rejected by ATS because of document attributes. Most people do not understand which attributes to avoid. If you are not sure how to create an ATS-ready resume, get help from a someone who does. It will assure you your resume will get read by the parser. If you are rejected it will be for other reasons. Unfortunately many professional resume writers don’t understand the attribute issue.




How many file formats do you save your resume in? Is one enough?

Not today!

If all you have is one you might want to reconsider what you are doing in view of ATS software used in company hiring processes today and document processing software used in the creation of your resume. You can inadvertently make your resume incompatible with ATS!

Front end hiring process technology has changed over years and it is not kind to job seekers. Most firms use ATS in the front end of their hiring process and rely on a parser to sort out candidates before a human will ever know about them, much less see their resume. You will get scored and compared with your competition before a human ever knows about you. The best candidate on paper can get weeded out of the competition by the parser.

Fortunately for you document preparation software makes it very easy to create and edit a resume today compared to the technology your father and grandfather had. It’s easy to edit the resume to be responsive to what is required for a particular job. However, without even realizing it you might incorporate problems for the parser that have nothing to do with your qualifications but everything to do with the software features you used to create the document. This can result in failure to respond to your application, or worse, outright rejection regardless of your qualifications.

Most people need help to create an ATS-ready resume. But even after you create a resume that is compatible with ATS parsing, you will need your resume saved in different file formats to serve different purposes. Thanks to computers that is easy to do as well. A pure text file is the optimum format for ATS parsing purposes, but for humans who can see and appreciate professional appearance in a resume, you certainly want a more attractive file saved in a more attractive file format.




Resume Writing 101 vis-à-vis ATS parsing, a conservative approach.
When creating resumes for the job market today one must consider who, or in most cases, what is going to review the resume first. With the proliferation of ATS software being applied at the front end of the hiring process it is very possible a human will never see the resume, at least in the form it was prepared. Because ATS does not have eyes, beauty or attractiveness is totally unimportant to it and in fact, can cause the resume to become “unreadable”. Appearance is important to the human eye but not to a computer. So it is important that the resume be professional in appearance when humans read it. This means resumes need to be saved in at least two file formats.

Many people have opinions about how to write a resume so that it will pass ATS scrutiny. And much of their advice is correct, but often only true for certain ATS products. Most often the advice given does not cover all ATS products, and there are over 220 of them. So how can you deal with their advice when it is wrong for the software used by a company you are applying to? The answer is to take a conservative approach and write your resume to satisfy virtually every ATS parser.

Some will argue that many of the issues that used to cause parsing failures have been fixed and no longer apply. The fact is that is not true for all 220 products. The company one applies for a job at may not have ATS software that can overcome the issues. Therefore one must prepare for the entire universe of parsers. That is the conservative approach.

For the most part, expert opinions on parsing software are well-intentioned. However, many who profess to have detailed knowledge of ATS base their opinions on limited knowledge, some of which is incorrect. Many do not understand that the optimum file format for ATS parsing is ASCII text. Many also do not understand that most parsers are designed to look for certain information in a certain order for best results. For example some will tell you that it doesn’t matter in what order date information is given. That may be true for some parsers, but not all; therefore it is best to take the conservative approach and list dates fist. And there are many more examples.

All parsers can ‘read’ ASCII text. Therefore the conservative approach is to have a file saved in ASCII text for applying electronically and and a copy that is saved in a standard word processing format that is attractive to the human eye!

The fact is that when any of over 40 common non-ASCII attributes are incorporated by word processors into a resume, most ATS parsers will fail to parse correctly and are most likely to outright reject a resume. One simple rule to follow is this: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and parsers do not have eyes, so when applying electronically, use the text file (*.txt).

Having said that doesn’t mean that you should not care about the appearance of a resume. On the contrary!  You also need to save your resume as a Word or other word processing file you hand it to people or send it to them. When you wish to hand give resume to another human, make sure it has a professional appearance, is written intelligently and displays excellent language skills. Then save it also as a txt file for electronically applying to a job.




Why should anyone believe a resume that is full of self-assessing adjectives?

