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At times, circumstances require us to apply for positions because we simply need a paycheck without consideration for the role. Other times we are deliberately seeking a lesser role because it fulfills a specific interest and we’re not as concerned with compensation or responsibilities. You may just want to get your foot in the door at a certain company. In either case, listing all of your credentials in your resumé can potentially hurt your chances of getting hired.

Employers consider overqualified candidates riskier hires because they believe they’re more likely to leave when a better position comes along. The hiring process is expensive. Recruiting, interviewing, negotiating and training are costs related to hiring. An employee who leaves pre-maturely causes the company to lose money on the process.

Companies try to mitigate this risk by hiring minimally qualified candidates and pass on candidates with a lot of experience and education.

The best way to overcome this problem is to scale back you resumé to meet the minimum qualifications for the position. If the position does not call for advanced degrees leave out your Master’s degree (if applicable) or don’t include too many certifications you’ve received. Leaving out your graduation dates is wise if it indicates your relative years of experience.

When writing your summary of qualifications avoid revealing that you’ve got many more years of experience than the position requires. This section is important because it’s often the first area scanned by a recruiter since it’s just below your contact information.  

The trickier part comes when writing your employment history. You may need to scale back your job titles without being misleading. Job titles can be an obvious giveaway to your level of experience, although it can vary depending on the size of the company. Being a Director at small company with a handful employees is not the same as being a Director at a company with thousands of employees. Try to downplay your previous job titles to more closely match the job title of the position(s) you’re seeking.

When writing accomplishments and responsibilities consider leaving out the number of employees you managed if the position you’re applying for does not have the same scope. If the position is a more subordinate role focus your accomplishments more on having worked with managers (or supervisors) with your previous employers. Limiting the number of bullet points is also a good way to pare down your experience. Rather than having six to eight bullet points for each job, cut it down to four to six. In most instances having a shorter resumé is advantageous but certainly when you’re overqualified since you want to try and keep it as short as possible.

While scaling back your resumé is necessary, it’s important to make sure you include the necessary skills required for the position. You need to match the keywords in the job description in your skills section and in the bullet points in your employment history. They’re still going to glance over your resumé initially to see if you meet the minimum requirements, so those keywords need to stand out immediately.  

Remember, the first objective is to get an interview. Should the interviewer ask about your over qualification, give an honest answer about why you’re applying for the position. Talk about what appeals to you about the position and the company. Do you use their product or service, or are they in an industry you really like? Asking about the career track at the company is a good way to show your interest in long term employment. Once the employer is satisfied that you’re interested for the right reasons they’ll be more inclined to proceed with hiring you.

Job listings contain a lot of specific information about what an employer is looking for and other content to help you apply. The ability to dissect not just the obvious information but also the subtle content will assist you in tailoring your resumé to match the employer’s needs. Here are some tips to help you know what to look for and craft your resumé.

The Obvious

1.    Job Title - Match your experience exactly with what the company calls the position. Using their nomenclature gives the impression that your background is suited to their needs. As an example, if the job listing calls for a Brand Ambassador and you’re a Marketing Specialist, use the term Brand Ambassador on your resumé. You can explain during an interview that your role and responsibilities are the same as their listing, it’s a simple matter of semantics in your current (or prior) job.
2.    Job Listing Number - If this information is listed, include it in the subject line of your email along with your job title. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can more easily sort your application if you match those critical keywords in your email.
3.    Qualifications - Most ATS’s use a filtering system to weed out unqualified resumés. Match 80+ % of the skills required for the positions. It is unlikely that you’ll match all of the criteria they’re looking for but you need to have at least 80% of their requirements. These include things such as job title, duties and years of experience. Also, look for things such as ability to work nights/weekends or if travel is required. Are there specific licenses required?
4.    Keyword Matching - Look for repetitive words or phrases that specify the skills the employer desires. If there are specific skills such as python, AI, AutoCad or Final Cut Pro, make sure they are both in your accomplishments/responsibilities in your employment history AND that they’re listed in your areas of expertise and/or the skills section of you resumé. The more times the keywords appear in your resumé the better your chances of passing the initial ATS filter and getting called for an interview. This is where the 80+ % keyword matching counts.
5.    Instructions and Deadlines - Follow all instructions for submission such as documents and file formats requested (Word, PDF, etc...). If there’s a deadline for submission get your application in as early as possible. If no ATS is being used as a front-end filter, then your resume is likely being reviewed by a screener. The sooner you get it in, the more likely your submission will be reviewed and selected for further consideration than waiting later when many more applications come through the funnel. Less time is devoted to each submission because of the higher volume of resumés. Also, some employers that use ATS will have the system forward qualified candidates daily during the open period so they’re not inundated at the end.  

