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How to write your resume to get job interviews

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If you have not been in the job market for some time, chances are you are not familiar with all the changes in the hiring processes most companies use and don’t know that over 75% of resumes are never seen by a human being.

Probably the most significant change in the recruitment process is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Employers use it through the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and interview chatbots. Applicant Tracking Systems are used by most employers to filter out all but the best applications, so you must learn how to use AI for yourself to get past the ATS to the hiring manager and get the interview.

Writing a resume is a competition. By the time you have submitted yours, other job seekers have thrown their hats in the ring and many more will follow.

First, you must create a strong first draft, then use AI to tailor your resume for the job you want to apply for. Later, I will show you how to use AI, but here I will show you how to write the type of resume that will help you stand out to get the interview and increase your chances of getting hired. 

Table of Contents

Why are you not getting job interviews?

It’s not you—it’s your resume! Over 75% of resumes are never seen by a hiring manager.

If you do a search on the Internet, you will see all sorts of different templates, resume builders, and resume tips from so-called experts, so it can be really confusing what to look for.

Here we will try to make this simple. You can ignore most of what you have read so far. Focus on what’s important: Your resume has one job—to get you an interview.

It does not matter how pretty your resume is.

It does not matter how slick the design is.

It does not matter what colors you use—unless there are too many graphics.

What does matter is this: Is your resume getting in front of hiring managers?

The Enemy: Applicant Tracking Systems

Robot with a shield guarding against unwanted resumes

To get your resume in front of hiring managers, you must get past the applicant tracking systems or ATS. The ATS looks for keywords to filter out resumes from unqualified applicants and scores the tops ones. If you do not know how to prepare your resume properly for the ATS, nothing else matters because it will not be seen.

What you do not know will hurt you

  • Many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), sometimes not so affectionally known as “bots,” cannot read graphics, so if your resume is too “pretty”, it won’t get seen, even if you are the most qualified applicant for the job.
  • Many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) cannot parse serif fonts like Times New Roman. If you use the wrong font on your resume, it won’t get seen, even if you are the most qualified applicant for the job.
  • Many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) cannot parse your resume if you use columns and turns your resume into spaghetti which it cannot read. It won’t get seen, even if you are the most qualified applicant for the job.
  • The Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) check for keyword matches to filter out resumes that don’t match the job description and rank the ones that do. Many hiring managers only check the top 10%. If your resume does not use the right language, it won’t get seen, even if you are the most qualified applicant for the job.

Are you getting the picture yet?

I am going to show you how to write a resume that gets past the applicant tracking systems and in front of hiring managers. First, we have to create a strong first draft resume that we can tailor for each job you apply for. Let’s dive in!

Robot (ATS) destroying resumes

What is the purpose of a resume?

Before we get into how to write your resume you must understand the objective. It is not to tell your story, to write an autobiography, or impress anyone with what a great person you are. You have one objective: to get an interview. If you are trying to accomplish anything else, it will not matter one bit if you cannot get an interview. Half the battle is getting your information in front of hiring managers, but you have several hoops to jump through first.

Understand that your resume must get past an imperfect applicant tracking system designed to filter out unqualified applicants, which may or may not parse your resume correctly. From there it may have to get past a human resources manager who may not have a clear understanding of the position that is open so is looking for everything but the kitchen sink before finally getting to the hiring manager. Both the human resource manager and the hiring manager may have hundreds of resumes to go through. They do not want to read a novel. They want something that is easy to skim and conveys the skills they are looking for. Keep your target audience in mind when you write your resume: the applicant tracking system, the HR manager, and the hiring manager.

This is so important I will say it again: “You have one objective with your resume: to get an interview. “

How to write your first draft resume

Later I will discuss the use of resume builders. Some, like Jobscan and Skillsyncer, are quite good, but I would like you to do your first draft without a resume builder or AI. You will get more out of either choice if you have a strong foundation to start.

Most resumes I have seen are not very good, even those created by “experts” who charge a fee. 

You can ignore much of what you have read so far on the Internet. Focus on what’s important: Your resume has one job—to get you an interview.

Crafting Your First Resume: A Modern Guide for Job Seekers

Introduction

  1. Contact Information: Start with the basics – your full name, phone number, professional email, and definitely your LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t got one yet, now’s the time!

  2. Summary Statement: This is like your professional “hello.” Summarize your experience, skills, and what makes you valuable to employers.