Job seekers, the best way to market yourself is by stating the results of your work, not by describing yourself as being‘innovative’, ‘effective’, ‘self-motivated’, ‘creative’, ‘dynamic’, ‘results oriented’, etc. Why should anyone believe unsubstantiated, self-assessing descriptions of you? That’s just resume “fluff”.

Please! Prove it to us. Tell us what you have accomplished, what the results of your work have been. Let us conclude how great you are. Your accomplishments are all the proof we need.



Scanner/OCR systems and your resume.

There are some companies that use utilize scanners and OCR software to ‘read’ your resume. Not only is the file format important for OCR but also font, font size and a number of other things that can result in a ‘nice resume in / garbage out’ phenomena. Companies that accept resumes by email attachment, postal mail or FAX are most likely to use scanner/OCR processing. The electronic output of OCR processing is typically loaded automatically into a file server for further processing by ATS and parsing software.

ATS parsing software looks for text, not graphics. When a document is not just text but contains any graphics, ATS parsers may simply reject it as unreadable. Also, OCR software may convert it completely into a bit mapped picture file such as a jpeg. If a canner feeds a graphic file to ATS for processing, it is very likely the parsing process will abort processing altogether. If that happens your resume is then doomed to the ‘bottomless pit’. The scanner/OCR process is one key reason you need to have a properly edited *.txt document so that it is compatible with common parsing processes. If application instructions require you to submit a text file you can be quite certain the company is using ATS in their hiring process.



Age discrimination is alive and well.

In general it is not necessary or desirable to extend your resume further than 15 years back, 20 at most. Work performed many years ago may not be particularly relevant today, particularly if you have been working in an industry where technology advances rapidly. But more important is age discrimination. Although it is illegal to practice discriminate against older people in hiring practices in the USA and other countries, discrimination exists. It is simply carefully covered up. Other reasons are given for not hiring.

The primary purpose of a resume is to get interviews. There is no reason to give a hiring company the opportunity to ‘disqualify’ you by providing information that even hints of your age on your resume. Most often a telephone interview occurs before a face-face interview. That is your first opportunity to establish rapport and sell yourself. Your age will usually be readily apparent when a face to face interview occurs, so it is advisable to avoid losing interview opportunities because of age information that appears in your resume.




Hiring processes affect how resumes need to be written.

Did you ever wonder why you were rejected or did not get a response to a job application in which you felt you were the perfect match? It could be because of how your resume was written.

Hiring processes fall into three general approaches: fully automated, manual, and a combination of manual and automated. There is a subset of the combination process, specifically the Scanner/OCR (Optical Character Reader) process, which requires some unique considerations.

Fully automated hiring procedures typically use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software which is accompanied by parsing software. Unless you score high as a ‘fit’ by the parsing software a human may never see your resume, you may get an automated rejection notice or you may never hear back from the company.

But to score high means your resume must first be readable by the parsing software. Certain resume attributes cannot be ‘read’ by the parsing software. Rejection may not be because of your qualifications or the words that have been written, but how the information was presented to the software.

In addition, many automated systems are fussy about what file format they can read. Sometimes, certain file formats cannot be ‘read’. Most ATS software can only read a limited number of file formats. All can read *.doc (Word 97-2003) and *.txt files. Not all can handle *.wps, *.pdf, and others.

If ATS is used and you don’t receive an automated response, the parser has probably rejected you.

In a manual system, a human will read the resume and not necessarily rely on automation software. In that case usually any file format can be used. But be careful with Word *.docx files. A company that has not updated its word processing software to more recent Word versions may not be able to open a *.docx file. Save your resume in a Word 97-2003 *.doc file to be safe.

A combination process is a mix of manual and automated systems. The process may include a scanner and OCR software to interpret what is scanned. When a resume is emailed as an attachment to a person, typically in HR, the recipient opens the attachment and reads the email and determines what action to take. It may be forwarded to a hiring manager, reviewed further by someone else in HR, printed to make a hard copy or simply saved to a server folder. If saved to a file folder it may be processed automatically by ATS or it may not. If a scanner/OCR is utilized in the process, a hard copy is made and fed into the scanner. OCR converts the information that has been read into a file that is stored for ATS parsing. There are some variations to this process as well.

