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Optimize your Resume for a Digital Job Market



Editor's Note: This post was originally published January 2018 and has recently been updated and revised for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Finding a job used to mean pounding the pavement and giving a physical resume to a company with an open position. Of course, those days are gone. Businesses now use digital means to find the best applicants, and that's completely changing how people advance their careers. In fact, a study from LinkedIn found that over 3 million jobs are posted on LinkedIn in the U.S. every month—and that's just one online resource. 

If you're looking for the next step in your career, you could probably use all the help you can get. Thankfully, this list of quick tips can give you the edge you need. 

Use industry-specific keywords

"Modern technology is all about efficiency."

Modern technology is all about efficiency. While businesses know they need to rely upon tech to get work done, they also understand that finding the right candidate is so much easier when you use the right tools. According to The Balance, this includes relying on applicant tracking systems. These platforms do a lot for the organization, but many actually eliminate resumes or cover letters that don't contain keywords. 

That may seem harsh, but it makes sense from a job poster's perspective. These administrators don't have the time to read through every single resume they get, and they need a simple way for an automated system to bounce applicants who clearly aren't right for the position. Applicant tracking systems can easily search from pre-determined keywords, and a software engineer who doesn't once mention Ruby on Rails for an opening that demands that skill either isn't qualified or didn't read the job description. 

Sadly, there isn't a list of words that works for every position. Therefore, you'll need to think long and hard about your industry as well as what this job expects out of you. That said, there are some general phrases you can rely on. If you'll be talking to clients in your new role, you'll want a good dose of words like:

  • Customer service
  • Personal skills
  • Communication skills

Additionally, you'll want to present any certifications or related talents that make you a good candidate for this role. 

Rely on words/phrases from the job description

In a similar vein, it's vital that you lift exact words and phrases directly from the job description. Again, this harkens back to the importance of applicant tracking systems in modern job hunting. These solutions have parameters that were most likely created by the person who wrote the posting, which means the poster used words and phrases that were important to them. By reusing these words yourself, you can help ensure your resume makes it through the culling process. It's your job to stand out from the crowd.

On top of this, relying on words within the job description is beneficial in that it shows that you're an attentive reader. One of the most frustrating parts of looking for a new employee is the litany of resumes and cover letters from people who very clearly didn't read the entire post. By simply adding words from the description, you make it known that you're not the kind of person to put in a half effort. 

Of course, you'll also want to make sure that what you write isn't complete plagiarism. Avoid taking entire sentences and simply stick to words and phrases that will make it clear that you've done your homework. 

Avoid strange symbols

When it comes to getting a job, simply getting noticed can be hard enough. People do a lot of things to get on a job poster's radar, and one of the most common is using unusual symbols to either call attention to a portion of the resume or as bullet points. While there's nothing wrong with showing a little initiative, doing this can actually backfire because:

  • Online resumes are generally formatted by the applicant tracking system, and these platforms don't really know what to do when they run into symbols they don't recognize.
  • The errors caused by the applicant tracking system's inability to read these symbols could make your carefully crafted document look unorganized or sloppy.
  • Odd symbols can seem unprofessional to certain people.

So it's best to just avoid them altogether. Finding the right job can be difficult, but putting in a little extra effort can make all the difference. By following these tips, you can put yourself ahead of the competition and have a real chance at furthering your career. 

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