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Craft a Winning Resume That Dominates Applicant Tracking Systems With These Tips From Ann Walsh

Craft a Winning Resume That Dominates Applicant Tracking Systems With These Tips From Ann Walsh

VENTEUR spoke with Ann P. Walsh, SPHR, a startup human resource executive with over 25 years of expertise in architecting and implementing global human capital strategies in high-growth, employee-first organizations, about how to craft job-landing resumes. Walsh has received certificates in leadership, management, conflict resolution, and negotiation from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, design thinking from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and diversity and inclusion at Cornell University's ILR School. In addition, she is a certified Senior Human Resources Professional (SPHR) and has a B.S. in finance from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Good Resumes

What can job seekers do to craft resumes that help them stand out from the crowd, and why?

Resumes are more crucial than ever. The job market is fierce. Your overview must be concise, highlighting your accomplishments while answering why? 

Your resume should be professional and engaging. It should leave the reviewer wanting to learn more about you. Add a list of skills and abilities relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a software engineering job, list any programming languages you know and any projects you have worked on in which you implemented those languages. 

How important is it to include achievements using numbers, metrics, dollars, and quantities wherever possible, and why?

In this day and age, you can't afford to be shy about your accomplishments. The job market is competitive, and hiring managers are inundated with resumes daily. So if you want your resume to stand out, you need to make sure it's jam-packed with quantifiable results that prove your value.

Numbers are one of the best ways to appeal to a potential employer's brain. We are all hard-wired to respond to numbers, which is why advertising has conditioned us to associate a certain number of stars with a certain quality of product or service.

So when you're writing your resume, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this response by including as much quantifiable (metric) data about your achievements as possible.

Doing so will make it much easier for the hiring manager to understand how successful you were at your previous jobs. 

In addition, this will help them ensure they want you on their team!

How targeted should resumes be to the job for which a candidate is applying, and why?

Resumes should be highly targeted to the job you're applying for, allowing you to highlight the skills and experience most relevant to the role. In addition, resumes give the employer an accurate picture of what they can expect from a candidate in the future, which can help them make better hiring decisions.

Many people add that they are "results-driven" on their resumes. But does this help candidates when being evaluated? 

It depends. The importance of being results-driven in today's job market varies from industry to industry and from job to job. In some cases, it may be more important to emphasize experience with specific skills or technologies than to demonstrate your ability to achieve goals by tracking metrics and outcomes.

However, if you are applying for a role in an area with a high concentration of results-driven candidates (such as sales), it would be wise to ensure that your resume reflects your accomplishments with factual data.

Applicant tracking systems are often used to streamline the hiring process. How can job seekers position their resumes for the best chances of success when such systems are being used by the companies they are applying to?

Applicant tracking systems often streamline the hiring process by sorting applicants based on key terms and keywords. Still, they can also be a barrier to entry for candidates who need to learn how to optimize their resumes.

You should ensure that your resume is in a format that applicant tracking systems can quickly parse, using clear headings and consistent formatting. Avoid using too many spaces between words or sentences–this can cause problems for applicant tracking systems. 

You should also check that your resume contains all keywords and phrases that align with the job description. This will make your resume more likely to be found by the system, and you'll increase your chances of being considered for an interview.

Is holding an executive position for a long time or demonstrating a solid progression and career over time more critical, and why?

They both display stability and a competency level needed to succeed in any business environment.

A solid career progression over time is most important, as this indicates that an individual has demonstrated their ability to effectively work in both leadership and support staff roles within a company. 

Holding an executive position for a long time does not necessarily mean that an individual has the necessary skills to excel in those roles; rather, it can simply be a matter of seniority and tenure. It can also create a risk of stagnation and an inability to progress or adapt as necessary.

How important are specific keywords in resumes, what do these keywords look like, how should they be used, and why?

Keywords are essential on a resume because they are important in other forms of search engine optimization. Since most resumes are now seen through applicant tracking systems and not human readers, it's imperative to include keywords that match the job description and company culture. 

In addition, including keywords in your resume will increase the likelihood it will be seen by an employer's AI tool, which scans thousands of resumes simultaneously, looking for specific skills, abilities, and experience.

Ann P. Walsh, SPHR, a Startup Human Resource Executive

How should resumes be designed, and why?

The primary purpose of a resume is to land an interview. There are several different resume formats, but most employers prefer the reverse-chronological order, also known as the "experience" or "career-focused" resume. This format lists your most recent job first and then each prior position in reverse chronological order. Your resume should be concise, easy to understand and emphasize your most relevant skills without being too lengthy or wordy.

What personal information should be on a job seeker's resume, and why?

Everyone wants their resume to stand out among the hundreds of others and to be memorable to an employer in a good way. However, only some know how to do it right, especially when they are applying for their first-ever job and have no experience writing a resume. Sometimes people can overshare too many personal details. Keep the information simple and visible at the top of your resume:

  1. Name
  2. Email Address
  3. Phone Number
  4. LinkedIn Profile

How long should resumes be, and why?

The rule of thumb is one page for every decade worked. Your resume should include pertinent information and accomplishments–keep it as short as possible without losing value.

Bad Resumes

What are three common mistakes job seekers typically make when applying for jobs, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

Job seekers who apply for jobs often make three common mistakes:

  1. They don't take the time to carefully read job descriptions and understand precisely what the employer is looking for.
  2. They write cover letters that are too generic and don't address specifics about the job or their experiences that would be relevant to the employer.
  3. They send resumes filled with spelling and grammatical errors, leading an employer to believe that you need more attention to detail and professionalism.

When do resume templates with excessive colors, graphics, and multiple columns start to work against job seekers, and why?

Resume templates with excessive graphics, colors, and multiple columns can distract from your content. They will also make it difficult for the recruiter to quickly scan your resume to assess the skill sets needed for the role. 

In addition, many applicant tracking systems can't decipher the format, making it come across as unformatted and jumbled. When in doubt, keep it simple and focus on cleanly organized sections that are easy to read.

Avoiding Toxicities

At what point do job seekers out of work become toxic in the eyes of recruiters, and how can they reduce their likelihood of becoming toxic over extended periods?

It is hard being out of work, and recruiters empathize with your desire to gain employment. However, there are a few ways you can demonstrate that you respect the process of recruiting and remain professional in the eyes of recruiters:

Follow Up Tastefully

There is a fine line between appropriate persistence and pointless pestering. The recruiter will call you when they have something for you.

Be Realistic About Your Salary Requirements

Recruiters know the marketplace. 

Exaggerating your current or required salary can hinder the negotiation and make you appear unrealistic. In addition, most companies will pay you according to your experience level and what they think you can do. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are realistic regarding salary expectations. Otherwise, it can deter the company from hiring you.

Prepare for Your Interviews

Not showing up prepared shows that you don't care about the specific job and you weren't serious about pursuing it. On the other hand, being responsive, timely, and prepared shows that you respect the recruiter's time and the job-hunting process.

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