Applicant Tracking Systems: A Tool, Not an Enemy

Work smarter: job seekers

Applicant Tracking Systems: A Tool, Not an Enemy

The average job posted online receives 250 applications, according to data from ERE. Because the interview process is time-consuming, most employers only interview a handful of candidates. With that many job seekers out there, you’re bound to be competing with people who have similar experience, qualifications, and accomplishments. In order to score an interview and land a job, you have to submit application materials–your resume and cover letter–that will get you noticed by an applicant tracking system.

Sending one version of your resume to as many job openings as you can is wasted effort. A generic resume, rather than one tailored for a specific job opening, is all but guaranteed to be lost in the shuffle. Some job seekers call applicant tracking systems “black holes”–and if you don’t target your resume, they can certainly seem that way. There are no perfect systems, but an ATS is a database that serves many purposes for employers, helping streamline the hiring process from recruiting to onboarding. Applicant tracking systems aren’t going anywhere, so to succeed in today’s job market, job seekers need to take them into account.

Targeted resume

Tailoring your resume for individual job postings might sound impossibly time-consuming, but the key is to work smarter, not harder. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel and create a new resume from scratch every time.

One method that will simplify the process of tailoring your resume for a job is to start with a career management document. This is a document where you keep track of all of your professional accomplishments, plus information related to community involvement or volunteer work. It’s a master list of your skills, credentials, and achievements, along with a bank of resume keywords related to your field, and any notes you might find helpful later. Then you will draw from this document to create individual, targeted resumes.

The order of the information on your resume can vary based on the job. If your skill set makes you a more appealing candidate for a certain position than your education, your resume skills should come first. On the other hand, if your education included the completion of a major project that relates to the role you’re interested in, you could put your education section first, and include a line about the project.

Using resume keywords

Becoming familiar with resume keywords is also important. Once you learn what they are, and can spot them in job postings, incorporating them into your resume is easy. Using the right keywords isn’t about parroting the job posting, but about seamlessly blending the right keywords into the text of your resume. If you are applying for a design job, for example, the posting probably asks for familiarity with various Adobe products. Are they listed out individually, or referred to collectively? Do they specify a certain version of the Adobe Creative Suite, or are they using Creative Cloud? Make sure your resume reflects the exact phrasing of the job posting, because that’s what the applicant tracking system will notice.

To get instant and impartial feedback about how well your resume matches up with a specific job, try Jobscan’s resume analysis tool. Just paste in the text of your resume and the text of the job listing, and Jobscan will analyze them side by side and tell you what you’ve done well, and where you can make improvements.

Additionally, don’t forget that your LinkedIn profile gives you the chance to go into more detail about your experience and accomplishments–and you can even include work samples, relevant links, and more.

Your resume is not supposed to tell your whole life story, or even include every detail of your professional background; it should be a concise, targeted document that makes it obvious that you are right person for a particular role. And before you get the opportunity to make the case to humans, chances are you’ll have to earn a high ranking in applicant tracking systems first. This is doable if you tailor your materials. Far from being a waste of time, tailoring your resume and cover letter will drastically improve your odds of success.

See also:
Resume Tips: Creating a Career Management Document
How to Use Jobscan: A Step-by-Step Guide
8 Things You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems

Why Hybrid Resumes are 2015’s Favorite Resume Format

hybrid resume

Hybrid Resumes


The traditional resume format is a chronological format, which best highlights a long, solid work history over skills. In contrast, a functional format focuses on skills and best suites a career path with a sporadic work history (i.e., veterans and work-from-home parents).

A happy medium is the hybrid resume, a format that has found its stride in 2015 for its ability to marry the best of both a chronological and functional resume: highlighting relevant and transferrable skills and still providing what hiring recruiters are looking for, proof of employment (whether it be sporadic or solid).

