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HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME! FREE e-Book!

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s probably unlikely you’re going to have extra money in the near future to pay an expert resume writer. That’s okay – help is here.

Download ResumePro’s free e-Book to learn how to write your own killer resume! You can do it, with the help of this workbook. That’s right, HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME! is a workbook that is designed to help you write your killer resume by the time you reach the book’s end. Give it a try – you might be amazed at how awesome your resume and cover letter turn out! This comprehensive e-Book is full of examples showing you step-by-step how to:

  • get your resume through the ATS scan and in front of the hiring decision-makers
  • format your resume cleanly and include only what employers and recruiters want to see
  • write your work experience the way employers and recruiters want to see it
  • get access to the absolute must-have basic resume-writing resources
  • discover the universal Do’s & Dont’s of resume-writing
  • get a fully-completed resume and cover letter sample to use as a guide to writing your own killer resume!

Now’s the time! Grab your FREE e-Book and learn HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME!

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Why Resume Formatting is So Important & How To Do it Right

Before the advent of ATSs, most job-seekers’ greatest digital challenge was whether to email their resume as a Word document or as a PDF. Since the wide-spread institution of ATSs, things have changed. Nowadays, almost every single resume shot-off into cyberspace goes straight into an ATS, making our digital challenges in resume-writing a little more complex than choosing the best document format. ATSs, unlike humans who might opt to struggle through mosaic formatting to get to (hopefully) the good stuff, are unforgiving. Ultimately, we are at the mercy of a robot about as sophisticated as R2-D2.

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed this relatively new phenomenon known as the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which by the way, is here to stay. ATS technology is rapidly becoming the convention in resume-screening and applicant-selecting among recruiters, hiring managers, and HR departments. In my earlier article, I described (briefly) what an ATS is and how to make it love your resume. I focused on explaining why it’s so important to use the keywords and phrases from the job posting in your resume. To help you out with that, I gave you the link to a very useful tool over at Jobscan. Today, I share with you another equally-important method for making sure your resumes are ATS-friendly. That method is proper formatting, and it is far more important to an ATS than you might realize.

What is Resume Formatting, Really?

The resume format is, essentially, the layout and features you incorporate into your document. Put another way, the resume format is what you’re left with when you remove all of the words from the page. When you remove all of the words, what are you left with? Could be lines, bullets, shaded boxes, tables, dashes, vertical bars (or pipes), etc. Word processors offer lots of fun and creative styling tools you can use to fancy-up your resume. But, a word of caution. ATSs aren’t impressed by fancy style. In fact, ATSs are confused by too many creative touches, and when an ATS gets confused, it eliminates the source.

Here’s the rule of thumb for ATS-friendly (and human-eyeball-friendly) resumes: keep it clean and simple. While some subtle creativity may be visually appealing to human eyeballs, the trick is to get your resume past the ATS. The humans will never see your unique styling if the ATS vaporizes your resume in utter confusion. In your resume-writing approach, always remember you are writing for the ATS first. Keep it clean and simple with ample white space. The white space is for the humans, because, believe it or not, even in 2020, interviewers print resumes and make notes on them, so indulge them by leaving room.

The best way to illustrate “clean and simple” is by illustration. And by the way, I’m talking about Traditional resumes, not Creative resumes for those in graphic design, website development, media/publishing/advertising, performing arts, etc. Okay, here is the illustration contrasting the difference between “clean and simple” and too creative for the ATS to deal with.

Your Resume Is Not an Art Project

Job-seekers can find endless templates like the one above (left), offered online to help the masses create so-called modern resumes. But be aware, these templates are not ATS-friendly. What the designers of these templates fail to appreciate are the ATS’s limitations. ATSs have a hard time parsing the critical information they are programmed to look for if the resume’s formatting is too complex. Crazy bullets and icons, bars and shaded boxes, and especially tables, interfere with the ATS’s keyword search. Unlike a human who can look past the complex formatting, the ATS will simply become confused and vaporize these “artsy” resumes.

