How to optimize your resume to beat resume screeners?

Resume optimization refers to the optimization of ones resume to a particular job to maximize ones interview chances. Resume optimization is also often referred to as an SEO for resumes. It has become quite a tedious process in today’s competitive job market. With sizeable company job pools and a wide range of applicants, a number of applicant tracking systems have been devised to solve the pain of application processing for the employers. As a consequence of computer-based resume screening processes, it has become very crucial that applicants understand how to optimize their resumes in order to maximize their chances of landing an interview call.

  1. Add Keywords: Make sure to add skills, software competencies, employer history and other relevant competencies. All these are critical keywords. More on this.
  2. Use job portals: Identify themes and keywords common to job descriptions of a particular profile you are looking for. Add these to your resume and list your experience relating to them. Alternatively you could use CVLift for this, though it currently caters only to technology jobs.
  3. Correct section headings: Ensure that you have the right section titles in your resume. Don’t get innovative on this. If you do, there is a very high chance it will get screened out. Here is a list.
  4. Use Keywords in the right sections: Keywords are important. It matters more where you add them. By default, you would be expected to have a buffed up skills section on your resume. However, it would score more points if you describe the keyword in your work or project experience sections. More on this.
  5. Use action words: Make use of action keywords like improved, lead, achieved etc. Start each bullet with words that imply an action that you took. Here are some keywords you could use
  6. Research the job, try and get some inside information on the job. Research LinkedIn for similar profiles and fill your CV accordingly. Identify the managers’ profiles. Add these skills and phrases as your goal.
  7. Avoid verbal diarrhoea: Avoid phrases like go-getter and strategic planner etc. These are meaningless and would only hurt your chances. Here is a complete list to words to include and avoid.
  8. Avoid Images: Resume screeners cannot read images. A computer needs to be able to read it.
  9. Avoid tables: Parsing tables is not straightforward and it often ends up in information being bungled up when a computer reads them. Stick to standard resume formats
  10. Avoid special characters: Do not use any special characters on your resume.
  11.  Avoid spelling errors: Pretty obvious, do a spell check before you submit your CV.
  12. Remove irrelevant information: Be ruthless, you might consider it your greatest achievement ever. However, if it is not relevant, cut it out. There is no room for long resumes.
  13. Avoid special characters: Use standard bullets, no special bullets. No symbols. Remember, there are HR standards to be followed.
  14. Avoid borders and shading: The chances are this will mess up the parsing of resumes by screeners.
  15. Include contact information: This is critical. Make sure your name, email and number at the top of your resume.
  16. Avoid white text: It might seem like a bright idea to throw in white text to beat resume screeners. ATSs are smart enough.
  17. Use standard fonts: Stick to the basics here Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif, Times New Roman, Impact and Georgia. These are generally universally readable. If you use non-standard fonts, it could mess up your resume orientation depending on the ATS used.