A hybrid resume or also known as a combination resume serves job-seekers from all different career paths:

  • New Graduates/Entry-Level Job Seekers: For those with little to none professional experience yet, a hybrid resume turns the spotlight on to their hard skills (titles and degrees) and soft skills (interpersonal skills like good communication, adaptability, problem solving, etc.).
  • Career Changers: You have a solid work history but now that all that work history may be (or may not be, depending on how radical your career change is) irrelevant. Being able to prove you are a dependable employee with solid employment is a good building block to then select which skills from your previous career you believe will best transfer to your new career.
    • NOTE: Jobscan is a quick and easy online resume tool that will determine for you which skills and resume keywords are relevant and transferrable to the desired new job
  • Applicants Reentering the Job Market: There are holes in your work history. Sometimes life happens and force you from the job market for a while (you were a veteran, you became a mom, etc.). A hybrid resume is the perfect resume format to diminish the appearance of those holes by allowing you the option to omit dates altogether and fill the space with skills, duties and accomplishments during that employment.

hybrid resume

5 Signs Your Resume is Not Ready for the 2015 Job Search

6 Colorful Resume Templates

Your Resume Says ‘Idina Menzel’ but Applicant Tracking Systems Read “Adele Dazeem”

5 Signs Your Resume is Not Ready for the 2015 Job Search

Job search 2015

Modernize your job search

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you find yourself gearing up for yet another job search with your resume created three years ago, that’s insane, by Albert Einstein’s definition. The 2015 job market is not what it was even a year ago, just as the iPod is not what it was even a second ago. If you have found your job search unsuccessful, it may not entirely be because of a lack of qualifications or skills. Perhaps it’s time to spruce up that old resume so it can join the 2015 conversation.

Here’s 5 signs your resume is not ‘job search-ready’ for 2015:

1. Not Using Active Voice

Active voice creates confident-sounding sentences. (Active)

Confident-sounding sentences are created by active voice. (Passive)

Failing to use active voice in your resume not only saps power from your resume’s statements, it also bogs them down with unnecessary fillers (such as are, by, to, and and). On average, hiring managers spend only six seconds per resume. That’s six seconds to make a great impression.

If you’re worried about sounding boastful or blunt, backing up every statement with solid examples will diffuse that. Remember, your resume is your chance to showcase your accomplishments not just list your duties.

  • Passive voice: “Responsible for the delivery and execution of staff training and professional development services.” (The ball was thrown by me)
  • Active voice: “Managed training and development programs for a staff of 20.” (I threw the ball)

2. Not Formatting Resume Keywords Correctly 

If hiring managers only spent six seconds per resume, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the computer software used by 90% of businesses to help filter and select the best resumes, spend even less time to consider if a resume is qualified or not.

Applicant tracking systems use a resume parser to track and extract resume keywords, the skills and qualifications that match skills and qualifications in the original job description. The more resume keywords the ATS can extract, the more qualified that resume is. So it’s important to include as many resume keywords as possible and format them correctly.

The online resume optimization tool Jobscan is an excellent resource to determine which resume keywords are the most important and how to format them. Resume keywords must be formatted to echo the exact formatting of the keywords in the original job description. To an ATS, there is a difference between Microsoft Excel and even a solitary Excel.

This is especially important to remember when changing your resume statements from passive voice to active voice. It might take some rewording (e.g., management vs. managing, supervising vs. supervisor vs. supervision) but it is well worth your time. What’s the point of crafting a resume if the ATS can’t recognize half its content?

3. Not Using Numbers

Paint a clear picture. If you helped increased a company’s profit, find out by how much. Recruiters won’t waste time on subjective phrases like “increased a company’s profit largely” or “contributed greatly”. Not only will a number be more recognizable to an ATS (adjectives mean nothing to them), it will have a more powerful effect on hiring managers. Did you increase sales by a lot or by 50%?

4. Holding onto Unrelated or Old Experience

According to careerbuilder, it’s okay to go as far back as 10 years. But with resumes, quality is always better than quantity. It depends on what kind of job you are applying for and what impression you want to make.

If you want to show you have a long, solid work history and are applying to a job where you bring related experience, then pushing 15-20 years on your resume is fine. But if you are only putting on titles and dates just to have them, your resume will appear sloppy and grasping.

If you are applying to job where you don’t have a lot of related work history, then carefully selecting which jobs you find have relevant, transferrable skills to the desired job and then highlighting those skills is your best shot, even if that experience is scattered all across fields and years.

Imagine yourself a film editor and the movie is your work history: you get to choose what to highlight and what to cut, what to turn the audience’s (recruiters’) attention onto and what to fast-forward through. Understanding exactly what impression you want hiring managers to have of you will help you decide what to keep and what to leave on the cutting room floor.

5. Not Creating a Brand

When you finally get home from work and have some time to relax in front of the television, do you turn on Dancing With the Stars or American Idol or even The Bachelor/Bachelorette? Do you sometimes find yourself latching onto a certain contestant and begin rooting for them, even though they may not be the greatest dancer, best singer, or the prettiest? They just have that little extra something that other contestants (that are possibly more qualified and skilled) simply don’t have? Yet, you want them to win, and sometimes they do.