The Not-So-Obvious

1.    Colors and Patterns - Some listings use different colors for their listings that may match the company’s colors or brand. Write your resumé using the colors and choose a font that closely matches theirs. Making these subtle associations gives you a better chance of catching the eye of the employer. Use splashes of their colors to accentuate key areas of your resumé such as sections headings (Contact Information, Employment History, Summary of Qualifications, Education, etc...). If you’re using MS Word to create your resumé, don’t overdue the colors. However, if you’re using resumé software (such as ours) then the colors should be included in samples of your work and other creative elements for aesthetics.
2.    Style - Sometimes a company’s identity is in their job description. Look at the way the job description is written and use the same style in your resumé or introductory letter. If they use humor or seem less formal in their style, match that same tone in your communications. If their writing is more serious and formal, then match that tone in your resumé. However they communicate, write your resumé with the same perspective.

Carefully paying attention to job listing details will help better align your skills, language and tone to fit the company’s culture and improve your chances of standing out. Small details matter, so do not overlook them when applying for jobs.

Accomplishments are unique to each individual based on their abilities, commitment and results. Responsibilities are essentially the same for employees in the same role. You should include duties and responsibilities on your resumé but more emphasis should be placed on achievements because they show direct value to the organization.

Writing Accomplishments

When you begin writing resumé accomplishments it can be difficult to come up with a list of things to include. It’s helpful to think about them in the form of questions:

Saving or making money for the company?
Were my goals reached frequently?
Were my goals reached quickly?

Accomplishments are measurable in ways that can be expressed using data. Use timeframes, percentages (increases or decreases) and dollars as the units of measure. Think about the problem that was presented. What actions needed to taken to address the problem? What was the outcome of the action on eliminating or mitigating the problem? Using figures in sentences helps them stand out and quickly reinforce your successes in the mind of the reader.

Include context to make your accomplishments standout even more. “Grew customer base by 23% in 6 months” or “Increased sales by $120,000 year over year” are powerful, measurable statements.

Writing Responsibilities

Including responsibilities gives the recruiter a list of the specific tasks associated with your role. Your daily duties. It is important to include them on your resumé to help clearly define your role in the organization. Match keywords from the job description in the bullet points describing your duties. Include that you performed the required skills in your current (or previous) job. Include your most significant responsibilities. Did you manage people, projects, budgets? If so, include it in your resumé with data for context “Managed a team of 7 Field Sales Representatives in the Loxahatchee territory.” Responsibilities give context to your accomplishments.

Supporting Roles

Whether writing accomplishments or responsibilities always include the keywords for the position throughout your resumé. Every role within an organization has value. Sometimes it can seem daunting to think of how you save the company money or increase sales if you’re not in a direct selling role, managing people or leading a project. Know that one does not do it alone. Supporting roles are critical to the success of an organization. Typing letters, running interference, scheduling meetings/events help to free up someone’s time to perform additional tasks that help drive success. If your role is in a support function, think of how the things you do help others more effectively perform their jobs. List your accomplishments in terms of helping others succeed at the company. If you weren’t there they’d know and feel it!

Most advice for writing a resumé is information most of us already know. Common sense recommendations such as proofreading, tailoring it to the job, or using bullet points, but there are tips that can do more harm than good if heeded. Here are 5 tips you should be cautious about following:

1.    Trying to outsmart applicant tracking systems using text cloud software - Text cloud software looks at the frequency specific words are used textually (i.e. blogs, speeches, job descriptions). You’ve probably seen them and didn’t realize what they were (that’s a word cloud pictured above, DM you know what has to be part of the pic this time). Using text cloud software seems logical because it identifies frequently used words, but it cannot determine whether those words are actually skills. It can’t provide context by relating phrases and disregarding superfluous words. You may be better served to read the job description yourself or have a recruiter or other trusted advisor read it to parse out the essential content that is needed to score high on the ATS grading system.