ATSs like “clean and simple” because it makes their keyword search easy and efficient. ATSs scan resumes, “parse” or pull out information, and rearrange the resume into a digital candidate profile. But, ATS aren’t sophisticated enough to recognize, distinguish, and interpret some of the formatting features they come across. They are known to miss important information when the formatting is too “creative”. So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record – clean and simple is the way to go.

How to Format Your Resume for the ATS

Use ATS-friendly font. Times New Roman and Arial are ATS’s favourite, but they’re okay with these as well:

  • Cambria
  • Verdana
  • Trebuchet
  • Garamound
  • Calibri

Use one font consistently throughout your resume. Using different fonts isn’t necessary to make your Section Titles stand out. Bold and “ALL CAPS” your Section Titles, such as PROFILE, WORK EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, and, you can slightly increase the font size as well (but I don’t think even that is necessary).

Use 10, 10.5, or 11 point font. When you are trying to keep your resume to one page, experiment with fonts and sizes. Cambria 10.5 will fit better than Times New Roman 10.5. Never go above 11, except for Section Titles. There, you can bump it up to 12, but keep the body of text to 10.5 or 11. I always recommend 10.5 for the body.

Use whole words ahead of acronyms. For example, spell out Licensed Practical Nurse and follow it with (LPN). A human will enter keywords into the ATS to search out viable candidates, often using the “spelled out” version of what they’re looking for. The ATS won’t necessarily know LPN is the same as Licensed Practical Nurse, and may not return resumes containing acronyms only.

Use round bullets exclusively. ATSs have a hard time parsing stars, diamonds, check marks, and icons. Don’t challenge it with fancy bullets – it won’t put in the effort.

Use sentences to describe your skills, not bulleted tables. ATSs have a hard time parsing information contained in a table. In the digital rearranging process, this info gets all messed up and becomes unsearchable by the humans. Anyway, you should be describing your skills in your work accomplishments, not in short bullet points. Tables like this one are friendly to neither the ATS nor to the humans.



Use spelled-out dates complete with months
. I get pushback on this one, but my recommendation is supported by the Recruiters I’m in constant touch with. Jobscan’s ATS research says 03/2020 can readily be parsed by ATSs, so that’s all good. But, humans prefer January 2010 to March 2015 instead of 01/2010 – 03/2015. ATSs read the months spelled-out as well, so use spelled-out words to make your resume both ATS-friendly and human eyeball-friendly.

Use your word processor’s “red flags” to correct spacing issues. ATSs aren’t sophisticated enough to figure out you accidentally put an extra space in one (or more) of your critical keywords. If you put an extra space in a multi-keyword, like “safety coordinator”, the ATS won’t recognize it, and that critical keyword gets omitted from your digital profile. The humans will never know you have experience as a safety coordinator. Most word processors will show a squiggly line indicating an extra space, so pay attention when you see them.

Use an appropriate file name. Not all ATSs are created equally. Some will pick up on keywords in the file name, and some won’t. But the file name is important to the humans, and, with the ATS, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Name your file with your name and the position: John Doe Safety Supervisor.docx.

Writing hundreds upon hundreds of resumes, day-in and day-out for years, I’ll admit I get bored with the “clean and simple” resume format. Years ago I did a creative resume for an ad-copy position and had a blast with it. It was fun, it turned out great, and it got the client the interview. But, I know “clean and simple” works for traditional resumes that have to get past the ATSs, so I stick with it.

Why not grab your FREE copy of HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME! to get access to the Resume Format Template that ATSs love!

 

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lady smiling

Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!

ATS (Applicant Tracking System). What It Is and How to Make it Love Your Resume

An applicant tracking system is an electronic resume-screening program that companies use to scan, screen, and filter resumes. One of an ATS’s main functions is to reduce the number of resumes the humans must eventually read. ATS’s are used by all large corporations like Tim Horton’s, Walmart, and McLeans, most big companies like Stuart Olsen, Kal Tire, CNRL, and, all Government agencies, all School Boards, City Departments, some Towns and Municipalities, City Police, RCMP, Banks, and on and on. Even smaller companies with large employee turnaround, like many small construction-trades companies, use an ATS.

