If you’re currently looking for a job, you’re most likely facing a tough market. Unemployment rates are high, and people in all kinds of professions are actively looking for work. Today’s job market is a saturated and competitive place. Factors that used to give applicants an edge may not set you apart the way they did in the past. The percentage of Americans with university degrees is at an all-time high of 40.4%, and expected to hit 60% by 2025. However educated, qualified, and motivated you might be, you’re vying against hundreds of other people exactly like you.
If you ask an HR professional or a hiring manager, they’ll tell you that for any given job opening, they may find themselves sifting through as many as 200 applications. Many of the applicants are equally qualified, further compounding the issue. This, of course, is if you’re lucky enough for a human being to actually see your resume in the first place.
Many employers, especially midsize and larger companies, use software to screen out unqualified candidates. This makes the process of shortlisting candidates easier for HR personnel, who might otherwise be overwhelmed by hundreds of resumes. However, for job seekers, this situation isn’t ideal. If you’re applying to a company that isn’t a small local business, your carefully crafted resume may never actually be read.
Whether software is screening out your resume, or it just isn’t catching the attention of an overworked HR professional, these tips can help you maximize the possibility that your resume will actually make it into the hands of a person who will read it.
Optimize Your Resume with the Right Keywords
Most larger companies use software programs to screen resumes. The goal of these programs is to weed out unqualified candidates ahead of time. Unfortunately, these programs aren’t exactly perfect. They’re not human beings, so their abilities are limited by their programming. In most cases, these software programs look for certain keywords that signify that you’re the kind of candidate they’re looking for.
If you’re like most sensible people, you’ve written your resume for humans. However, if you’re going to have a chance in today’s crowded market, you also need to take the machines into consideration. The screening software will be your first barrier, and to make it through, you need the right keywords.
To find the keywords, start by looking at the job description. What words are used? If you look closely, you’ll notice common keywords that are shared between the listings for similar job positions. Job titles and positions often function as main keywords. The company may be screening for someone who previously filled a certain similar role. Having a matching title in your resume can give you a key advantage in getting past the filters. For example, if you’re applying for a “Marketing Director” position similar to your last job, make sure you use those words in your resume. If you’re applying for a job as an “Administrative Assistant,” don’t label your last job as “Secretary.”
It can also help to use synonyms, like common industry acronyms. Using “PR” as well as “Public Relations,” or “OBGYN” as well as “obstetrics and gynecology,” might actually give you a slight advantage. The more you strategically place keywords in your resume, the better.
Sending a Resume Directly? Get in Early
Not all companies use software to screen resumes for keywords. If you’re applying to a smaller business, you may be able to send your resume directly in an email attachment. Unfortunately, their hiring managers are often inundated with countless resumes, especially in populous areas. This is common when a small business creates a listing on a platform like Craigslist, especially for high-competition positions like Administrative Assistant.
It pays to focus on job listings that were posted as recently as possible– ideally, within the last 48 hours. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t apply if your dream job was listed a week ago. But as time passes, your chances of having your resume seen will greatly diminish. Even in the absence of screening software, busy managers don’t have time to read through each and every resume when there are over 200 applications in their inbox. If you’re doing it right, you’re tailoring your resume and creating a thoughtful cover letter for each job application.
Don’t Give Up
The level of competition in today’s job market is unprecedented. In fact, government statistics show that quite a few unemployed people have simply given up on trying to find a job. Between unthinking algorithms that weed you out, and hundreds of competitors for a single job position, it’s tough out there. Keep tweaking your resume. Keep experimenting with keywords. Keep sending out as many resumes as you can. By optimizing your resume and applying to jobs as soon as possible, you can maximize the odds of a human being actually looking at your application.