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Writing a Resume in 2015

Resumes and Cover Letters

Question:

It’s been a long time since I wrote a resume. Has anything changed?

Answer:

Yes!

One of the biggest changes involves the technology that employers use to sort resumes into the “maybe” pile and the “no way” pile of candidates. This is called the Applicant Tracking System (ATS.)

Employers receive an overwhelming number of resumes for most job openings these days. Most have chosen to use technology to screen those resumes so that only the most relevant ones are seen by the Human Resources staff. This saves the company time and money, but often terrific candidates get lost in the process.

The most crucial things to know about ATS are:
• Keywords are king. You’ll find the keywords for the particular job lead under “Requirements,” or “Qualifications” or “The successful candidate will ….” The more keywords you use, and the more often you use them (in context), the more likely the ATS will pluck your resume out for attention from a human being.
• The ATS doesn’t see the way people see. Some formatting choices may make you invisible, as it were, to the ATS. Most ATS like bolding; ALL CAPITALS; the symbols found at the top of the keyboard; normal bullets, like the ones in this list; and standard fonts, like Times New Roman and Arial. Graphic lines and borders are all right, so long as they don’t touch any letters; the same goes for bullets. The ATS also wants the dates of employment on the right margin.
• For the same reason, most ATS cannot see underlining; italics; unusual bullets; any symbols not found on the keyboard; accent marks; columns, tables, graphs, charts, logos, headers, footers and text boxes. Be sure your contact information is not in a header!
• If the ATS can’t read your resume, you will be rejected, even if you are the perfect person for the job.

What you need to write on your resume has also changed. You no longer need to include your age; your marital status and how many children you have; the parts of your work history that don’t relate to the job of the moment; the reason you left your last job; or your hobbies and interests. (Some of that may go in the application, but not the resume.) The employer doesn’t want to see your entire work history if it goes back more than 10-15 years. Tell them the parts that will make you a good candidate for the job they’re trying to fill, and leave the rest off.

The employer wants your success stories. How did you make a difference in the places you worked? How did you save time and money? What did you do to bring in new customers, create new products, or offer new services? In what ways did you improve processes or systems? Attach a number to that success, if you can, to help the employer understand why you are the best at what he wants done.

For more information, attend the FCWS seminars “Resume Express” or “Complete Resume Workshop.” Check the calendar for dates and times.

About the Author

Beth Davis-Reinhold

Beth Davis-Reinhold is an instructor at Frederick County Workforce Services, where she has worked for over 20 years. She teaches job search seminars and basic computer skills. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, and is Internet and Computing Core Certified (IC3). Beth has been a member of Toastmasters International for more than 15 years, and is an Advanced Communicator Silver. A graduate of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Beth has also studied American Sign Language for many years. In addition to many sundry projects for FCWS, Beth writes its “Ask the Career Coach” blog.