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Don't Let Your Resume Hit a Digital Dead End


By Ashley Collins, Education & Marketing Manager & Bonnie Johnson, Marketing Associate


Most resumes are first submitted and viewed electronically today, so it is vital that yours is optimized for the process. Online applications are not the place to showcase your artistic flair; save that for the printed copy you present to the hiring manager. You may be thinking “How boring,” feeling discouraged, and wondering how to make your resume stand out. First, it is important to ensure your resume gets through the system and makes it into the recruiter’s hands.


Many mid to large employers utilize applicant tracking systems (ATS). In fact, 90% of the jobs posted on are redirected to apply through an ATS. These systems utilize technology to manage the influx of applications and electronically screen candidates to match the job for which they are hiring. The ATS will assign points to the different components of your resume based on an algorithm created by the hiring company. Resumes with the highest scores will get passed through the system to the hiring manager. 


The ATS “parses” resumes, which strips formatting out and pulls important words to sort into categories such as education, skills, work experience, and contact information. 


So how do you increase the chances your resume will get a high score?


The KEY to Getting your Electronic Resume Noticed

KEYWORDS. Customize your resume for each job. Just like when you are conducting an Internet search and type in your relevant terms, employers’ systems are designed to do the same: search your resume for keywords that match the job they are trying to fill. Success will be based on your resume having relevant keywords. 


How do you know what keywords to use? 

Examine the job posting and description for unique keywords and phrases specific to that job.  You can even copy and paste the job description into a free online word cloud creating service (such as The larger the word appears in the cloud, the more times it appears in the job description. These words are certainly significant to the employer and are more important for you to build into your resume.


You can also look at your professional networking sites or professional summaries from other employees. Pull out phrases and keywords these other professionals are using that are applicable to you. 


Include both the spelled-out version and acronyms for your education and professional organizations, as you can’t be sure which usage the employer will be looking for. Examine the organization’s website for more information about their culture and values as this information can also be a valuable addition to your resume. 


But note that there can be too much of a good thing, so don’t overstuff your resume. It’s about using the right keywords and their uniqueness to the roles you’re applying for, not the number of times the word appears on your resume. Many applicant tracking systems put a value on related keywords and/or apply greater value to some keywords versus others as they relate to the specific jobs. Therefore, utilizing resources such as individuals who understand the company or role to help you identify those keywords is so important. 


Remember, throughout all of this, be honest: make sure you are only using keywords and phrases that represent the real you!