How to nail your CV and get the job
A jobseeker can have all the skills, experience and charisma in the world but they are not getting an interview if the algorithm says no.
Recruitment software that scans resumes for key information and phrases can make or break a jobseeker's chance at success, acting as gatekeeper between the application and real human eyes.
Known as applicant tracking systems (ATS), the technology is not new but it is being used for more and more roles as application volumes increase and hiring professionals become overwhelmed.
Outplacement business Thrive chief executive Steve Shepherd says many people do not realise they are dealing with these systems.
"When we tell people about this, most people are surprised," he says.
"They don't perceive there is anything other than a person opening their application and reading it. People who have been in the job market in the last few years understand it but if you haven't applied for a job in 10 or 12 years, you are probably naive about how these things work." Shepherd says ATS are used by all major organisations and almost all recruitment companies, and they are not just for junior roles that attract lots of applicants but across the board.
"It's not about lying or making up stuff to match the job but if you have the right experience and don't tell them and plan to wait for the job interview to share it, you probably won't get the job interview," he says.
Thrive career coach and director for NSW and Queensland, Cheryl Goldsmith, advises jobseekers to carefully consider what information is most effective for their resume.
"Sometimes people think more is more and try to throw everything but the kitchen sink in there but actually that's not going to help," she says.
"You have got to come at it from a couple of angles - you are trying to get through ATS in the first place but if you make it through then you are going to be looked at by a recruiter or talent acquisition specialist so you want to make a positive impact on that person, too.
"The most common mistake people make is not tailoring their language to match the keywords and language in the job advertisement they are responding to."
Jobseekers can get professional help from a resume writer or career coach or there is also software to help optimise resumes. Jobscan, for example, allows users to upload their resume and job description to gain a keyword match rate.
They can then tweak their resume until the match rate improves.
Jobscan chief executive James Hu says the number of Australian users has roughly tripled over the past two years to reach almost 100,000, suggesting increased awareness of ATS. He recommends jobseekers read the job post carefully and says mentioning a keyword multiple times in an application can also help - however they should avoid "keyword stuffing".
"Some ATS rank candidates higher if a search keyword is mentioned more than once," he says.
"An example of keyword stuffing is if you were to add in your resume 'accounting accounting accounting accounting accounting accounting' and change the text to white to hide it.
"Sure, the ATS will recognise it as a keyword match for 'accounting', but it will also highlight the keywords in context and the recruiter could see it as cheating or lazy."
Hu recommends creating a skills section in the resume as a way to include relevant keywords in a natural way.
"Keywords that hiring managers and recruiters will search for are generally hard skills, job titles, location, and work experience," he says. "Hard skills are concrete, such as 'Spanish fluency', 'financial analysis', and 'Python'.
"Soft skills are important to the employer too, but they are better proved in person than on your resume."
HOW TO STAND OUT
DON'T use graphics, text boxes, and columns as these can cause your content to be lost or read incorrectly.
DO help the system find your relevant information by using standard resume headings like 'work history' and 'education' that the system will be searching for.
DON'T try to 'beat the system' by including keywords or skills you don't have as these systems are smart and can now search and analyse your information in context.
DO tailor your resume to align with the requirements of the job post and reflect the specific terminology/keywords used in the post where possible.
DO spell out qualifications and industry terminology in full and follow with the acronym.
DO follow application instructions about resume file types and requirements, and answer any screening questions in full. Microsoft Word is usually the best file type unless otherwise specified.
DO remember the ultimate decision maker will be human so create your resume to still appeal to a human reader.
Originally published as How to nail your CV and get the job