Professional Experience:

  1. Chronological Order: List your past jobs, starting from the latest one.

  2. Job Titles and Descriptions: Talk about what you did, what you achieved, and the skills you picked up in each role.

  3. Show, Don’t Just Tell: Numbers are your friends! Use them to highlight your accomplishments – things like “boosted sales by 30%” or “cut costs by 10%.”

  4. Emphasize Achievements: Show how you made a positive impact on your company or team.

Professional Experience Section of Resume
Education Section of Resume

Education:

Degrees and Certifications: List what you’ve studied and any certificates you’ve earned.

Highlight Relevant Coursework or Projects: If you did something that shows off your skills for the job you want, definitely include it.

Skills:

Note: If a specific job needs a certain degree or certificate (like PMP or CompTIA Security+), pop your skills section right under your contact info.

    1. Hard Skills: List the technical skills you have – programming languages, software you’re good at, and definitely put that essential certification front and center.

    2. Soft Skills: Show off your people skills – communication, leadership, teamwork. You can tweak this to match the job you’re applying for later.

    3. Use Job Keywords: Tailor your resume to the job by sprinkling in keywords from the job listing. Match the skills they want with what you’ve got.

Skills Section of Resume

Extra Tips

Formatting Matters: Keep it clean and professional. Use easy-to-read fonts and give your text some space to breathe. Avoid fancy fonts like Times New Roman.

Be ATS Friendly: Stick to a simple layout without images or complex formatting that might confuse Applicant Tracking Systems. They’re picky!

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread: Spelling and grammar count. Tools like Grammarly can help. Get a fresh pair of eyes to check it too.

No Pictures, Please: Some HR folks skip resumes with pictures to avoid bias accusations.

Portfolio Links: If your work samples are gold, include a link!

Review:

  1. Review and Edit: Take a look at what you’ve created. Is it accurate, relevant, and complete?

  2. Customize for Each Job: We’ll use AI magic to tweak your resume for each application. Highlight the skills and experiences they’re looking for.

  3. Ask for Feedback: Get advice from mentors, career experts, or pros to make your resume even better.

Follow these steps, and you’ll have a solid base for a killer resume that you can tweak and personalize for every job application. Remember, showing off what makes you unique is key to catching those employers’ eyes!

Resumes that beat the Applicant Tracking Systems

How to make sure your resume does not make you look old

If you are over 50, you must account for the fact that ageism exists. If you just got laid off after 20+ years at your last employer, you do not want to advertise your age. Some of these points have already been mentioned, but are worth repeating:

  • Do not use AOL or Yahoo for your email address. Get a Gmail or outlook account
  • Do not use your year of birth as part of your email address
  • Do not put the year you graduated high school.
  • Do not use an objective statement. Skip references until they ask for them
  • Do not put every job you ever did. Stick with the last 10 – 15 years
  • Do not use a landline for your phone number
  • Do not use a picture of you and the grandkids on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Do put any recent, industry-relevant certifications up top in the skills section
  • Do put your LinkedIn profile on your resume
  • Do keep your resume 1 – 2 pages. If they do not ask for a curriculum vitae that is all they want.
  • Do save your resume as a Word file (.docx). Only use pdf if requested

 

 

Robot Crafting a resume

Next Steps

Not quite finished yet! This is just the beginning. Now, it’s all about customizing your resume for each job you’re eyeing. Once you’ve mastered the basics of crafting your initial draft, it’s time to harness the power of AI to fine-tune your resume for every application. You have two choices:

  1. Use a resume builder. These work quite well, especially if you are new to using AI and don’t want to do everything yourself. You can go to my article on resume builders for more information.
  2. Dive into my article, “Harnessing AI for an Exceptional Job Search: Turbocharge Your Resume,” to learn how to level up your job hunt using cutting-edge technology.

See if you Qualify for a WIOA Grant

Are you unemployed? There is a little known federal grant program that can pay for you to get trained, certified and placed in your career at no cost to you. Availability and amounts are based on where you live. If you qualify, this program can pay up to $10,000 to get trained, certified, and then get help getting placed in their career. The amount and availability vary by county

This can be used to get certified in fields such as Cyber-Security, Information Technology, Project Management, Business Analysis, and more. Some of the most highly sought-after certifications include CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, Project Management Professional (PMP), Scrum Master, and others.