One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients during their job search is that they submit a resume and get rejected or never hear back. If you’ve been submitting a lot of resumes and not hearing back, then I’m here to share what you can do about it. Keep reading for tips to help you get through the ATS, stand out and be seen by a person. There are many things you can do to get less rejections. To help, read this post and check the end for details about your free resume review.
What Happens When You Submit a Resume
Once you’ve found a job posting that sounds good to you, it’s then time to submit your application. The meat of this application is your resume.
Whenever you submit a resume, especially through a company website, you’re entering your information into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). A few examples of these are Workday, Lever, and Zoho. The problem is that you rarely know which one the company is actually using.
The Problem with Applicant Tracking Systems
In 2022, according to the Harvard Business Review, 97% of ATS kick out highly qualified applicants. That means there’s a high chance you’ve been very qualified for a job but your resume wasn’t seen because the system stopped your application from moving forward.
The job search process in general is super antiquated; it was created by employers to benefit themselves and doesn’t benefit the applicant.
The Trick to Applicant Tracking Systems
As a job seeker, you have to play the “game” when it comes to getting a foot in the door through an ATS system, especially if you’ve decided to focus on doing traditional “cold” applications. This means applying to a job when you don’t know anyone who works there, haven’t yet connected to someone on the hiring team or do not have a referral.
A referral is either a person you know who submits the application on your behalf or lets you put their name on the application as the one who told you about the job. Having a referral makes it at least 47% more likely that you’ll get an interview request. Even with a referral, your resume has to be good.
Submitting an Application/Resume Actually Works!
Over the 9 years of being a career counselor and career coach, I’ve served hundreds of job seekers and most of them have gotten their jobs by submitting applications, not knowing anyone who worked for the companies. This is why I can say with 100% certainty that it’s possible to beat the applicant tracking systems and have a shot at the position you’re applying for.
Remind yourself: If you don’t hear back from a company or get ghosted or get rejected, it’s not your fault. This is something that happens to everyone, including me. It’s easier said than done but try not to beat yourself up about it.
Do your best, which includes following the tips in this post.
Tip #1: Use Keywords from the Job Description
One of the most important things you can do with your resume is use keywords from the job description. So many people overlook this; I’ve noticed it in the hundreds of resumes I’ve reviewed over the years.
How to Find the Keywords
Go through the job description and pick out what looks like the most important keywords. How to do this:
- Use a word cloud website to see which words come up in the text most often.
- Look for the hard and soft skills in the description; most of these are included because the employer believes they’re important for the role.
The goal is to get as many of these words into your resume as possible. Doing this means you’re translating your experience for the company. This is perfect if you don’t have a lot of direct experience related to the position. You use their language to show how your experience and skills are transferable.
Tip #2: Show Results in Your Resume Bullet Points
Most of the time, people list their job description tasks and responsibilities as their bullet points thinking it’s what the employer is looking for. In truth, employers want to know specifically what you can do for them and why it’s a benefit to hire you. The best way to do this is by adding metrics/numbers to your resume to show results. That will help you to stand out in general.
Tip #3: Use the Correct Resume Format
A lot of people want pretty resume templates, usually because they think it will help them stand out. Sometimes those templates work, but usually, they cause you to get lost or rejected in the ATS. That means it actually has the opposite effect!
There’s a program called Canva (which I love and use in my business) that’s often recommended to job seekers as a way to create a resume. While the templates definitely look great, they aren’t always what we call “ATS-friendly” and you’ll get an automatic rejection.
Fancy templates look nice but don’t apply only with a resume like that. If there’s room to attach multiple documents, you can add both a Canva-style resume and a regular plain text version. The fancy resume works well for creative fields like marketing, graphic design, etc.
A few other elements to avoid using in your resume:
- Text boxes
- Heavy graphics
Basically, you don’t want to include elements that will distort the way your resume looks and prevent the ATS from reading it. The system reads a resume just like our eyes: from left to right. Having too many different elements may cause words to go out of order.
A great test for this is to copy all the text on your resume and paste it into a notepad document without formatting to see what it looks like. If you can still read it, there’s a good chance the ATS will be able to read it also.
Tip #4: You Have to Stop Editing Your Resume Eventually
If you’re an overthinker like me, you probably revise your resume over and over again. You feel afraid to stop because you think there’s more you can do to make it better or something is missing.
BUT I encourage you to not focus so much on passing through the ATS that you lose your written voice and personality on your resume. If you critique your resume too much you’re going to sound generic. You don’t need to sound like everybody else. Show off the achievements that you have, not mold yourself to sound a certain way because of what you think they want to see. You want it to sound unique, stand out and sound like who you are and be genuine and authentic to you.
Editing and revising your resume is a good way to get stuck in your own head. Eventually, you need to draw the line somewhere and say “I’ve tweaked this enough, it’s as good as it’s going to get at this point. I’ve done everything I possibly can and I need to give myself a break and finally submit it.”
If you get so wrapped up in making changes, you’ll never truly stop and then you’re never going to submit your resume anywhere! As a result, your application is never going to be seen by anyone. You won’t get the positions you want because you’ve instead spent hours, days, or weeks revising your resume and letting opportunities pass you by. That is a sure-fire way to stay stuck in your career, even if you don’t mean to let it happen.
Instead, before even jumping into the job search, have your resume ready ahead of time. Doing this means you can grasp opportunities as soon as they present themselves.
How to Get A Free Resume Review
If you’re a member of The Confident Career Society on Facebook, you get a free resume review.
Here is what someone said after using my suggestions to change her resume:
It’s very beneficial to have a professional review your resume. It can take you from zero interview requests to a 2-3 fold increase.