To Get Past an Applicant Tracking System, Your Resume Needs These Elements

By LiveCareer / April 20, 2015

Seventh in an occasional series featuring a collaboration between Quint Careers and Jobscan, a service we support because of the wide knowledge gap among job-seekers regarding preparing resumes for employers' Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). The series aims to tell you exactly what you need to know – with the help of Jobscan – about resume content and formatting – to increase the chances your resume will be selected by the ATS software and then considered by human beings.   Whether you're applying for a job at a Fortune 500 company or a start-up, chances are that your resume will meet an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). With up to 90 percent of employers using an applicant tracking system, it's imperative for job-seekers to create resumes that an ATS will notice. If you want to be sure your application is ATS compatible, check it for the following key traits:   Keyword selection Don't copy and paste chunks of text from the job description into your resume. An ATS might penalize you for that. But do echo the way the job description phrases specific terms. And if there is a term that is commonly abbreviated, include both the full version and the abbreviation (such as “registered nurse” and “RN,” or “physician assistant” and “PA”).   Keyword placement In addition to using keywords throughout your experience section, education section, and anywhere else they're appropriate, you can create a [caption id="attachment_952" align="alignright" width="439"]Among the functions Jobscan performs ... Top: Shows skills listed in job posting that are matched in resume and which are missing. Bottom: Graphically compares skills found in job description to those in resume. Among the functions Jobscan performs ... Top: Shows skills listed in job posting that are matched in resume and which are missing. Bottom: Graphically compares skills found in job description to those in resume.[/caption]   separate section to contain numerous keywords, which can function as your skills section. Many an ATS is tripped up by unconventional resume section headers, so do call this section “Skills” rather than “Keywords.” Categorizing the keywords here can help create a section that's easy to understand for both the ATS and the human who eventually sees your resume. Instead of just writing “Social Media,” try “Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat)” — remember, be specific.   It's common for an ATS to take keyword frequency into account when ranking candidates. Thus, some people have tried to game the system and cram in extra keywords using tiny, white text, which makes the keywords ostensibly invisible to the human eye, but still noticeable to an ATS. This trick, and others like it, are now commonly flagged by ATS algorithms and penalized.   Keyword prioritization A job description might include one keyword six times, a handful three times, and others once or twice. It's important to take a job description's keyword frequency into account when identifying the keywords you choose, and their proportions. Try a tool such as Jobscan, which will analyze your resume in comparison to a specific job description, and assess how well they match up plus provide suggestions for ways to improve your resume keyword usage.   Keyword importance Each ATS on the market is slightly different, but one thing they have in common is an emphasis on key resume sections and basic information. These include an applicant's skills, education, years of experience, and names of previous employers. Focus your efforts on including keywords relevant to each of these categories — and remember, if you use an unusual section header in an attempt to stand out, you run the risk of an ATS missing that section entirely.   Cover letter Resumes aren't the only item scanned by an ATS — cover letters count, too. The content of both items is taken into consideration by an ATS when determining how good a fit each applicant is. Writing a cover letter gives you the opportunity to include more and varied keywords, which can only benefit your application, so take advantage of that. Don't skip the cover letter, thinking it doesn't matter — it does.   Final Thoughts Crafting an application that will get you noticed by an applicant tracking system, and ultimately by the human actually doing the hiring, doesn't have to be a time-consuming and complicated task. By using your common sense, your familiarity with your field, and the assortment of tools available to job seekers online, you can easily make yourself into a candidate who gets ATS attention.    
Authored by Dr. Katharine Hansen

How to Tailor Your Cover Letter, the Easy Way

By Giana / October 10, 2016

Generic cover letters simply do not make the cut. Learn how to tailor your cover letter to each job, quickly and painlessly.

Cover letters are an essential part of the job application process. You’ll need to be prepared to write a unique letter with each job you apply for. If you’ve been on the market for a while, you may have noticed that cover letters take time. So being asked to submit an elegantly written, highly specific, well-researched letter to every outgoing resume can seem like an impossible and impractical chore.

Writing a completely original letter from the ground up can take hours, and most jobseekers can’t afford that kind of time. We suggest starting with a template letter and tailor it to match each job you apply to. Here are a few tips that can help.

Get your template in order first.

There’s no such thing as spending too much time on your template letter. This is the core framework for a message that may reach hundreds of potential employers during your job search, so get this task right. Craft every word of your letter with care. Pull out the stops as you describe what you’re looking for, what you have to offer, and what you’ve accomplished in the past. Keep your letter limited to four paragraphs and make every paragraph perfect. Imagine you’re writing to your dream employer for your dream job. In fact, use your dream employer as the recipient and your dream job as target job title. Put brackets or parentheticals around these details; you’ll be changing them later.

Adjust your job title for each submission.

This is the easy part. For each specific submission, change your ideal title and your ideal employer to reflect the open position in front of you at the moment. After you’ve tailored your letter, your opening sentence should look something like this: “I’d like an opportunity to join [Quality Co.] as your new [Account Services Representative].”

Align your letter with your target role.

Now things become slightly more difficult. In the body of your template letter, in which you describe your background and career ambitions, adjust your wording to match what you know about your employer’s needs, based on their job post. If they want a warm and friendly service provider, that’s what you are. If they want a technical expert, apply that term to yourself - and use the exact term, in case it’s used in a keyword search. If they want an “experienced and highly organized account rep”, they just found one.

Curate your skills.