I will be writing more about scanner/OCR systems in the future. OCR requires certain resume writing guidelines.




How quickly can your resume be read?

                              

Creating too much to read is the bane of resume writing. The hiring manager will give you about 5 seconds to decide if he/she will read further and about 30 seconds to decide if your resume goes into the ‘possibly interview’ pile or is tossed. Generally the decision to interview you is made very quickly because there are many candidates to choose from and only a limited amount of time to make a yes/no decision. Therefore you must crisply and succinctly convince the reader to interview you. This cannot be achieved by writing paragraphs of detail.

Get to the point! Get your message across by eliminating as many words as possible. If your resume is lengthy or if its appearance is dense, the tendency is to trash it immediately without reading it. It is critical to eliminate words and format the resume for fast reading. Paragraphs are not easily skimmed; simplified bullet statements are. Narrow margins and poor choice of font and/or small type size result in a crammed, forbidding appearance. White space is important. Apply the KISS principle to resume writing.



Write your resume as if you were the hiring manager.

Hiring managers are charged with the responsibility of achieving results through leadership. They need people who can achieve results. Feed their needs.

Use the experience section of your resume or CV to focus on the accomplishments and results of your work in brief bullet statements. Try to quantify as many results as possible. Place the result or accomplishment at the very beginning of the statement and tell how it was achieved afterwards. This will focus attention on the result more than on what was done. You will then appear to be results-oriented without saying do.

Minimize the real estate you devote to your responsibilities and the things you have done. This will further focus on results. Responsibilities are important but resumes that speak only to responsibilities are not likely to result in interviews.



Write a personal brand statement for your resume.

In contemporary resumes, personal brand and core competencies sections follow your name and contact information and precede all other information. A personal brand statement needs to be crisp, concise and include marketing ‘zing’ that excites one to read further. Lack of ‘zing’ often triggers no interest, no further reading and no response.

Tabulated core competencies are crucial to understanding your expertise. The core competencies section of your resume is most effective if it contains one or two word phrases organized neatly in tabular fashion so it can be skimmed quickly. It should contain key words found in the requirements part of a job description. Key words should also be used in context in the experience section. This is an important factor in getting a high score from ATS parsing.
These two sections should fit into the first third of the page so that the most important relevant results and accomplishments that follow in the experience section can be found on the first page.

Contemporary resumes no longer contain objectives. It can be reasonably assumed the job you are responding to is your job objective, which makes objective statements redundant and obsolete.



It is wise to follow the S.T.A.R. principle when writing resumes. But don’t write a book!

The S.T.A.R principle is a valuable tool to guide you through writing your resume. It organizes your thinking in terms of Situation, Task, Action and Result. Be careful not to get carried away though. Volume is the bane of resume writing. Under time pressure, readers will not read volumes of information about you. They are more likely to simply scrap your resume instead.

When writing about your work experience think in terms of all four elements of S.T.A.R., but focus your writing on Results and Action, in that order. The reader is looking for what things you have achieved (the results of your work) and how you achieved them. State a result first so the eye can quickly spot it. Then add a few words about how it was achieved.

The situation (problem worked on) is implied by the result. The task (the goals of the project) is implied by the action taken (how you achieved the result). It is not necessary to write out long descriptions about situation and task.

Since the goal of the resume is to generate an interview, it is important to create a decision to interview you. It follows that it is far better to trigger the reasons to interview you by generating interest through results and actions taken.

Word volume is the enemy of resume writing. Cut out words. Say things crisply and concisely. Write efficiently and you will help the reader to be efficient. Then you will be rewarded with interviews.


Your personal brand is an important introductory part of your resume.

What you do and what your core competencies are makes a sufficiently complete brand statement for a resume.

Your brand should be presented crisply and concisely (no long paragraphs). What you do should be written as a strong marketing statement that excites the reader.

Your expertise should be presented in a neatly organized, tabular format. The idea is to make it easy for the reader to quickly decide to read further to find out about your specific accomplishments and work results presented in the experiences section.

Hiring managers will hire you if they believe you can help them achieve the results they are signed up to deliver. Find out what their key needs are and feed them!




Your resume should be saved in at least three file formats.

