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Think no one sees your resume? You may be right.

Resumes often fail to pass the software scan. Here's how to pass the barrier.

Author: Ken Charvoz/Thursday, August 21, 2014/Categories: Technology2, Workforce

 
 
 
Large companies get millions of resumes each year. Even a mid-size firm can get tens of thousands. And many of these applicants, the majority according to some hiring experts, aren’t qualified applicants applying for a specific job. They are job seekers sending generic resumes to every company they can find. From a company’s viewpoint, they are a huge waste of time and resources. Hence the growth in software used to scan and extract data from resumes without human intervention.
 
Screening software scans a resume file electronically and attempts to parse and extract the content into useable data. Its job is to find the applicants name and put it into the database field for name, find and extract the job history, education, etc. and put all of that information into the correct database fields. A recruiter can then search the database, using keywords and selected parameters, for candidates qualified for a particular position. 
 
The problem is, traditional approaches to building a resume can confuse scanning software, leading to qualified applicants never being considered for a job opening.
 
It’s hard to find good data about what these software programs can actually handle. And there are lots of different vendors, so each will have their peculiarities. Some of what I found that “experts” said sounds pretty iffy, almost like urban legend, but we do know how databases work, and how to create simple documents that would tend to be easy for software to parse. So with that in mind, here are the most relevant tips I’ve found for creating a resume that won’t eliminate you for a silly reason:
  • Don’t use headers or footers. These areas can be harder for a scanner to parse.
  • Never put graphics, logos, or pictures in your resume.
  • Use a simple font that is available on any computer. Something like Arial.
  • Never use tables, graphs, Smart Art, or anything but simple text and bullet points.
  • Don’t use borders, shading, colors, columns or anything else that adds complexity to your file.
Using keywords that mimic the job posting (and corporate culture buzz words according to some) can help you to be found when a hirer is searching the database. Resumes should be customized, if possible, for real jobs, and match the criteria as closely as possible. Some additional tips:
  • Use relevant on-going education and volunteer work that might help with keyword identification.
  • Keep formatting simple, put things on separate lines defined by paragraphs when possible. Be consistent.
  • Check the company’s website and learn about their culture. Are there keywords that you can include that show your experience or education is in line with corporate values or priorities?

Should you put in more than one resume or job application?

The general consensus I’ve heard is yes. If possible, I’d do some checking with the company you are applying for. But with large companies, and HR folks that hire for specific departments, resumes and applications that are only used in conjunction with a particular job opening, it seems as though the answer is most often yes.

Public profiles

The same software that pulls the data from your resume often pulls data from your public profiles like LinkedIn and Facebook. It adds this data to your file, so expect it to be seen by a recruiter.

Document types

While some parsers claim to be able to extract data from nearly any kind of file, stick to a Word (DOC, DOCX) or PDF for the broadest possible reach.

Templates

While I love resume templates, I’d be sure that they didn’t have excess formatting that went beyond the guidelines here. They can be a good place to start, but be wary if they include data in headers or use other formatting that might confuse a scanner.
 
It’s got to be hard to write software to accurately scan every type and format of document that an employer might receive, so the bottom line is stay simple and use formats and fonts that reduce the complexity of your resume. At the same time remember that someone assigned to find qualified candidates will be programming the software to look for keywords that will return a short list of the most qualified candidates.
 

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Ken Charvoz
Ken Charvoz

Ken Charvoz

Ken is an accidental geek on (at least) his 5th career. Ken has written dozens of manuals and how-to’s as a blogger and the Managing Technology Editor for The OASIS Institute. Follow Ken on Twitter at @KenCharvoz Other posts by Ken Charvoz
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