2.    Use Functional Resumé Formatting - Functional resumés bullet point your skills by type, such as Marketing, Management, and Sales. The majority of the resumé covers your accomplishments by skill and your employment history and education are listed at the bottom. This type of resumé is used by job seekers trying to change fields. Some job seekers also use it to conceal gaps in employment but recruiters are on to it. A better option is to use a hybrid resumé, such as our Aubergine template (hyperlink to aubergine), that allows you to list and rate your skills by type, combined with the reverse chronology format recruiters and hiring managers are accustomed to.

3.    GPA’s - Some professionals advise including your grade point average for recent graduates. It shows your grasp of the subject matter across a range of subjects. Some companies may inquire about your GPA but let them wait until they’ve met you during the interview to ask if it’s not stellar. It may not even be important to a hiring manager or recruiter and listing a lower GPA can bring unnecessary negative attention to something that was not a factor to begin with.

4.    No more than one page - Keeping your resumé to a single page may not be possible or practical as you gain more experience. While there is merit to keeping your employment to 10 years, trying to condense everything to one page could force you to leave out important qualifying information. Reducing the number of accomplishments in a role simply to keep to a page can lead to your application being mitigated because accomplishments were arbitrarily omitted to save real estate. Two pages is adequate for more experienced job seekers.

5.    Include an objective - This is an antiquated practice. At best, it’s reaffirming of your career goals. At worst, it will reduce your likelihood of being hired. If you’re applying for a specific position the employer will know what your interests are. If you have an introductory video or cover letter you can explain your objective there. Sometimes even this can be limiting because there may be an opening in another department within the company you could be overlooked for because of a too narrowly defined objective.     

Professional advice is well-intentioned and varied. It’s important to seek a range of inputs and determine what works best for you. Sometimes seemingly good advice can do more harm than good in helping you secure your next job. Don’t be afraid to forgo things that you don’t believe will help you achieve your goals.

What is an Application Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is screening software used to scan resumes and filter qualified candidates from mountains of incoming resumes. ATS uses Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) to recognize characters typed on your resume.  This is done before a resume is reviewed by a human. Your resume is scanned and converted into a text file so it can be read by the software. Important information, including your contact information, employment history, education, and skills, is searched for keyword matches to the job description. This eliminates the need for people to sift through piles of resumes manually.

Optimizing Your Resume for Scanning

Your resume needs to be easily read by the software to pass the initial screening. For optimal results your resume should be a clear, crisp image. Here are six tips to help to you prepare your resume for ATS systems:

1.    Use font sizes from 11-14 points and use common fonts, such as Courier, Verdana, Times New Roman or Helvetica. Larger fonts ensure your resume can be easily read or scanned.

2.    If you have to print and mail your resume, provide an original and use a laser printer. Laser printers create higher quality prints, reducing character recognition errors.

3.    Leave, at least, 3/4 inch margins to incorporate white space to your resume. This helps the software recognize where content begins and ends.

4.    Try to eliminate or greatly minimize aesthetic lines (horizontal or vertical) in your layout. Avoid using italics, underlines, or shadowing to emphasize text, because the software may not be able to distinguish where text begins and ends, as it can throw off the spacing between words and letters.

5.    If you use graphics, be very sparring and basic, and be sure that there is clear separation between headers or sections on your resume so as not to confuse the software.

6.    Make sure that your text properly “wraps around” at the end of the “right” margin and aligns again on the left margin to make it easier for the software to determine start and end points. Use proper punctuation, as this also to helps the software distinguish your resume’s content and the obvious grammatical correctness.

Improving Your Resume’s Ranking
Similar to Google, your resume is ranked based on content and keywords. Match the words in your resume to the keywords and phrases in the job description. Here are four tips to help increase your success rate:

1.    Search job sites and company websites to learn the qualifications required for the position. This will help you identify the keywords and phrases the employers wants.

2.    Unless they are very common, avoid using acronyms or industry jargon. Your resume could be screened by someone not familiar with the terminology. Keep the language simple and easy to understand.

3.    Don’t try to cram too much information into a single page. If you require two pages to list your qualifications, do it. Being detailed and well-formatted is more important than trying to fit everything onto a single page. For scanning purposes use white paper with dark lettering so the characters can be easily read using OCR.

4.    Match keywords and phrases in multiple places on your resume. Include them in your employment details, areas of expertise, and the skills sections. The more hits you get by matching keywords, the more you increase your resume’s score.  
Applicant screening technology will become more common among employers in the future. Most large companies have applicant tracking software to sort incoming resumes. Smaller companies will invest in tools as more technology becomes available at better price points.


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