Not Getting an Interview? Your Resume May be to Blame.

In my current role I have seen countless participants applying for jobs they had both the skills and experience for, but who were continuously missing out on an interview. Not only was this incredibly frustrating for them, it was also a blow to their confidence. Receptionists, project managers, personal care workers, chefs and engineers alike, they were all incredibly well qualified for the roles they were applying for. They also had one other thing in common – their resume was letting them down.

Problem #1 – Their resume was out-of-date

A resume is not a static document, it should always be evolving. Not only does the information within it need to be continuously updated, the overall structure of the document needs to move with the times. For example, whilst it was all the rage at one point to include a cover page with “RESUME OF…” emblazoned across it in 72 point font, in this day and age all that will do is make an employer roll their eyes and skip straight past your application. This is definitely not the kind of first impression you want to be making!

You also should make sure you resume is visually modern. Employers can and will make an initial judgement of your application based on how it looks, all without reading a single piece of text. Clean, clear sections with lots of white space are the order of the day whilst graphics, bright colours and borders should be banished immediately.

Problem #2 – Their resume was not properly targeted

One of the biggest mistakes people can make when applying for jobs is not correctly targeting their resume to the position they are applying for. Including irrelevant information, such as incomplete qualifications from a different industry, makes it harder for employers to quickly assess how suitable you are for the role. Make their job easier by ensuring all the information included is presented in a way that highlights just how great a fit for the role you are.

Speaking of how your information is presented, don’t underestimate the importance of how you order that information. There is no hard and fast rule that your employment history must come first. Whichever section is most relevant to the position should be listed first. For example, if you have previously worked in retail and are applying for a role in Aged Care, in which you have just completed training, then the Training section (and your relevant qualification) should be listed before your Work History.

Problem #3 – Their resume didn’t provide context

Whilst employers want to know what you have done in previous roles, it is not enough to simply list your tasks. What you really need to do is highlight the skills you demonstrated as part of that duty. So, for example, rather than stating “Completed maintenance logs” you should say something like “Accurately completed electronic maintenance logs and other related documentation for reporting purposes”. This shows that you can accurately enter data, have attention to detail, have reasonable IT skills and are experienced with reporting.

Problem #4 – Their experience was not quantified

Employers love figures when reviewing applications, it helps give them a clear idea of exactly what level of experience someone has had. For example, if an applicant simply states “Increased traffic to organisation website” the employer would immediately ask “by how much?” Was it 1%, 2%? That’s not very impressive. Over what time period? 6 months? A year? Without these details the statement means nothing.

A far better way of stating the same thing is to say “Increased traffic to organisation website by 15% over a 2 month period”. This takes the guess work out and shows the employer exactly what you have achieved.

If you have been applying for countless jobs and not getting a single call back, try these tips – I guarantee your phone will soon be ringing off the hook!

By Christina Matthews. 

If you need help updating your resume, book in for one of the Skills & Jobs Centre resume workshops in Geelong or Werribee.

Worried about gaps in your work history?

There are many reasons why someone could have gaps in their work history. They may have chosen to take time out of the workforce to raise their children. They may have needed a break to care for an ill relative or to recover from an illness themselves. They may have travelled. Or they may have been retrenched and struggled to find replacement work. These are all valid reasons, though it can be hard to know how to deal with them on your resume. The question is how to acknowledge them whilst still showing the employer you have the skills and experience to meet their needs.

Explain

Whilst the idea of just ignoring the gaps and hoping the employer won’t notice is attractive, it’s also fraught with danger. Employers will always notice them, I can guarantee it. If you don’t provide an explanation they will make assumptions about why you weren’t working during this time – usually negative ones. Luckily the majority of employers are understanding, but you do need to give them an explanation.

You don’t have to go into too much detail about what happened, a sentence or two in your cover letter or in the summary section of a resume will do. If you can alert the employer that you have had gaps in your work history, and provide a legitimate reason why, then you increase the chances of the employer understanding your situation and assessing your application fairly. 

Rearrange

Once you have explained the reason behind the gap you need to adjust the order in which the information is presented in your resume. If you haven’t been doing any casual work, whatever you are currently doing/have been doing most recently should be listed first – this may be study (including short courses), a volunteer role or anything else that is relevant to the role you are applying for (e.g. a cookery blog you have been writing if you are applying for hospitality roles).

Employers understand that gaps can happen, but they do like to see that you have been doing something whilst you have not been working.

Emphasise

The easiest way to clearly show an employer your suitability is to focus on your skills. Employers care about what you can do, they don’t care whether those skills were developed in paid employment or not. If you have most recently been volunteering treat it like a job on your resume by highlighting the skills you utilised and any achievements you had. It is the same for any training you have done. By emphasising how your skills match the employer’s needs you can make them so keen on you, they may even forget the employment gaps exist!

Written by our resume queen, Christina. If you have questions about what to include in your resume, book in to our upcoming resume workshop.

Picture credit: walkerud97CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

My journey from desperate to employed.

‘When I first visited The Skills and Jobs Centre, I had been looking for work for 8 months. I was job seeking 6 hours a day and applying for everything, jobs I was eligible for and jobs that I wasn’t eligible for. I worked at Black Salt for 6 months, over 40 hours a week, working at night and job searching during the day. I didn’t want to give up because I would hate myself and I couldn’t do it. I felt very frustrated. I thought my resume was OK and couldn’t believe it was so unfair.

