The Key to Getting Around the Software that Companies Use to Screen Out Resumes

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If you've ever applied for a job online or to a company Web site and wondered why you never received a response, this article's for you. 

Now more than ever, it pays to be flexible with your resume. Sending the same schpiel to dozens of different employers simply will not cut it and is apt to be a waste of time. This is especially critical at a time when many employers are relying on software such as TagCrowd to weed out resumes faster than you can post them.

Jobs expert Stephen Laser tells eFinancialCareers that job seekers have a new task to master. They need to identify the keywords and phrases an employer is liable to use in its resume screening and incorporate some of those same phrases into their resumes before submitting an application to the firm, says Laser, a Chicago-based psychologist who is often hired by financial services companies and other organizations to interview and test job candidates before they’re hired to make sure they’re right for the job.

He tells us that in today’s economic climate, companies are receiving resumes by the thousands, so many of them have implemented screening processes designed to find keywords matching with those in their job descriptions. “If they aren’t there, then the person won’t advance to the next round,” says Laser, adding that luckily, it’s pretty simple these days to customize a standard resume with exact job titles, skills and other factors employers are asking for.

Word Clouds

“You read so many crazy things about how resumes should look,” says the psychologist—also the author of a new book, Out of Work and Over 40. “Should it be one page or two? Should you have a goal in there or no goal?” While there’s no one right answer to these questions, he notes that one really great idea is to tweak your resume so it sounds like the job description. TagCrowd uses so-called word clouds to compare two documents or sets of information and scan one for the terminology included in the other. Word clouds can be used in comparing one’s resume to a list of an employer’s most coveted job skills.

A program like TagCrowd will scan and compare your resume to the job posting, and if your resume contains enough words that match the posting, the software will let it through. If it doesn't, the software will weed it out for lacking the appropriate correlation and your resume will likely be tossed out, with no further investigation on the part of the firm posting the position.

Here are basic resume Dos and Don’ts Laser shared with eFinancialCareers:

DO:

1. Make sure the words in your resume are reflective of what you see on the job boards. Use many of the same words as your would-be employers.

For example, a posting requesting a marketing analyst who can support investment directors’ daily requests, develop prospect pitches and assist on special projects as well as respond to RFPs for dedicated products should ideally use the title “Marketing Analyst,” and elsewhere should incorporate key terms like “develop prospect pitches,” “assist on special projects,” as well as “respond to RFPs.”

2. It’s been said before but bears repeating: When listing your accomplishments on a resume, especially in finance, you must quantify and specify. You want to include percentages and metrics as specified in Laser’s book as follows:

- Exceeded quota by 20 percent over three consecutive years while working as a sales field rep.

- Helped consolidate the company’s distribution centers from 12 to five, thereby saving the organization $2.5 million a year in added expenses.

“Saying you worked on projects to cut costs is fine,” says Laser, but not if you fail to indicate the amount saved.

DON’T:

Don’t use a photograph of yourself on your resume if you’re not in the entertainment or modeling business.

Years ago, Laser says, photos were a more popular resume feature but they can lead to discrimination based on appearance or race. This also tends to be inappropriate resume format for jobs in finance, he adds.

Don’t forget that there’s a fine line between keywords and buzzwords, and buzzwords can be job killers.

Laser recalls his son writing once that he had “a passion for real estate.” He told his son to consider using the word “passion” more sparingly.

Other terms that make the hair rise on his neck: “world class,” “thought leader,” “best practices,” “visionary” and “deep dives”—as in, “Able to take deep dives into data.”

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