That little extra something is a personal brand, what that sets them apart and allows people relate to and ultimately, remember them. On your resume, creating a similar persona will make hiring managers remember you. But that persona should be relevant to the job. The best way to find and display your brand (which will be relevant to the job and true to you) is to find patterns in your resume:

  • What kinds of companies/fields you have found yourself pursuing? Why? Is a local, small-company feel more attractive to you than a fast-paced corporate ladder?
  • Which skills have you found yourself most using in the past? (But remember, frequent or not, these skills should be relevant. When in doubt, always refer back to the original job description.)
  • Which achievements, whether formally recognized or not, have you accomplished? Which behavior have employers and coworkers frequently praised you on?

Job Search: The Top 7 Sins Recent College Graduates Are Committing

Resume Formats: Which One Can Get You the Job You Want…and Why?

Top Resume Formats in 2015

The Best Time to Write Your Resume: Before Your Job Search

Resume Writing

The Best Time to Write Your Resume: Before Your Job Search

To succeed at a job search, you need to be armed with more than a static resume and a generic cover letter. But the pressure of a job search causes many people to give into panic and take the route of quantity over quality, and submit as many applications as possible. This strategy is unlikely to lead to success in today’s job market. With hundreds of applicants per position being commonplace, a generic resume will never stand out. The other drawback to waiting until you’re actively looking for a job is that when you’re in a rush, you’re more likely to make mistakes. Hiring managers consistently report that they discard resumes with errors. So even if you don’t anticipate a job search in your future, you should still be updating your resume on a regular basis.

The best tool for keeping your resume up-to-date is a career management document (sometimes referred to as a master resume). If you don’t have a career management document, you’re creating more work for yourself each time you update your resume. A career management document is a comprehensive list, meant to be updated regularly, where you track your professional and community involvement and accomplishments, credentials, education, skills, and everything else you might include on a resume someday. You can also add extensive notes (particularly about your major projects, so you don’t forget any background or details over time), a resume keyword bank, and any other information that will be useful to you when updating and tailoring your resume and cover letter.

Cover letters

And yes, creating a new cover letter for each application is important. Cover letters only need to be a few paragraphs long. The point is to sell yourself as a candidate for that specific job. Don’t just rehash your resume; instead, take a couple of your accomplishments that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for, expand on them a bit, and relate them to the role you’re seeking. And instead of addressing your cover letter to “Sir or Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern,” use the name of the person who will be doing the hiring. Some job listings include this information; some don’t. If you need to find the name on your own, LinkedIn or Google can likely lead you to the information–or make a call to the company. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the company before submitting your application materials; a job seeker willing to do some legwork is going to be seen as a positive.

Regular updates

Tailoring your resume for an individual job posting is actually a cinch when you have a career management document to work from. One of the best things you can do for your future job searches is to make it a habit to update your career management document on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be weekly or monthly, but if you only do it yearly, you’ll lose out on a lot of details. Quarterly updates are a good target for many people, because they allow you to capture a certain level of detail without being too cumbersome to maintain.

Even if you don’t see a job search in your future for years, keeping track of your accomplishments, updating your skills, and taking down other relevant notes will give you much better information to work from down the road. Having specifics to work from is key to creating a well-targeted resume. Whether you’re a current job seeker or not, you’re almost certain to be a future job seeker. And future you will be glad you took the time to document your achievements.

See also:

Resume Tips: Creating a Career Management Document

Top Resume Skills for 2015

8 Resume Accomplishments to Make You Stand Out

Resume Examples: Keywords for Social Media Professionals


Resume Examples: Keywords for Social Media Professionals

Resume examples are a useful tool, especially industry-specific ones–they allow job seekers to compare their resumes to those of people in their field. This way, job seekers can learn about the tools and technologies they need to know, and see how their skills and accomplishments stack up.

There is one thing resume examples can’t do, though, and that’s to accurately reflect they keywords used in job postings. While awareness of the importance of resume keywords is becoming more common, you can’t assume that resume examples you may come across have been keyword optimized. If you want to get a sense of the keywords used in a field or for a particular type of role, your best bet is to go straight to the source: job listings.

The word cloud at the top of this post was assembled using the text from five social media job postings. The words featured are the ones that appeared most frequently. The bigger the word, the more times it appeared.