Do these employers need an expert in Adobe Photoshop or conversational Portuguese? Do they need someone who can manage a database or maintain a server? If the post mentions specific skills that you happen to have, don’t fail to include these skills as you tailor your letter. In order to use your space efficiently, allow less relevant skills to drop off the page.

Curate your experience.

Complete the same task as you describe your achievements and experience. Share the details of your background that are likely to hold the most interest for your specific readers, and skim over the rest.

Mention or omit details as you choose.

Spend at least a few minutes looking over your tailored letter before you send it off, and use these minutes to conduct small tweaks in the details you share and language you use to share them. Your voice and tone should align with what you’ve learned about this employer, their mission, and their workplace culture. For a company that prides itself on being a “fun” place to work, keep your tone lighthearted. If you’re responding to a formal, no-frills post, keep your tone steady and frill-free.

Turn to LiveCareer for sophisticated tools that can help you create a template letter and tailor your words to the needs of your target employer—without spending an entire day on a single application.

Ready to write your resume?

Call to Action: Ready to Write your Resume? Let’s Get Started!

By Giana / August 1, 2016

  Writing a resume can be hard. Preparation will make your resume writing easier. Follow these five steps to get started. You’ll have a job-winning resume before you know it! The resume writing process can be intimidating, for sure. It’s enough to cause anyone, whether entry level or executive, to break a sweat just thinking about it. If you’re dreading the process of writing your resume, keep one thing in mind: preparation is the key to making this easier. Follow these preparation tips, and you’ll survive your first resume draft and launch your job search like a pro.  

1. Gather your notes

Before you begin to write — or even brainstorm — gather your notes and records. Whether you have a career that’s decades long or you are starting at square one, getting your notes together is a great starting point. Collect your education information, including your GPA, graduation dates, and any academic awards you’ve won. Make a list the names and addresses of your former employers and any written record of your special accomplishments.

2. Brainstorm

Do yourself a favor and don’t immediately launch into writing formal lines of text. Instead, take some time to jot down your former jobs, your professional achievements, your non-work activities, and anything that you consider a special skill. These items will form the backbone of your resume. But for now, don’t worry about formatting and organizing them. Just write them down.

3. Set up your document

After your brainstorming session, open a new document and create four subheadings. Title your subheadings “summary,” “skills,” “work experience,” and “education.”, At the top of the page, type your professional name and add your contact information. You can change the format and layout of this information later. But for now, just writing it down will make you feel as though you’re truly on your way!

4. Start writing your resume!

Now it’s time to do the real work. Start populating your subheadings with the details of your career and personal profile. Keep your notes close by and be sure to include all of the achievements and skills that will capture an employer’s attention. Again, you don’t have to dot every I and cross every T just yet. At this point, simply formulate your thoughts and get them onto the page.

5. Proof, revise, and finalize

Before your resume is fully finished and ready to submit, go through several rounds of editing and proofreading. But once you reach this stage of the process, the finish line is just around the corner. For help with any stage of the process, from formatting to editing to final presentation details, explore the resume creation tools available on LiveCareer.  
Learn how to use your cover letter to explain your employment gaps.

How to Address Employment Gaps in Your Cover Letter

By Giana / July 28, 2016

[caption id="attachment_1061" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] Learn how to use your cover letter to explain your employment gaps.[/caption]   Use your cover letter to explain the employment gaps in your work history and allay any concerns your potential employers may have about your readiness for the job. If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, chances are you’ve probably experienced at least one employment gap in your work history. Legitimate events may have kept you out of the workforce for some time. You may have been laid off, experienced an illness, taken care of a family member, traveled, or changed careers. If you have gaps in your employment history, your potential employers might have some questions about these gaps. Their skepticism is reasonable. Most employers would rather avoid candidates who seem to be "job hoppers" or who have a history of job loss due to poor performance. If you’ve spent some time on the sidelines, they’ll want to know why. Use your cover letter to address the employment gaps that may show up in your resume. Here’s how.

Express your employment dates in years.

In your “work experience” section of your resume, list the start and end years only, not the months or days. This will spark fewer concerns that you’ll need to explain away.

Mention non-family-related gaps directly.

In your cover letter, directly address that gaps that you’re comfortable discussing. For example, if you left your job to start a business, but it never got off the ground, share this proudly. A bold move like this showcases your willingness to take risks and try new things. The same applies to overseas volunteering, artistic endeavors, and other career side-trips that might showcase your strengths as an employee.

Keep family-related gaps to yourself.

While you may openly address your professional gaps in employment, it’s best to keep your personal gaps to yourself. For example, if you left the workforce to raise your children, you don’t have to share this with anyone. In fact, the law protects you from employers who ask during an interview. In cases such as these, keep the conversation focused on your qualifications and skill sets.

Highlight your mid-life career shifts.

If your employment gaps took place when you decided to switch career paths, build your cover letter around this narrative. Explain the reasons behind your decision. Outline the details of your journey from one field to the next. If your new career involved any kind of study or training that took the place of full-time work, state this clearly. Again, be proud of the risks you’ve taken and the accomplishments you achieved by leaving the workplace for a while.

If you really were fired, be careful.

If you did leave the workforce for a while due to performance or unreliability, tread carefully. In this case, it’s best to refrain from mentioning your employment gap in your letter (and in your interview) until you’re directly asked about it. When that happens, be ready to shed a positive, diplomatic light on the incident and explain what you learned during the process. For more on how to explain your work history to potential employers, rely on the resume building tools and guidelines from LiveCareer.