A Needle in a Haystack? How to Make your Resume Standout
As a research analyst for a specialized Consulting and Staffing Firm, my job is to browse hundreds of resumes, curricula vitae, job and social profiles, and personal and company webpages, to funnel the ‘crème de la crème’ of candidates for our client’s job orders. Or you can think of my job as a needle finder. This means much of my day is spent with my eyes glued to my dual monitors, viewing and dissecting the qualifications, of candidates worldwide.
Coming out of college, I had the deluded notion that a resume documenting my background and skills would be sufficient to get me the job of my dreams. I thought that only people that were qualified for particular positions applied, and therefore all applications were viewed. Maybe in the past, but definitely not in this day and age. Everyone, irrespective of skills, qualifications, or even location, is applying for the same jobs, which means many qualified job-seekers are lost in the haystack. So, you ask, how does one get their resume noticed? There are two options; get lucky or get informed. For those of you who are like me, without a lucky bone in their body, I recommend the latter.
How are Resumes Found?
I and other professional staffing firms employ Boolean search methodologies to screen candidates. This gives me a high level of control over essential candidate variables and of critical importance in my profession, speed in finding candidates when searching data sources. These sources range from “small”, with tens of thousands of contacts, to tens of millions for large Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or resume database such as CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, Monster, etc. The Boolean method allows me to use commands such as “AND”, “OR”, and “NOT”, coupled with keywords to extract the candidate variables for which I am looking. In other words, your resume must match the search criteria I use which are based on my client’s job posting.
Job Title, Location, and Skills
The three main variables I base my searches on are Job Title, Location, and Skills; for which the sources are the job descriptions provided by the clients. That is why I cannot stress enough, the importance of researching the positions you want to apply to insure your resume matches the job description. Job Title and Location seem obvious, however, it is imperative to write out the full job title and location, rather than abbreviations. If I am searching for a General Ledger Accountant and all that is in your resume is GL Accountant, you will most likely not be found. Even with some of the sophisticated databases I use as a professional researcher that give me statistics on how closely a resume matches my search, a GL Accountant will be displayed to me as lower level match than General Ledger Accountant. Similarly, if I search for San Francisco and you have SF on your resume, you may not be found. Skills are a little more complex, because they require more specification to a particular position and knowledge of it.
It’s all about the Keywords
Many job-seekers fill their resumes with subjective adjectives (that are almost never searched upon) such as charismatic, team-player, detail-oriented, or my very favorite, “hardworking”. Rather, job-seekers should use terms or phrases that actually demonstrate what they are capable of achieving, such as, managed a staff of, increased sales by, reconciled, processed, etc., as relevant to the position and your abilities. Similarly, job-seekers spend time and usually money gaining software skills, certifications, specializations and other advanced credentials, only to leave them off their resumes. More than any variable I use for searching candidates, those keywords are what allow me to narrow my pool to exactly what I am looking for.
Lastly, bear in mind that 80% of in-house Human Resources teams do their initial resume screens by computer; no human sees your resume until you have passed a Boolean search based on keywords in the job description. Therefore, do not apply for a position without reading the position description and requirements, and do not post your resume without knowing what jobs you are targeting. Research, research, research – the company, the industry, and be sure to include your industry experience on your resume.
Mwape is the Research Analyst for CFOs2GO’s recruiting team. Her emphasis is on the International, and Financial Modeling and Analysis Practice groups, where she incorporates her MS International & Development Economics and her international background. Mwape speaks Chinese and has studied French, Spanish, Zulu and Afrikaans.