Résumé: Know Your Audience

Applicant Tracking Systems and Résumé Parsing Software

If you are applying to a large company, it is likely that you will fill out an application online and upload your résumé electronically. This allows HR departments to organize and screen a large number of applicants without drowning in paperwork. However, this also complicates the application process for job-seekers. Chances are that before your résumé is seen by a recruiter, it will be analyzed by a complex computer program commonly called an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Apart from organizing and storing application information, the ATS performs a process called "résumé parsing." This process has two primary functions:
  1. Résumé parsing translates various forms of résumés (Word documents, PDF files, WordPress etc. into a uniform electronic format in order to
  2. Analyze résumé contents to determine the desirability of a job applicant.
Early ATSs were easily fooled because their primary function was to search for keywords that related to the job description. The applicants' résumés were scanned and deemed desirable by a simple aggregate of key terms. The problem with this was that poorly qualified candidates could beat the filters with a well-crafted résumé. Now, résumé parsing is far more than counting keywords. Current ATS software performs contextualized résumé scanning, which not only looks for keywords but evaluates the surrounding context for related terms, concepts, and information. In addition, résumé parsers analyze grammatical constructs and formatting. So, how do you work within the ATS construct? The Ladders provides some advice on how to tailor your résumé:
  1. Don't overdo it on formatting. Unnecessary images, graphics, and logos will complicate the parsing process and make it difficult to evaluate your résumé.
  2. Don't make grammar mistakes. These will be misinterpreted by the parsing system and improperly evaluated.
  3. Submit your résumé once. The ATS will keep track of your application process, so don't spam an HR department with ten copies of your résumé.
  4. Try to get an employee referral. If an employee submits your résumé for you, the system will show it, and you'll be more likely to get a good look.
For more information, read the full article at "Résumé, Meet Technology."

The HR Recruiter

A recent study was conducted to evaluate job recruiters' behavior while performing their occupational tasks. Researchers used a method called "eye-tracking," which identifies where and for how long an individual directs his or her gaze. During the study, researchers applied the eye- tracking methods to 30 recruiters on-the-job over a 10-week period. The findings indicated that the average recruiter spends only 6 seconds on a résumé, with 80% of attention paid to the following items: name, current title/company, current start and end dates, previous title/company, previous start and end dates, and education. The remainder of the time was spent scanning the résumé for keywords that were related to the position for which the individual was applying. So, how can you stand out? Having a well-organized, easy-to-read résumé is your best bet. The study, which was conducted by The Ladders, a corporate job search engine, also revealed the reaction of these recruiters to a "professional" résumé versus that of the average job applicant. Recruiters responded to a questionnaire using the Likert-like scale, and the responses indicated that the professionally re-written résumé was 60% more usable than its original counterpart. For information about eye-tracking research, visit the following link: Keeping an eye on recruiter behavior The above image shows the difference between an applicant's résumé before (left) and after (right) professional revision. The colorful marks represent where the recruiter's eye focuses on the document. The darker the color, the longer duration of the recruiter's gaze. As you can see, the professionally re-written résumé affords the applicant a longer and more comprehensive review by the recruiter.

Where to start

Writing a résumé is often a daunting task, and in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market, a strong résumé is essential. Résumés are the way to make yourself appear as the most qualified in a pool of potential employees and to represent your knowledge and accomplishments. Your résumé is, for all intents and purposes, the first writing sample a potential employer will see. However, this important document is also read incredibly fast despite the amount of effort and time that goes into its creation. Therefore, even the best writers need to double-check their résumés for mistakes. You do not want a single mistake to prevent you from receiving a job offer, nor to take away from your years of experience and marketable skills. Now that you have some ideas about your résumé audience, we want to guide you to some helpful resources to get you started creating a professional-looking, functional résumé. The Ideal Technical Communication Résumé, Synergistic Communications How to Write a Résumé by Robert Greenly (found in Technical Communication 40.1 from Feb. 1993) Build a Job Search Toolkit: Writing a Résumé (taken from The Harvard Guide to Careers)