How to make sure your resume gets read by a person

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Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 12:00 am

These days it's not enough to be a great engineer, a great cook or a great accountant to find a job. You also need to understand search-engine-optimization techniques to land the perfect post.

Companies that post employment openings as well as the big online job boards use software to sort through the thousands of resumes they receive.

To make yours rise to the top of the pile — the first step toward landing an interview — you have to match as many of the keywords in the job posting as possible.

“The better you can match the posting, the more likely (you are) to get a phone call,” said Rick Gillis, author of “Job! Learn How to Find Your Next Job in 1 Day.”

Most people assume their resume goes to someone's desktop computer for individual consideration, said Gillis, who lives in Houston and coaches job seekers on how to improve their chances for success.

But they go to an archived database and aren't seen by a hiring manager unless the software finds a strong enough match, he said.

Gillis recommends that job seekers add a new category, called “keywords,” to the bottom of the first page of the resume.

In that section, Gillis said, the job applicant should list the applicable words and phrases that are part of the posting. Don't copy whole sentences verbatim, he added, but do capture the most significant phrases. He said 8-point type is best.

For example, a recent posting for an online trader said candidates should be disciplined, loyal, dedicated, organized and hardworking. They should have great time-management skills; experience in social media; strong written- and verbal-communication skills and problem- solving skills.

If you list those attributes as keywords — along with the computer programming skills the company wants — you will likely move up the list of best matches for the job.

But watch the phrasing, Gillis said. For example, if the ad wants a “third-grade teacher,” make sure you use that language. The software may not recognize “taught third grade” as the same.

Do not, however, list qualities that you do not have. Nor should you copy and paste the advertisement into your resume.

That worked several years ago, said Gillis, whose first book focused on how savvy job seekers could cut and paste the ad into the body of their resume but hide it using tiny print and coloring the words white so it couldn't be detected.

The browsers would spot the exact match and bring those resumes to the top of the pile.

The software has become more sophisticated, so the old “white-out technique” is quickly spotted. And it looks deceitful, he added.

Though using “target” keywords will bring your resume to the top of the pile, there is such as a thing as overkill, another job search expert said.

Job applicants should avoid “keyword stuffing,” said Keith Wolf, managing director of Murray Resources, a recruiting and staffing company in Houston.

Just as you wouldn't like to visit a website filled with a jumble of keywords, hiring managers are likely to pass on a resume that appears to be overloaded with disjointed keywords, Wolf said. Finding the right balance is key.

“What we recommend to candidates is to include keywords, but to do so in a natural way,” he said. Responsibilities and achievements should naturally weave in the keywords from the job description.

If there are additional projects you would like to include but that do not fit into one of your job responsibilities, Wolf recommended adding a section called “key initiatives.”

For example, a marketer might include website development, trade shows and public relations in the key initiatives section.

Another way to improve your chances of getting a hit? Send your resume quickly.

Companies typically go through the first 100 matches, Gillis said. And the resumes typically start coming in within a few minutes of the posting.

If there is a specific company where you'd like to work, sign up for its email alerts so you're among the first to be notified, Gillis said.

Another key is brevity, he added.

Most companies are looking for the most relevant skills, so many will request that scanners scan only the first page of an applicant's resume.

That's all the more reason to put those keywords on the front page.

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