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How to target your resume for jobs

You’ve heard that you should tailor your resume to the job. How do you go about that? How do you know what keywords are being used? Applicant tracking systems (ATS) may have a rank and score system based on how your position description and resume match. Think of resume and position description matching like a dating website...how compatible are you with the job? The system will provide a score or ranking to the recruiter on your “compatibility”.

Consider the following when tailoring your resume:

  • Use the company’s vocabulary – if the company has a job posted for an Operations Engineer, does operations experience show up in your resume or does industrial engineering experience show up?
  • Match the company’s position description.
  • Check for keywords – again, avoid “keyword stuffing.”
    • Use these two websites to consider using to help identify keywords: TagCrowd.com and Wordle.net
    • Copy and paste the position description into one of those websites. See what keywords appear. Now copy and paste your resume into one of those websites. Do similar words appear? This can be a quick test to identify keywords.

Qualification matching

How do you learn the information to tailor your resume? Go back to the basics. Print out the company’s position description. Highlight the qualifications that you have on the position description. Compare the position description with your resume. Do you see the qualifications that you highlighted on your resume? If not, it would be a good idea to update your information.

You may be wondering...is there a website when you can enter in your resume and the position description to see your “compatibility” score? The short answer is yes. Resunate is an online smart resume builder. You can copy and paste your resume and the position description. The system will provide you an “overall impression” and “candidate key skills” free. Of course, there are additional add-ons, but those are not free.

Possibilities on ATS enhancements

It seems as though ATS systems are already pretty advanced. There are some ATS systems that are beginning to use parser engines. Parser engines read through the text of the resume. This allows recruiters to search through resumes (similar to keyword searches); however, parsing engines search for words in the context of the resume. For example, if a company were looking for a consultant with three years of experience, it would pull the parts of their resume that have consulting information even though their title may not have been “Consultant.”

As you can see, ATS systems can be tricky. It is important to apply on websites, but networking and referrals are just as important. Internal referrals will sometimes provide a higher ranking to match you to the job. You may even learn of job openings through your network before they are ever posted to the public.

Formatting tips to ATS-optimized resumes

  • Use MS Word for your resume, but do not use Word resume templates
  • No images as they may not scan properly
  • No text boxes or columns
  • Write out the month for the dates. Example: January – March, 2017
  • Spell out your graduation date, not the lengths that you attended school. Example: Expected graduation date: May 2017
  • One page resume. Consider adding more information in additional documents of the application, which can also be scanned by ATS
  • Some ATS systems do not read headers and footers
  • Bold and underlined can be used. Multiple fonts can be used, but try to stay to original and easy-to-read fonts.
  • Do not “keyword stuff” with white font
  • Double check spelling, grammar, consistency, title headings
  • Customize your resume for the positions
  • Try to list your experiences with the most related information at the beginning from current to past

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
-Walt Disney

About the author

Lauren Verhoff

Lauren Verhoff is a Graduate Administrative Associate with Engineering Career Services.