As the head of a company that reads and edits a lot of resumes, I know that finding a job is hard. You’ll likely find yourself competing against hundreds or even thousands of other applicants. In order to have a chance at an interview, your resume needs to be perfect. In large part, that means two things: eliminating errors and understanding the system.
How do you eliminate errors? Proofread. Here’s why:
- 10 seconds. That’s how long it takes most recruiters to “read” your resume on a first pass, because they are actively looking for reasons to toss it out and shrink the pile in front of them. If you’re lucky, you might get someone who will take 20 seconds.
- 61 percent. Typos are the number one reason hiring professionals give for tossing resumes. A research study showed that more than 6 out of every 10 resumes that don’t make it past the initial reader are scrapped because someone didn’t care enough to have someone else double-check for mistakes.
Proofreading doesn’t take long, but you shouldn’t do it yourself. Why? Because you know what you were trying to say, and your brain fills in the blanks and autocorrects. And while you should feel free to use spell-check and grammar tools, the best thing you can do is have a real person do it.
Beyond proofreading, one of the biggest reasons that people don’t make it past the initial hiring manager is that they aren’t actually dealing with a hiring manager. In fact, their resume isn’t even being read by a human being. How prevalent is this? Roughly 72 percent of resumes don’t ever reach a person.
What is happening? More and more, companies are turning to applicant tracking systems (ATSes) to process the initial deluge of resumes for each position and winnow them down. In order to get your resume into the hands of a carbon-based life-form, you need to understand what they’re looking for and how to give it to them.
Choose your words carefully. For years, resume gurus have said that you should use words and phrases from the job description in your resume, and that’s still (mostly) true today. ATSes look for keywords that are related to the job and industry to which you’re applying, and it’s a pretty safe bet that some of those words are going to be used in the job description. But because the ATS software of today is smarter, you can’t just get away with writing the word “computer engineer” 77 times and hoping you get an interview at Google. These newer programs also look for contextual clues to see that you’ve done the work, done it recently, and know your stuff.
Keep it simple. Do you have a headshot that you like to include on resumes so people can see your 1,000-kilowatt smile? Do you painstakingly use tables to keep everything aligned? Well, get over it. ATS programs often reject resumes outright if they can’t understand the formatting, so you want to keep things as simple as possible. That means staying away from fancy borders, justified text, and unusual fonts.
Stay focused. It’s always wise to tailor your resume by focusing on jobs and skills that are related to the position you want. In the past, though, it was a lot easier to get away with a “career” that bounced back and forth from, say, teaching to writing. In fact, some hiring managers might have even seen this as a benefit. ATS software, however, is programed to look only for specific experience and skills. If you’re applying for a teaching position, include only teaching positions if it doesn’t leave too many gaps on your resume.
How Can You Find Help?
As long as you trust their ability to catch errors, ask your roommate, spouse, kid, officemate, teacher, or anyone else who’s good with words to proofread. Just remember that your potential future job is on the line.
Another option is to pay a proofreading service to do the work for you. If you don’t trust your friends, a professionally proofread resume may just be your ticket to getting past the ATS and the 10 second resume review.
Luke Palder is the CEO and Founder of ProofreadingServices.com, a leading proofreading and editing company. His company proofreads resumes, cover letters, and job applications.