By Mary Jo King, NCRW, NCOPE

Your challenge is to make the first cut:  those initial seconds when the hiring authority is blasting through a stack of résumés as high as her coffee cup. This is your moment to impress, and you have fewer than 15 seconds to do it. Understanding that humans are scanning rather than reading–at least for the first go-round–will help you highlight important content.

Even more daunting is the widespread use of applicant tracking software systems (ATS), which represent a whole new set of challenges for the job hunter’s résumé. Outdated or over-complicated formats and careless content can get you bounced before a human ever sees your application.

A résumé is a marketing tool, not a job application. It  should sell your brand with achievement-oriented content in a clean design that is easy to navigate. Any job application–online or otherwise–that does not promote your strengths via a meticulously crafted résumé will always be less than outstanding.

Beyond the failure to highlight success stories, the most common problem with self-authored résumés is a lack of keywords. Without them, you will not survive the ATS gauntlet. Our testing has revealed that a few critical words can mean the difference between an interview and the dog pile. Only the top scoring candidates get interviews.

With proper care and deliberation, you can win your dream job. Twenty carefully prepared application packages will produce better results than a hundred haphazard ones. Think quality, not quantity.

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