Resumes, while unlike their longer counterpart called the CV, still aren’t documents you can blindly write or put together and hope it’ll get you the job. In case you don’t already know, employers and hiring managers often use Application Tracking Systems (or ATS) to manage high volumes of applications. And that means you need to pay attention, because you might run the risk of being overwhelmed by an ocean of competition! But just how does resume writing play into all this?
Simple: relevant keywords will keep you on the radar. What do we mean by that? We’re glad you asked.
How to game Application Tracking Systems with great resume writing
Let’s open this up with an experiment. Hit the Google search bar and key in anything you want found, like “irresistibly adorable kittens.” You’ll see right away that on the first page, the most popular and relevant articles and sites are being shown to you.
Scroll all the way down and you’ll see that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Google pages bearing the keyword “irresistibly adorable kittens” – but only a handful make it to the front page. Anything beyond page 3 might never be seen. I mean, you don’t have a habit of digging through more than two Google result pages, do you? Have you ever tried going to the very last Google search result page?
No? Yeah, we thought so.
The best articles and sites make it to page one because of something called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If a page is relevant, popular, and contains all the right keywords, it’ll get ranked by Google and subsequently bumped up to the front page. This is something marketers live and die by, and there’s something to be learnt from this even as a job-seeker.
Any ATS out there functions a lot like a mini Google. This means you need relevant keywords (or buzzwords) to keep your application afloat and on the radar of your hiring manager.
Think about it: if you submitted a resume for a job in, say, chemical engineering, but your resume is just filled with information about your last three successful barista gigs, your application isn’t going to be seen so quickly. You might be the type to send in applications and then start praying, but there’s a smarter way to get ahead of the queue.
This is especially crucial even if the company you’re interested in doesn’t use an ATS. Hiring managers often have enough time to skim through resumes briefly and not read everything word-for-word. It’s up to you to try and capture their attention.
You need to up your resume writing game and make things super duper relevant with the help of useful keywords and action verbs. If you don’t optimise, you won’t get noticed – and all your effort will have gone to waste. Let’s avoid that.
Level up your resume writing with awesome industry buzzwords and keywords
We’ve gone on and on about the importance of great resume writing. But just what keywords and buzzwords can you use right now to make a difference?
Not only should you use industry-relevant keywords, but you should take great care to include action verbs in your resume as well. Why? Action verbs give readers the impression that you’re truly getting sh*t done, and makes your resume sound way less passive. You’ve been hustling hard – so show people how by using strong resume writing skills.
It’s important to note, however, that to identify the most relevant keywords, you’ll need to refer to your primary source: the job posting itself! Chances are, the ATS will be set to pick up keywords found in job postings before anything else. Often, these systems can’t really differentiate between abbreviations and similar key phrases.
For example, an ATS might not pick up resumes that contain the abbreviation “CRM,” but will detect resumes that have the phrase “Customer Relationship Management” in them. It might seem stupid, but you need to cover all your bases. It’s better to be safe than sorry – and you don’t always have the luxury of re-uploading your application.
We’ve got a whole list of action verbs for you segregated in alphabetical order to freely download and use, inspired by the folks at The Balance.
A rule of thumb when resume writing
Now that you’re all set with awesome keywords to use and pepper throughout your resumes, it’s important that you know how to make things more readable.
Remember to keep your job descriptions neat, preferably in the form of bullet points. At the beginning of every bullet point, make an impact by beginning with a suitable action verb. That way, your resume can come across as really action-packed and tell hiring managers that you do nothing but hustle and work hard towards your goals.
Remember: your end goal is getting the hiring manager to do more than skim your resume. Everything about it needs to capture the right attention – from your headline (or objective summary) to the way you arrange your employment history. Leave out irrelevant information (we don’t need to know how well you can serve coffee if you’re looking for a job in IT) and tailor every resume to unique job positions.
- Application Tracking Systems are sensitive to specific keywords. If you don’t tailor your resumes with keywords, your application WILL get lost in an ocean, never to be picked up.
- Using industry keywords and action verbs will make your resume more attractive. Hiring managers should be able to accurately visualise your achievements.
- Pepper your resume with bullet points when describing your roles. You don’t want to put people to sleep when they read your resume. Be kind!
- Begin each bullet point with an action verb if possible. Again, we want to be where the action is.
- Download this list of action verbs inspired by The Balance and use it. Don’t say bojio!