Online resume submission – don’t get your client blacklisted

By Sharon Graham.

As a diligent and motivated resume strategist, you’ve learned the “ins and outs” of applying for positions using an online resume. You know that employers and recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sort, store, and manage the considerable number of resumes they receive on a daily basis. As with any technology, there are ways to get around the system and improve your client’s chances of getting noticed.

Regardless of how your client submits his or her resume – hand-delivered, through the website, email, or snail mail – it will eventually make its way into the ATS. The ATS narrows down the resume pool to a few applicants who may be a good match. The company representative then needs only to look at a small number of resumes and select a few strong candidates.

Some less than ethical people might deceptively exploit loopholes in the ATS. It’s one thing to be strategic – but it’s completely another when dishonest practices take over the online resume submission process.

You’ve made a name for yourself as a well-respected professional. Rise above the others and take an honourable approach to your client’s job search.

Target each resume to the right positions

Some job seekers haphazardly throw their resume into every job board and textbox without considering how resumes are screened. Rather than broadcasting your client’s resume widely, consider the position being targeted and the recipient’s needs. Make sure that the resume is tailored for each job.

Be authentic in writing each resume

When preparing your client’s online resume, the job posting is of most importance. It contains all the data that the ATS needs in order to match and select resumes. One might think that pasting the complete job posting into your client’s resume will enable it to come to the top of the list. Incorporating a post to get credit for all the text is not only unethical, it’s a ridiculous tactic. First, many ATS flag resumes that match too perfectly as suspicious. Secondly, even if the resume does come to the top, any recruiter will quickly disqualify the person as soon as they see their own job posting blatantly looking back at them.

To improve the resume’s relevance and ranking, ensure that it matches the job posting closely. Don’t copy most or all of the words directly. Instead, show your creativity and intelligence by paraphrasing. Determine the best terms and concepts that should be in the resume. Explicitly detail competencies required in the job posting. Be true to your client.

Introspectively enter keywords and key phrases

You can imagine that every job seeker would enter the typical keywords that come out of job descriptions. The resumes that surpass those are the ones that also have atypical keywords – those that only a few applicants included in their resume. So be introspective in your selection of words that might be required in the job.

If you don’t have a job description, the National Occupational Classification (NOC) will give you keywords for many positions. Select the ones that legitimately represent your client’s best strengths – he or she will be asked about these in interviews.

Ensure your client fits the corporate culture

The person responsible for selecting candidates may use keywords in a “system search” to find particular resumes that fit their needs. Look at the company’s website for key qualities, skills, and values. Learn as much as you can about the company’s internal language, as company reps might search for these in their ATS. If applicable, include these in your client’s resume to show a good cultural fit for the organization.

Don’t try to “trick the system”

Ethical companies are not looking for employees who would want to “trick the system.” Get your client’s foot in the door legitimately.

When it comes to keywords, more is not necessarily better. It’s what keywords are being used and where. Do not try sneaky things like hiding keywords from the job postings in white font. You don’t need to repeat keywords numerous times either. Recruiters can easily figure out that the submission was done in an unethical manner.

When it comes to job search, there is a dichotomy. Your client must appeal to two audiences: the human reader and the computer software. Remind your client to be honest and truthful in every interaction – wherever and whenever they occur. Supplement the ATS strategy with formal networking coaching to enable your client to penetrate organizations. When your client builds visibility and credibility, people will want to meet with him or her. As they learn about your client’s wonderful qualities and remarkable successes, they’ll soon be eager to offer  meaningful and respectable job opportunities.

Want to learn more about how to optimize resumes effectively and ethically? Join us at our next Advanced Resume Development Program.

Sharon Graham is Canada’s Career Strategist. Founder and Executive Director of Career Professionals of Canada and author of the top-selling Best Canadian Resumes Series, Sharon is committed to setting the standard for excellence in the industry. A leading authority on resume, interview, employment and career transition, Sharon provides career practitioners with tools and resources to enable them to provide exemplary services to Canadians.

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Thanks for the great article. I’ve had job seekers that really think hiding keywords in fonts, or copying and pasting job postings will work – I’ll be providing a link to this article to all my clients as a resource of what to avoid.