Every job seeker needs at least three files of their resume, each for different purposes. One purpose is to be compatible with different hiring processes. Some processes are manual, some are fully automated and some are a mix of the two.

So that your resume submittal fits their hiring process, a company may ask you to submit it as either a *doc or *.txt format. These are the first two file types. You may be asked to attach your resume to an email, copy/paste it in the body of an email, or copy/paste it into their online application form. If ATS software is used in the front end of their hiring process the document needs to be ATS-ready.

The third file format you need is one I call the ‘FOR HANDOUT ONLY’ copy. That is the document you might wish to hand to a person you are meeting with. It is an attractive version you would be proud of and the recipient would appreciate as a well-prepared, professional looking document. 


The FHO file should never be used to apply electronically to a job online because to make it beautiful requires using word processing creation techniques that will usually cause ATS parsing issues! Since you will not be applying electronically with this file, it can be saved in any file format you find convenient to use.



If your resume is not ATS-ready, you would be well-advised to consider fixing it.

There are over 200 different ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software programs used by hiring companies today to assist in identifying qualified candidates. Actually ATS parsing software is designed to disqualify candidates; only the cream rises to the top. If a company you are applying to uses ATS software on the front end of their hiring process you may not get a response or you may even be disqualified regardless of your actual qualifications for the position. This is because one can unwittingly build word processing attributes into a resume that cause parsing issues.

If you are not sure what is wrong with your resume or how to fix it, find a resume writer who has competent understanding of what word processing attributes cause ATS parsing issues and knows how to eliminate them.


Job Searching 101: Job seekers are salespeople by default, like it or not.

Every job seeker should understand they are a salesperson. For some this is difficult to accept because they are not salespeople by profession and do not want to be. The truth is even some sales professionals have difficulty selling themselves as opposed to a product or service.

Regardless, here are some things one must think about when searching for a new job.

Selling requires collateral marketing materials, the resume and cover letter in the case of job seekers. These collateral materials are advertisements.

Advertisements outline the benefits of buying a product or service. The objective is to entice people to buy. The resume and cover letter must do the same thing.

Job seekers offer their services to a hiring manager (the buyer). The hiring manager is the person who has a need to fix. The greatest search success is achieved by those who can pinpoint that key need and show how they can fix it. That is sales!

When creating your advertisements, think like the hiring manager, the customer for your services. He or she is the decision maker and the most important person to impress. Put yourself in his or her shoes and ask yourself this: If I were the hiring manager what would I want to see on my resume that would make me want to interview this person.

Hint: Primarily it is your accomplishments and the results of your work. Your responsibilities and the companies you may have worked for are interesting but are usually not likely to get you an interview by themselves.

So here is some advice: Your resume needs to sell the benefits of hiring you. It must be easy to read quickly. So cull out words and statements that don’t really address the requirements of the job. Particularly, leave out fluff, things that are not pertinent to the job. Once people begin to read fluff they tend to lose interest quickly which makes your sale much more difficult. In addition to things that are not germane to the advertised position, fluff includes those self-assessing adjectives that say how great you are. Instead of making those statements, use your accomplishments and results to demonstrate how good you are without saying so.

It is also important to use an easy to read font and type size. An excellent choice is 12 pt Arial, but no less than 11pt. Stay with one inch side margins and no more than 2 pages.

Do not write in paragraphs; they are not easy for the hiring manager to skim through.

Finally, make sure you will score high if your resume is subjected to ATS scrutiny. Get help if you do not know how to do that. It is not intuitively obvious what you might do unwittingly in creating your resume that will cause you to be rejected regardless of how well you fit the job requirements.


What a personal brand Is, and what it Is Not.

When it comes to understanding what a personal brand is it is easiest to understand what a product brand is first. A product brand might be “Ford Mustang”, “Kleenex”, “Kraft Cheese”, etc. It is a short statement. It might include a brief modifier to attract attention such as, “A Ford Mustang that will do zero to 60 MPH in six seconds”.

Your personal brand is similar. It simply answers the question, “What do you do?” in a brief few words. It is not a long, detailed description about how great you are.

You might be “A School Teacher who has improved the math test scores for fourth graders from 62% to 88% over a five year period”, or “A Manufacturing Process Engineer who has saved companies millions of dollars in production costs”.