To succeed in social media, you must possess not only the ability to master new technologies and platforms (Snapchat, anyone?), but also the creative ability to generate effective content, and the analytical ability to track performance and determine whether your content strategy is working. In other words, it’s an industry that calls on a broad range of skills.

Social media resume keywords

If you are hunting for a job in social media, make sure to include the following resume keywords wherever applicable:

  • Social
  • Media
  • Marketing
  • Content
  • Community
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Business
  • Outreach
  • Research
  • Client
  • PR
  • Writing
  • Engagement
  • Strategy
  • Campaigns
  • Create
  • Brand
  • Accounts
  • Events
  • Design
  • Data
  • Maintain
  • Analytics
  • Monitor
  • Platforms
  • Team
  • Technology
  • Tools
  • Tracking
  • Results
  • Channels
  • Drive
  • Calendars
  • Digital

Resume skills

Reading through the list, you might see that many of these words are more related to soft skills than to hard skills. For example, you might have noticed that certain specifics, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, don’t appear on this list. While hard skills might be easier to sell on a resume, soft skills are important, and highly valued by employers. If the keyword list were expanded, all of the usual suspects as far as platforms would appear. But across the job listings, employers were looking for command of concepts more than anything else.


When it comes to resume keywords, quality matters–not only quantity. Instead of just cramming your resume full of the words above, tailor your resume to each specific job posting. If you are working from a career management document, this doesn’t take long at all. And for an instant analysis of how well your resume matches up with a specific job listing, visit Jobscan. All you need to do is paste in the text of both your resume and the job listing, and Jobscan will analyze them and provide instant feedback about what you’ve done well and what you can improve. Resume examples are a great starting point, after all, but they’re no match for personalized resume feedback.

See also:

How to Choose Resume Keywords

8 Things You Need to Know About Resume Keywords

Top Resume Skills for 2015

6 Colorful Resume Templates

Spring is only a few weeks away, but for much–if not most–of the country, the brightness and colors of the season seem impossibly far off. For an injection of color, here are six resume templates that go beyond the expected black and white. Previously seen as something to avoid, a smart use of color on your resume can be one way to demonstrate your self-confidence.

These bright templates are not right for every job seeker–many industries and roles still call for more traditional resumes, in strictly black and white. If you are looking for resume templates that use color, remember that some colors can be hard to read. For the bulk of the text, stick to basic black in standard typefaces.


Via Etsy, $10


Via Etsy, $12


Via Etsy, $13


Via Etsy, $14


Via Loft Resumes, $99


Via Loft Resumes, $99

Some of the templates above even include corresponding cover letters. If you are in the market for a resume template, and want something that will help you stand out–in a good way–consider going for a little color.

See also:

Job Fair Resume Tips and Resume Templates

4 Minimalist Resume Templates

Using Resume Templates in Your Job Search

Are You Highlighting Those Crucial Leadership Skills in Your Resume Right?


“Remember the difference between a boss and leader; a boss says ‘Go!’, a leader says, ‘Let’s go!'” – E.M. Kelly

Communication, motivation, delegation, positivity, creativity, responsibility, flexibility and commitment.

No, this is not how Kanye West warms up for a performance.

In fact, Kanye may only know a few of these words, but as a job-seeker you should know all of them. They are the top leadership skills employers will look for in your resume and being able to include as many as these skills in your resume as possible will give you a distinct advantage over applicants who do not.

Okay, duh.

But what is not as well-known is how to stop these crucial skills from blending into the background as your hard skills, those shiny academic degrees, titles and technical skills, push their way to the front. Leadership skills fall into the category of soft skills, your interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence (social awareness).

Soft skills can be overlooked but they are extremely crucial. A person can be as brilliant as Kanye West but as socially-awkward as Kanye too.


How to list skills in your resume

Listing these leadership skills in your resume (see right) is fine and will help catch your resume catch the attention of the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATs is a recruitment software used by businesses to select the best resumes by measuring how many desired skills and qualifications a resume possess. These skills and qualifications should directly match the skills and qualifications requested in the original job posting, and their format should echo that in the original job posting too (i.e., to an ATS, there is a difference between Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft PPT or even, PowerPoint).