Applicant Tracking Systems save companies tens of thousands of dollars a year in recruitment/acquisition costs and even smaller companies recognize the long-term value of these systems. ATSs do far more than just weed out undesirables—they manage the entire recruitment process from resume-screening to managing the paperwork on a new hire. So, it’s not surprising to learn that perhaps your neighborhood mechanic shop uses an applicant tracking system.

Some companies, particularly those who get a lot of walk-ins (restaurants, retail stores, small trade shops), prefer to use an ATS to ensure their hiring practices are fair. While applicant tracking systems are highly customized to suit the specific requirements of each business, they also are neutral. An ATS doesn’t know you may be the receptionist’s cousin or the foreman’s nephew so if you do get selected for an interview, no one could claim it was because you got preferential consideration, causing all kinds of nightmares for the business. For an in-depth understanding of what an ATS is and what it does, check out Jobscan’s comprehensive article. Jobscan is, in my opinion, the most reliable source of overall job-search information on the world-wide-web.

So, how do you get an ATS to love your resume?

The best way to make an ATS love your resume is to make sure it shows how you are qualified for the position you are applying for. No sense applying for a job you have no, or few, qualifications for. People argue with me all the time saying there is nothing wrong with dropping off a generic resume because you never know when you might be in the right place at the right time. I don’t argue because that’s true. There are no hard and fast rules about how to apply for a job and there are as many ways to do it as there are jobs to be had. But if you are committed to an aggressive job search with the intent of getting a job fast, do yourself a favour and at least use job postings to help you customize your generic resume with keywords and phrases.

Getting back to Applicant Tracking Systems, they score your resume based on how well the information in it matches the job requirements. This is how the ATS determines if you are qualified for the position. It’s all about being qualified. The fact that 98% of Job Applicants are Unqualified is precisely why an average of 76.5% of companies use ATSs.

While ATSs scan your resume for the keywords and key phrases used in the job posting, they also recognize when those keywords and phrases have merely been regurgitated into a resume. A resume that matches too closely (that is, a 90 % or higher match) may actually be flagged by the ATS and ultimately disqualified. You’ll have to put some work into incorporating the job posting’s keywords and phrases into your resume organically, using those you truthfully can, but being sure not to overuse them. Jobscan has a great tool for checking your resume’s keyword and phrases. It gives you a percentage rating, which will tell you if you should revise your resume to either increase or decrease the frequency of keywords and phrases.

ATSs are only the frontline screener

At the top of this post, I mentioned that an ATS is used to filter out unsuitable resumes. But what if you are well-suited to the job you’ve applied for and still didn’t get a call for an interview? In that case, it may be that you had enough keywords and phrases in your resume to get past the ATS, but not the right information to impress a human. Ultimately, it is a human being who decides who to call in for an interview, so while you need to make sure your resume is ATS-friendly, you must also ensure it will appeal to a human being. This is where describing your accomplishments is so critical. Click here for some help with that.

Why not grab your FREE copy of HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME! to learn how to use keywords and phrases effectively? It contains a ton of examples to help you really see how this keyword thing works.

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lady smiling

Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!

man staring at phone

Why Don’t You Hear From Companies You Sent Your Resume To?

Until a year ago, I thought it was great that people could sit at home and fire off resumes en mass – three or four a day – through LinkedIn, Indeed, and any one of the dozens of other online job boards.Three or four resumes a day? Not a bad day’s work. But what happens to those resumes once they’re out there in cyber job–search land? Where do they go? For many, it seems as if they’ve rocketed their resumes into outer space, never to be seen or heard from again. Well, guess what? It’s true – they did rocket their resumes into outer space. It’s a place called “the black hole”. The black hole is where resumes go to get vaporized.

So let’s break this down. What really happens to your resumes once you hit that big blue APPLY button?