It is important to avoid the temptation to embellish the statement with lots of extraneous information, particularly self-assessing adjectives. But it is very worthwhile to follow the statement with a tabulated list of your core competencies, perhaps 3 columns by 3 rows, written in short phrases. These identify the primary skills you have that support the personal brand statement.

These two elements will give the reader an easily read picture of what you do in a manner that encourages them to read further. Your name, contact information, personal brand statement and core competencies should fit in the first one-third of the page so that the reader can quickly get to the results you have achieved in your most recent job experience on the first page of your resume.

If you can achieve this you will get more interviews.


Is your resume long and verbose? You probably talk too much as well.

More than any other factor there is one thing will cause people to reject your application or fail to hire you, even if you satisfy the basic job requirements:

You can’t express yourself verbally or in written form crisply and succinctly.

This factor is the single biggest reason people don’t get interviews or they get rejected after interviewing.

If you write too much your resume won’t get read.

If you talk too much you will monopolize the conversation and interviewers will find ways to get rid of you.

Verbosity is likely to be interpreted as unable to work efficiently, spending too much time getting to the conclusion.

A simple solution is to record your own conversations with people. Listen to the play-backs and see what you are doing. How long did it take you to arrive at the point of the answer? How could you have gotten there quickly?

When you write, think about the end point you are trying to reach. Start eliminating words. Can you get to the point in one brief sentence?


Why you should avoid using resume templates.

Generally they are not ATS-ready! And if not, they may not be parsed correctly … or at all.
It is true that resume templates are often attractive and easy to use. That’s probably why you would pick one to use. However, that attractive format may be the very reason you don’t get many responses because it may not be ATS-ready. In fact most are not. Resume templates usually include features that cause incorrect text parsing. It may be the reason you get rejections. Parsing software does not care about beauty. It does not have eyes. It cannot see. It can only the ‘read’ the binary code that represents your resume on a server.

If a company does not use ATS software to make their hiring process more efficient and less costly, then using a template may not be a problem.
But the question is how do you know for sure whether they do or do not? It’s also not a problem if you physically hand your beautiful resume to a human who can see. But if ATS is used in the hiring process you may run into a pile of trouble.

Some templates are free, and that certainly is appealing.
 But you may just get what you paid for. Think about it.


Resume writing vis-a-vis ATS parsing software.

There are over 40 attributes that you can unwittingly build into a document that can cause ATS parsing problems. When creating a resume it is sheer folly to ignore this fact; parsing issues may cause rejection, non-response, or dropping a candidate into the ‘black hole’. Making sure a resume is ATS-ready is as important as making sure the written text is responsive to the hiring managers’ needs. 

There are over 200 ATS software packages on the market and probably that many variants of parsing software the ATS uses to filter out candidates. The software is very useful for streamlining hiring processes and keeping hiring costs in check, but they are the bane of existence to job seekers because the parsing part of the software is unable to ‘read’ anything but pure text. If attributes get in the way, the text may not get ‘read’ and all the hard work the job seeker did may be lost.

It takes in-depth knowledge of ATS parsing to assure a resume will not be rejected by ATS because of document attributes. Most people do not understand which attributes to avoid. If you are not sure how to create an ATS-ready resume, get help from a someone who does. It will assure you your resume will get read by the parser. If you are rejected it will be for other reasons. Unfortunately many professional resume writers don’t understand the attribute issue.

Do self-assessing adjectives belong on a resume?

Self-assessing adjectives are words like results oriented, dynamic, innovative, world-class, superior, motivated, creative, passionate, unique, etc. You may be justifiably proud of your accomplishments, but give the hiring manager credit for being able to draw that conclusion.
If you put yourself in the place of the hiring manager, do you think you are making an impression with him/her by self-assessing yourself? Not likely. Unless the hiring manager personally knows how well you have done your work, he or she will be looking for statements that describe your accomplishments and the results of your work. Even then the information you provide will scrutinized in an interview. The hiring manager will then be able to judge the validity of your claims.
The fact is many hiring managers are turned off by self-assessing adjectives. They choose to judge for themselves.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think here. Thanks.