But simply listing them won’t highlight them  and won’t be able to represent you best as an employee. Soft skills can be hard to incorporate because you don’t want to sound like a braggart (“I am creative and motivated”) or sell yourself short (“My responsibility has been recognized by some as a good trait”). The best way to display leadership skills in your resume in full glory is to show them in action, how they have benefitted your work ethic and/or the company:

  • Was promoted to Supervisor after only one year because of strong delegation and positive motivation skills.
  • Was the only intern selected to be cross-trained because of consistent flexibility and adaptability.
  • Was recognized for using strong communication and multitasking skills to increase efficiency during peak hours at restaurant.

Each sentence should be short and to the point. On average hiring managers only spent six seconds per resume so being blunt with facts and proven benefits will help remind recruiters and demonstrate to them how you have used your leadership skills in the past, and how you plan to utilize them in the new job.

But wait!!

Remember those applicant tracking systems mentioned before? No matter how great you are able to exhibit your leadership skills in your resume, if they are not formatted correctly, they will not be recognized by the ATS.

This might take some re-wording but an easy way to make sure your leadership skills are in their correct format is to run them through the online resume tool, Jobscan which directly compares your resume to the desired job description and measures their compatibility based on how many keywords it can match up. And Jobscan not only instantly tells you if you used adaptability instead of adaptable but will also tell you which of the keywords are the highest priority (will help your resume rank higher in the ATS!).

Taking advantage of these resume optimization tools will iron out those little wrinkles in your resume, keep everyone—you, the hiring managers and applicant tracking systems—happy and give you an edge even Yeezus himself can’t deny.

Fifty Shades of Resume: The Top 5 Things Every Resume Must Have to Standout

Resume Format Advice to Beat Applicant Tracking Systems

Top Resume Formats in 2015

Are You Using a Career Summary When You Should Be Using A Resume Objective?

resume objectiveCrafting a resume is stressful. You are trusting a single, printed page to represent you to potential employers. And not just to inform them of your skills and qualifications for a particular position but to express your aspirations for the position and your potential as an employee: Will you fit into the company’s culture? Are you a good investment for the company?

An excellent solution to allow employers to get a good sense of who you are and your career aims is to include a resume objective (a.k.a. career objective) or a career summary.

These brief reviews are great opportunities to stock your resume full with resume keywords. Resume keywords are extremely important because they help your resume rank higher the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), the software used by businesses to help filter and select the best resumes.

Resume keywords are the desired skills and qualifications mentioned in the original job posting. Resumes that include these same skills and qualifications are noticed by the ATS and the more these resume keywords are mentioned, the higher the ATS will rank it.

Jobscan is an excellent online resume tool to help job-seekers identify the most important resumes keywords in a job posting and how to format them in their resume.

Then once you have collected all the correct keywords (in correct format), then it’s time to understand whether to use a Resume Objective or a Career Summary.

A Resume objective is good for those who are:

  • Just entering the workforce (i.e., recent college graduate)
  • Re-entering the workforce after an extended absence (i.e., veterans)
  • This singular sentence should highlight the strengths in your resume and how they will be applied to achieve a career goal.

This singular sentence should highlight the strengths in your resume and how they will be applied to achieve a career goal.

Example: Committed to improving company profits by contributing bilingual skills and knowledge of civil-law countries in the legal department of a business firm in Seattle.

Notice how it is written in active voice, to put your strengths and achievements at the forefront and keep your statement clear and concise and to the point. Also how it is focused outward, not focused on what the job-seeker wants but what they can do for the company. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”


A Career Summary is also known as a Professional Summary, Summary of Experience or even, About Me. A great career summary is no more than 50 words with an established, relevant brand targeted to employers. In other words, it should express what makes you distinctive. Successful brands speak for themselves: take a look at the photo below.

colacolaIt read ‘Cape Cod’ but your mind says, ‘Coca Cola’, the distinctive font is just too powerful a brand. Your brand as an employee should be able to harness some of this same distinctiveness.

The best way to achieve this to understands the patterns in your resume:

  •  Work history: are there any patterns in the type of businesses you have work for before? (i.e., fast-paced and large or small, family-owned and local?
    • Companies have a certain culture they want to uphold because it upholds their brand as a business. If you are someone who is more interested in climbing ladders and making lots of money, then trying to sell your brand to a smaller, local, family-owned company will not be that successful.
  • Application of Skills: Which skills have you needed to apply most frequently in former jobs? Which have matured?
    • But remember: frequent or not, skills should always be relevant to the job. When in doubt, always look back to the job description.
  • Achievements: Whether formally recognized or not, any behavior praised (perfect attendance, strong multitasking skills, positivity) should be highlighted.
    • Being aware of your strengths as an employee not only demonstrates good emotional intelligence skills (social awareness) to employers but allows you to let your (relevant) strengths shine.

