Resume Writing Tip #10 – Optimizing for Search Tools

Most companies with revenues of $250M or more will use some sort of applicant tracking system, most of which have automated resume search and scoring capabilities.  Just like doing a Google search for something is expected to return results that most closely match your request, these tracking systems search through submitted resumes looking for pre-determined words and phrases.

So how do you go about optimizing your resume for these search tools?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Identify Key Words/Phrases
    The job descriptions for the positions of interest are loaded with the employer’s desired skills and traits for that specific position.  These are almost certainly scored by the automated search tool.  Any words and phrases that seem to appear in a majority of the postings you’re applying for should be embedded into your standard resume.  But don’t stop there, consider creating custom resumes for postings that happen to use some unique words/phrases, especially if they are used multiple times in the posting.  Also keep an eye out for industry-specific terms, buzz words and required or desired certifications.
  • Natural Use
    Remember that after hopefully scoring high enough through the automated search process, your resume will land on a human’s desk.  As you weave in the desired words/phrases, make sure to do so naturally.  In other words, the narrative should seem logical to the reader and not obvious that a bunch of desired words were jammed in.
  • Skills Summary Section
    If you decide to incorporate a skills summary section (see related post), this is a great place to work in the desired key words and phrases, especially those specifically related to skills and certifications (rather than leadership or personality traits).
  • Fonts, Formatting and Special Characters
    Be careful not to go too crazy with fonts, formatting and special characters because they can throw off the automated search tools.  Stick with the standard set of fonts, don’t incorporate borders/boxes/images and where you have bulleted entries use standard bullets (rather than some fancy graphic).

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Over the past 15 years Gordon has seen nearly 1,000 startup pitches, advised more than 200 entrepreneurs and been involved with raising over $45M in growth and venture capital. Throughout his 28 year career in high tech, serving twice as President and three times as CMO, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200M acquisition exit under his belt. Now his emphasis is purely focused on helping startups and early stage tech companies. Through his Shockwave Innovations advisory practice and as Managing Director for Austin’s Capital Factory startup accelerator, Gordon is an active angel investor, VC and startup advisor.

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