Applying for jobs is both easier and more complicated than it used to be. It’s easier in the fact that you can search for jobs all over the world in whatever industry that you love. The complication comes from the different Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) out there that companies use to take your application. The ATS is the first level of defense between you and the actual recruiter. If the system doesn’t feel you are a good match then your application enters the resume black hole never to be seen by human eyes. 

One resume does not rule them all

Know that even if you pay for someone to build your resume that it is not the end-all and be-all of your career experience. It should be looked at as a template that you will use to adjust for each job you are applying for. 

  • Match keywords. Look at the job description and see what keywords are in there or what words are repeated. Jobscan ( can scan your resume and let you know how well it matches up to the job. The site says it should be 80% but take that number with a grain of salt. Often job descriptions have a wish list of experience and they don’t expect to find a 100% match. 
  • Use the terminology of the industry. If you are trying to change industries concentrate on transferrable skills and explain accomplishments in a way that anyone can understand. If you can explain them in the context of the industry that you are looking to get into, it’s even better. 
  • Highlight areas of expertise in a descriptive way. Avoid being too general in your skills. The recruiter is looking for an expert to hire. Ex. General: Communications.  Specific: Nationwide marketing communications, liaison for all internal executive communications. 

Have a resume for the computer and one for the person

The resume for the ATS should have:

  • The right font and size. Nothing below 10 points. Avoid script fonts and other non-traditional fonts. Your resume may translate into r^~=me once it passes through the ATS. 
  • Bullet points. Bullet points are your friend compared to long paragraphs. 
  • Avoid hiding text. Some people try to hide a section of white text in hopes that the system picks up the words and puts the application through. The problem is that the ATS will likely translate it to black text when a recruiter goes to print it off and you are busted. The person knows your trick, your resume now looks like garbage and they are likely moving on. 

The resume for the hiring team should have:

  • A cleaner format. It should look and feel better than the one for the ATS. The computer doesn’t care how it looks. A recruiter will. 
  • A heavier stock paper. I learned this subtle trick from Dr. Britt Andreatta during one of her presentations. She used a heavier stock paper that had a slight gloss to it for her handouts. It made the documents feel more valuable and important. Check your local copy company when making physical copies of your resume. Heavier than copy paper but not cardstock. 

There is a hidden job market

There are many jobs out there that never make it onto career sites for a number of different reasons. The important thing to know is that there are more opportunities out there than what you see and realize. Lean into your network (and their networks) to help you make a good connection. Try to connect with recruiters and decision-makers of the company that you want to be a part of. 

Applying for jobs can be a stressful and discouraging time. Maximize your efforts by applying for jobs that truly match your experience, catering your resume to the job description, and building the right connections for those opportunities that the public does not see. 

Make a better tomorrow.