Example: A highly organized and detail-oriented Executive Assistant with over 15 years’ experience providing thorough and skillful administrative support to senior executives.

Whether you believe a resume objective or career summary is helpful or not (do hiring managers even read them?), they are great opportunities to help your resume rank higher in the ATS and a great exercise to deconstruct your resume so you can understand your career aspirations and brand (questions you certainly will be asked once you land that interview!)

Fifty Shades of Resume: The Top 5 Things Every Resume Must Have to Standout

Resume Format Advice to Beat Applicant Tracking Systems

5 Things You Need for Proper Resume Format

Your Resume Says ‘Idina Menzel’ but Applicant Tracking Systems Read “Adele Dazeem”



Let’s admit it, we’re excited to watch the 2015 Oscars for the dresses, the winners and the opening act but we’ll still check out (and remember) the worst dressed, the snubs and the flubbed speeches. Sadly, mistakes have a longer lifespan than triumphs.

On your resume, mistakes are a death sentence. Nothing kills interview chances like a misspelled word.

But perhaps you didn’t know how even correctly-spelled words can still disqualify you from the job hunt. Just as there’s a major difference between Idina Menzel and Adele Dazeem, there’s a major difference between words on your resume and resume keywords.

First thing you should know is that once you submit your resume online, it does not get sent to a human hiring manager. Instead it is whisked away to the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a company software used to filter and file the onslaught of submitted resumes. It determines which resumes are the most qualified by extracting and matching the skills and qualifications in the resume to the skills and qualifications in the original job description.

These relevant skills and qualifications are resume keywords and not only should they match those in the original job description but be formatted to echo the original wording too.

For example:

  • If the original job descriptions asks for ‘Microsoft Office’, your resume should say ‘Microsoft Office’ not ‘Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel’.
  • Even if it asks for ‘Microsoft Word’ and ‘Microsoft Excel’, writing ‘Microsoft Word and Excel’ will only prompt the ATS to recognize ‘Microsoft Word’ but not the solitary ‘Excel’.

The best way to determine which resume keywords are the most important (which will help your resume rank higher in the ATS) and how to best format them is to take advantage of online resume tools such as Jobscan or Google Word Cloud.

Jobscan is an especially useful tool when you are able to sprinkle resume keywords throughout your entire resume (highly recommended!) and not just listed in bullets at the top.

For example:

  • Sample keywords in job description: organization and inventory management
  • Sample resume keywords statement: Managed and organized inventory.
  • Modified sample resume keywords statement: Praised for successful inventory management and strong organization skills

It may require some rewording but taking the time to tailor your resume is well worthwhile.

Resumes, unlike the Oscars, are no places for flubs.


Top Resume Formats in 2015

Fifty Shades of Resume: The Top 5 Things Every Resume Must Have to Standout

Applicant Tracking Systems: The 3 Things Resume Parsers Are Looking For in Resumes

Job Search: The Top 7 Sins Recent College Graduates Are Committing

job search

How many have you committed?


With the start of 2015 quickly disappearing through that back window (yes, it really does go that fast!), a whole new slew of college graduates will soon enter into the Hunger Games—I mean, the modern job market.

But one thing for sure, the arena is not what you have expected. We all know circling ads in the newspaper with a big red sharpie is practically an obsolete strategy but here’s the top seven sins recent college grads have committed, will commit and after reading this article, will avoid committing in their job search.

1. Relying solely on the Internet

According to Forbes, only 29% of students use their college’s career office as a job searching resource. This is a shame as career offices are great places to:

  • Talk to major-specific career advisors (most all colleges will offer career resources for a specific major)
  • Keep track of career fairs (and when potential employers will be visiting the campus)
  • Receive one-on-one help to craft a resume, cover letter and prepare for an interview
  • Understand all the career possibilities of your major

They’re designed to specifically help college students:

  • They understand the concerns and insecurities of students just entering the job market
  • They can shed light on the newest employment trends
  • Answer questions students didn’t even know they should ask. (Do the terms Applicant Tracking Systems and resume keywords mean anything to you? Stay tuned.)

2. Misusing the Internet

It’s hard to remember, but hiring managers are searching for you too!