Your resume gets sucked into a computer program called an ATS. The last time I checked, reports said, collectively/on average, that about 76.5% of companies worldwide use an ATS. ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System (click to learn more). It is a system that filters through thousands of resumes to find only the best matches to the position the employer advertised, then deposits those resumes into an “in-tray” for humans to read. So, how does the ATS determine which resumes are the best matches? Well. It does that by picking the ones that meet the criteria programmed into the ATS by a human. That criteria can be quite complex, but in most cases, it is fairly standard, such as:

  • Select resumes containing enough, but not too many, of the keywords and phrases used in the employer’s job posting
  • Select resumes that are no more than two pages and are nicely formatted with simple, round bullets, consistent font and font size, and lots, but not too much, white space
  • Select resumes with no spelling mistakes or glaring grammatical errors. (ATS aren’t smart enough to recognize most grammatical screw-ups, but they will notice something like, “I done that” and “I don’t got”).

A human can program the ATS with any number of criteria, but these three are the absolute, universal minimum. So, as you can see, ATSs aren’t hard to please, and when you give it what it wants, there’s a good chance the ATS will toss your resume into a human’s in-tray. If you don’t hear from any of the companies you’ve fired-off resumes to, it’s likely because the ATS didn’t like your resume and therefore vaporized it. Your resume never made it into a human’s in-tray. No one is even aware you applied for the position, and that’s why you never heard back from any of the companies you sent resumes to.

Here’s what you have to keep in mind when you’re writing and sending out resumes. You’re not the only one doing that. The reason companies use ATSs is because they receive hundreds or thousands of resumes for a single position they’ve advertised. If that’s hard to wrap your head around, think of big companies like Google, CNRL, PCL, and AHS. Each of those companies receives thousands of resumes from around the world for a single job posting. So, yeah, you’re not alone in this game. You have a ton of competition, much of it writing very well-optimized resumes that do get past the ATSs and in front of human eyeballs.

Here’s something else to keep in mind. Even when you think you’re sending your resume to a small, local company, there’s a very good chance your resume is getting sucked into an ATS at a recruiting agency. Companies who don’t use their own ATS often use recruiting agencies to screen applicants, so, no matter what, your resume is subject to an ATS.

Sometimes, when you send your resume to an email address that was provided in the job posting, it will go directly to a human, but not always. Sometimes, the human will upload your resume into some kind of ATS, so no matter how you slice it, your resume is almost always going to be screened by a robot.

So, Why Don’t You Hear Back From Companies You Sent Your Resume To? It’s Because Your Resume Didn’t Make it Past the ATS.

Off the top, I said, “Until a year ago, I thought it was great that people could sit at home and fire off resumes en masse…”. I don’t think that’s so great anymore because once you hit that APPLY button, you’re done. Your job-search begins and ends with a click of a mouse. You click on the job posting, read it, write your resume for that position, click the APPLY button, then that’s it–you’re done–that’s as far as you go in the game. You become one among hundreds or thousands, and there is no opportunity for you to pick up the phone after a few days to ask if your resume was received. Back in the day, that’s how it was done. You called up whoever you sent your resume to and said, “Hi, This is Joe Brown. I sent in my resume last Monday and just want to follow up to make sure it was received”, or some such thing. But nowadays, who ya gonna call? A resume-vaporizing robot?

So people, if you want to hear from the companies you’re sending resumes to you need to start writing your resumes for ATSs. Grab this little e-Book I wrote for you. I wrote the entire book based on my “write for the employer–not for you” philosophy. It’s the only way to write your resume. Writing for the employer is writing for the ATS because, after all, it’s the employer who wrote the ATS’s screening criteria.

So here ya go. Get HOW to WRITE A KILLER RESUME! I will bet you, you will start to hear from the companies you send resumes to.


Get Free e-Books
& Expert Advice on:


  • Resume-Writing

  • Cover Letters

  • Job Search
    & More!


Subscribe to get bi-monthly expert advice & job-search tips delivered right to your inbox!

 

lady smiling

Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!