DOs and DON’Ts for Modern Resumes

DOs and DON’Ts for Modern Resumes

August 18, 2021
Sally Smithwick
Career Development

By Sally Smithwick, Managing Editor

If you are applying for a job, your first challenge may well be getting your resume past robots and into the hands of a human. Data suggests that about 75% of resumes don’t beat the algorithms that filter through applicants. Here is a quick checklist of “do’s and don’ts” to run through as you build your resume. Some simple adjustments can greatly increase your chances of getting that interview with HR.

The first thing you need to understand is that, according to Jobscan, 95% of all Fortune 500 companies and even many small companies, use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), a type of software that scans and ranks resumes. With that in mind, these tips are all about getting through those filters and optimizing your content:

DO use the correct file type. Did you know that an approximate 43% of resumes are submitted in an incompatible file type? Microsoft Word documents are considered the most common file type, but make sure to look for specific instructions when you are uploading your document. If the file type is not specified, it’s best to go with Microsoft Word as the text is universally read among ATS programs. And some job experts say even when a PDF is requested that also submitting a DOCX file is a good idea just in case.

DON’T use images, photos, logos, charts, or color. Although creative use of graphics may be eye-catching to a human, some ATS software is not built to read images or less common fonts, symbols or even things like arrows used for bullet points. There are newer systems that can read these features and render correctly, but you are risking your resume file appearing corrupt or translated into garbled text.

DO keep titles simple and optimize keywords. ATS software is trained to read common resume language such as Professional Summary, Work History, Education, Skills, etc. Getting creative with this language may very well kick your resume out of the system. In fact, some recruiters even recommend using keyword optimization as you build your resume. You can copy the job description into a word cloud and use the words that pop out the most in your resume.

DON’T send headshots. Some employers will find this distasteful, but most importantly you don’t want to invite any unconscious bias into play by providing your photo.

DO emphasize hard skills more than soft skills. Soft skills are abilities or traits that make you a good worker like organization, creativity, team player, and adaptability. These skills are great to include but can’t be measured. Hard skills are skills you acquired from job experience, education, or technical training. Examples include language skills, social media management, live steam and video experience, people management, development of nutrition programs and promotions, etc. Employers seem to want to see a mix of these, but if you are heavy on soft skills, your resume may sound too generic and difficult to measure.

DON’T include hobbies or interest irrelevant to the position. When it comes to reading resumes, employers are normally not interested in what you do in your personal time, so resist the urge to include these. However, if one of your interests is cooking or gardening and you are applying to work in the retail food space, these hobbies could add to your resume.

DO make sure your email address is modern. These days, employers are attracted to tech-savvy applicants, so Gmail and Outlook addresses have a better chance of supporting your application. Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo are all examples of email addresses that are outdated.

DON’T write your resume in third person. The best approach is to come from a first-person point of view without using personal pronouns such as I, me, or we.