Millions of dollars go into recruitment services for businesses and over 85% of companies rely on social media and talent networks (LinkedIn and Monster) to cast wide nets and efficiently source and attract prime candidates (Forbes).

But the road is a two-way street: their efforts won’t reach you if you don’t make it easy for them to find you. Dusting off your online profile (or creating one) is the best and easiest solution.

An active online profile with a strong and professional “social footprint” (online personality) advertises for you 24/7 and eliminates possibility for miscommunication and ultimately, missed opportunities.

3. Not customizing your resume

Remember those terms Applicant Tracking Systems and resume keywords mentioned earlier?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is a computer software designed to filter and track the best applicants based on how compatible their resume is to the original job description. It does this by using a resume parser to extract resume keywords (relevant skills and qualifications) from the resume itself. The more resume keywords the ATS can extract, the more qualified that resume is measured.

The best way to determine which words in a job description are resume keywords (words that should be included in your resume to help it rank higher in the ATS) is to take advantage of online resume tools such as Jobscan.

Jobscan directly compares your resume to the desired job description and rates how compatible it will be measured in an ATS. It will also tell you what the resume words are and how they should be formatted (for example, you may already have Microsoft PPT on your resume but if the job description calls for Microsoft PowerPoint, it will not be recognized by the ATS).

4. Using the wrong resume format

Going right along with customizing your resume, there are three resume formats and selecting the right one will best highlight your career arc and strengths as an employee.

  • Chronological: best highlights job titles (hard skills) and a steady employment history, rather than skills. Best for those who plan on staying in the same field(s) because it highlights consistency and overall progression.
  • Functional: opposite of a chronological format: emphasizes skills and achievements, rather than job titles and places of employment. Best for those with gaps in their career (i.e., veterans and stay-at-home moms) or those who wish to highlight specific skills, knowledge or abilities from a wide variety of different or unrelated employment.
  • Hybrid/Combination: the best of a chronological and functional resume format: allows job-seeker to showcase specific skills/achievements but can still provide what employers are looking for: solid employment history. Best for those who want to highlight transferrable skills from a wide range of (un-relevant) jobs and when relevant work is only contract, freelance or temporary.

When you only have an average of six seconds to impress a hiring recruiter, it’s not just about what you say, but also how you say it.

5. Failing to follow up

Two weeks is the average time to follow up a resume after first submitting it and not hearing back for an interview.

  • Research the best person to email/call so the follow-up is (politely) asking for attention and answers.
  • Keep it short and to the point (You are following up for this position, which you applied for on this date and wondering if there’s any extra steps you can take to help further the hiring process)
  • Check your spam email (it may have gotten lost in there)
  • ALWAYS follow directions in the job description: if it says no follow-up calls or emails, all you can do is resist and wait.

The minute you get home is the length of time you should follow up an interview.

  • Keep it short (a paragraph max)
  • Mention something memorable from the interview (Ex: an interesting part of the position you are excited to learn more about)
  • Address it to the hiring manager

6. Not willing to pay dues

In the words of comic genius Louis C.K. about 20-years-olds and jobs: “Every 20-year-old that I encounter behind the counter gives me that [look like], ‘This job sucks.’ Yeah, that’s why we gave it to you!”

Pay your dues and show that you are willing to learn about and from the company. One of the most valuable qualifications you can bring to a job is the ability to listen.

Yes, the job market is extremely competitive but college graduates who are too eager to establish themselves can actually come off to potential employers as someone who isn’t willing to learn and abide to company rules.

7. Failing to craft a brand for yourself

What sets you apart from other candidates? Towards the end of the hiring process, it’s all about splitting hairs: the handful of prime candidates they’ve narrowed their search down to are similar in qualifications and skills but it’s your job to show them why you’re different.

Looking for patterns is a great way to create your brand, to make you distinctive:

  1. Look through your work history: any patterns in the type of businesses and environments you’ve gravitated towards (i.e., fast-paced and large vs. small, family-owned and local). Every company is different and companies want to know you have an understanding of what is expected in a certain type of environment.
  2. Application of skills: which skills do you find you have needed to apply most frequently in former jobs? Have they matured? Which skills do you get praised most on? (i.e., strong multitasking skills? Sunny personality?)
    1. Remember: these skills should always be relevant to the job. When in doubt look back to the job description!

Having a good sense of what kind of employee you are will help you answer those tough questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?”