by Darlene Zambruski, CPRW, SME
Like it or not, we are all caught in the loop of modern technology. Place a call to your favorite store or banking institution and you’re usually dealing with voice mail and automated menus, rather than reaching a human being.
The same is now true when you send your resume to the human resources department of major and mid-sized corporations (and in increasing numbers, hiring managers at smaller companies). Because hundreds or even thousands of individuals apply for one opening, software that is preset to determine applicant skills and qualifications is used to “weed out” those individuals who don’t match the job criteria.
Therefore, to make the most of a job search, it’s essential for the modern resume to:
1. Be in the appropriate format that can be read by optical character recognition (OCR) software, if the targeted company is using this.
2. Contain essential keywords* related to the job opening or industry.
* Keywords are nouns or noun phrases that the software has been programmed to search for. The more keywords or “hits” the software finds in the resume, the more likely the document will be read by a human resources professional. In fact, for some federal job openings, a resume must have a 95%, or higher, hit rate if the candidate is to be given serious consideration. That is, a moment of the hiring authority’s time, and perhaps even an interview.
It doesn’t have to be when you know the tricks of the trade in creating this modern resume. The essentials include:
1. The technology you’ll be dealing with
2. How to find keywords and make the most of them
3. Your contact information (Name)
4. Your contact information (Address/Phone/Email)
5. What fonts are scanner friendly
6. Formats to use
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) was developed in the 70’s by Ray Kurzweil, a graduate of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Although Mr. Kurzweil’s intent was to develop a machine (known as the Kurzweil Reading Machine) that helped visually impaired individuals to read printed materials, OCR technology has since become indispensable in modern business.
Generally speaking, what OCR means to the modern job hunter is that initially a computer rather than a human being will be scanning the resume for appropriate content. Since machines are not impressed by font style/size or formatting enhancements, content is all-important as is presenting your document in a scanner-friendly manner. With computer technology changing daily, scanner-friendly may mean a document that’s stripped of all formatting and enhancements or one that bears some formatting that can be read by the more modern software.
However, regardless of which format is used, content is still essential, beginning with keywords.
Keywords are nouns or noun phrases indicating a candidate’s skill set or qualifications as they pertain to the current job search.
Examples of keywords for an Administrative Assistant might be:
* Typing 90 wpm
* Microsoft Word
* Microsoft Excel
* Microsoft PowerPoint
* Phone Support
For an Accountant keywords might be:
* Tax Accounting
* General Ledger
* Profit and Loss Statements
Where to Find Keywords
1. Current and Previous Job Descriptions.
In most positions, employees are given job descriptions. Using these, pull out nouns or noun phrases of what you do on a daily basis as long as those tasks are still relevant to your current job search.
Cull data from the Professional Experience and Skill sections of your current or old resumes. These daily duties will provide relevant and significant keywords for your scannable resume.
3. Job Postings.
These are perhaps the most significant resource a candidate can use. By dovetailing past experience with required qualifications and skills, a candidate is effectively targeting the new job, while enhancing candidacy.
How to Use Them
Here, you have two options:
1. Create a keyword list for inclusion at the very beginning of your resume
2. Sprinkle keywords throughout your resume.
A keyword list at the beginning of your resume would read like this (for a Senior Product Manager):
Pharmaceutical Marketing. Territory Growth. Market Share. Opportunity Mining. Physician Rapport. Marketing Strategies. Budget Oversight. Targeted Goals. Sales Force Leadership. Problem Resolution. Market Data Analysis. Sales Forecasting. Productivity Monitoring. Performance Enhancement. Sales Representative Training. Product Launches. Microsoft Office. Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Excel. Master of Arts in Marketing. Medical Doctor. Emergency Room Experience. Zithromax. Diflucan. M.D. Bilingual. Spanish Fluency. English Fluency.
Keywords in a Qualifications Summary would read like this (for a Senior Product Manager):
Dynamic, effective Physician and Pharmaceutical Marketing Professional with a strong background in maintaining standards of honesty and integrity while mining new opportunities for territory growth and market share. Easily establishes rapport with physicians based on a background that includes a Master’s Degree in Marketing, a Medical Degree, and emergency room experience. Creative problem-solver experienced in devising new strategies for Zithromax and Diflucan to eliminate lost sales to generic brands. Client-oriented with superb communication and organizational skills in preparing successful marketing strategies, overseeing budgets, and leading a sales force towards targeted goals. Fluent in Spanish and English. Technically proficient in Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and Outlook.
Remember, the more closely your background matches the qualifications of the new job, the more likely it is that you’ll be invited to interview.
It’s always wise to put your name on each page of your scannable resume. Why? If one of the pages of your three-page resume gets separated from the others, it will be nearly impossible for the administrative assistant handling it to know where it might belong. It’s best to avoid this situation by putting your name at the top of each page, along with a page number.
In addition to your street address, including your city, state and zip, it’s important to include an email address. With today’s technology, a hiring manager most often contacts successful candidates by phone or by email. Because of the importance of email correspondence in a job search, it’s wise to choose an email that is businesslike in tone, rather that one which reflects a special interest or a nickname.
For example, the following would be considered inappropriate:
Another consideration is to avoid using work-related email addresses. Hiring managers are rarely interested in interviewing someone who is using their current employer’s time or email system to look for another job. The key is: Always be professional
In addition to your home phone number, it’s sometimes wise to include a cell phone number, especially if that’s your easiest point of contact. However, be certain of the quality of your cell phone and service provider before offering the number. Nothing is more frustrating to a hiring manager than to conduct a cell phone conversation through static and breaks in conversation due to poor technology.
In modern resumes, fax numbers are rarely provided. Most hiring managers will not fax an interview request to prospective candidates.
Never include current work phone numbers in your scannable resume. Hiring managers think poorly of candidates who use a current employer’s time to search for new opportunities.
Scanner Friendly Fonts
Since scanning equipment may differ from company to company, it’s best to err on the conservative side when choosing fonts that will be easily read by the software. Therefore, avoid all “designer” fonts that are difficult for a human being to read. If anything, the scanning software will have even more difficulty. It’s best to stick with classic fonts such as Arial, which is san serif or Times New Roman, which is a serif font. Other good choices are Garamond, Bookman, Courier New, and Century Schoolbook.
Don’t make the software work extra hard to read all the characters in your resume. It’s best to use a font size between 9 and 12, depending upon the font.
Unlike resumes being read by a human audience, scannable resumes must be easy-to-read by computer software. Therefore, it’s essential to stick to basics and avoid formatting headaches. Your best choice is to:
1. Be certain all type is flush left
2. Separate sections with white spaces, rather than dashes (–), dots (. . .), or tildes (~~~).
3. Do not use tables
4. Do not use graphics
5. Put section headers in ALL CAPS
If you are “snail” mailing your scannable resume – that is, going through the US Postal Service for delivery to an employer or employers, then you should consider using a professional business stock of paper in a business size – 8 ½ x 11. The choice in colors should err on the conservative side – that is, white, cream, and in some cases a very pale gray with no graphics or borders whatsoever. Fine quality business stock can be found at any business supply store or chain. When mailing your document, be certain not to fold or staple the pages as this may reduce the accuracy of the scanning software.