I saw the Resume Workshop on Facebook on the Geelong Careers page. I had never been to anything like this, but thought I had nothing to lose. At the workshop, I was negative, ranting and I hated everything. I had been to University and had previously held a senior role but I was desperate. Robyn asked me to come in for an appointment. I thought no initially, but then what have I got to lose. I had pressure from family and so came in for a resume review.

In my first appointment, Robyn wouldn’t let me be negative and was encouraging. She gave me general advice on my resume. Robyn immediately built a rapport. Before I had my job interview at the Department of Health and Human Services, Robyn gave me tips and put me in the right head space. She said to research the company, which I did.

We went over and over the Position Description (PD) and this was the biggest thing. We highlighted words, including key words and it was someone to bounce ideas off. You think you’re doing it right, but it seems so obvious now. I was telling employers what I knew, rather than what they wanted to know.

In my job interview, I said annual report 3 times, repeating a key word. Now I know my boss only hears key words! There was a practical component to the interview, including Excel and doing Pivot tables. I had 15 minutes to complete it. After the 15 minutes, I came back and had to say I couldn’t do it. I thought I had stuffed it all up.

I went home and googled it and then drafted an email to say I could do it. I called Robyn and she said to send it. She said that job hunting is a delicate balance! They had over 100 applicants, but I got the job and they changed the role to put in more environmental management. I think my updated resume helped me to get the job and tailoring my application to the job – as soon as I did that, I got a job!

I’ve been there now for 4 or 5 months. I’m a Project Officer in the Environmental Management Unit at the Department of Health and Human Services. I am responsible for Environmental Management Systems Reporting. Also, staff engagement and staff behaviour change, including recycling, lights, energy etc. My role is 30% projects and I concentrate on renewable energy. I am working in Melbourne, so I leave at 7 am and get home at about 6.50 pm, but I am using my Bachelor of Science (Environmental) and Graduate Certificate in Applied Science in my new role.

Now I have a job, I feel like an adult. I feel like this is what I’m going to do. I’ve fluffed around for so long and now I feel like I’m on my way. I have financial security and the security of having a job. It’s great not to feel so desperate and to not have to be job searching.

The best thing I learnt from The Skills and Jobs Centre was the resume templates. I used the 2 page resume template. Also, that I needed to stop talking so much in my applications and use dot points.

The advice I would give to other job seekers is re-do your resume. You might think that it’s good, but it’s not. Also, get some assistance. Research the company. And just keep going until something happens!’ – Nat James.

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What happened when I Googled myself.

Recently I delivered a workshop on how to craft a standout resume. During the tips and hints section I stressed the need to have a professional e-mail address. It might have been hilarious when you created it but ilovegoon@gmail.com is not going to get you a lot of love from a prospective employer. Some of the attendees were doubtful that something as minor as an inappropriate e-mail address could have such impact. I assured them that many employers would immediately disregard any applications from such e-mail addresses. I myself had done so on numerous occasions when shortlisting, particularly when there are over 100 applications to get through.

“You also need to be careful about your digital footprint” I cautioned. “Employers can and will google you to see what comes up, and if they don’t like what they see there goes your chance of being shortlisted”.

 “That doesn’t really happen does it?” asked one attendee, particularly concerned about the impact her daughter’s on-line activities may have on her future employment opportunities. 

 “It certainly does” I replied. “If you’re at all concerned, just put your daughter’s name into any internet search engine and see what comes up. That is what an employer will see”.

As the group broke up about an hour later I overheard a few murmurs about “googling myself” with at least one attendee headed straight to the local library to try it out.

Later that night as I was relaxing in front of the television I thought back to that workshop and decided I should probably take my own advice. So, with a few nervous butterflies in my stomach about what I might find, I did it. I googled myself.

Here’s What I Found

My first thought when looking over the search results was “ooh, someone’s made a Wikipedia entry about me!” Alas no, it turns out that there is a very famous female cricketer with the same name.

The second result was a link to all of the Facebook profiles of people with my name. This will be a common result for anyone with a Facebook page and probably the first place an employer will look.

Completely confident that I had turned all available privacy settings on so only my Facebook “friends” could see my posts, photos and information I left it at that.

I kept scrolling, reviewing each result on the first page without success. Not one was actually about me. From an employer perspective this is good – if there isn’t a result on the first page they usually won’t look any further. However I was feeling a little miffed, there may not have been any negative results but there were no positive results either. So I searched again, this time adding my location after my name. That’s when I hit the jackpot – my LinkedIn profile came up first! This is exactly the result you want, after all LinkedIn isn’t referred to as “Facebook for work” for nothing. A prospective employer can see your experience, your qualifications and your interests all in the one place – a great way for them to determine if you would fit in to their organisation.

What About Pictures?

Luckily the first picture I saw when I adjusted my search to just images was my LinkedIn profile picture – the first result any serious professional wants to come up. And thankfully that was the only image of me that came up. No New Year’s Eve celebrations for prospective employers to pour over!

Back to Facebook

It wasn’t until the next morning that I decided it was worth having a closer look at my Facebook profile. Obviously as I was searching my own profile I would be able to see everything, which meant I couldn’t check what a prospective employer might see. So I asked a colleague who was not one of my Facebook friends to google my profile and see what came up, just to be certain. Imagine my surprise when they were able to see all of my photos and friends, although thankfully they were unable to see any of my posts. It turns out that Facebook update their privacy settings incredibly frequently, so even if you think you have made your account completely private that could change without you even knowing it. My suggestion would be to check your privacy settings every couple of months to make sure they are still as you want them.

As unfair as it might seem, in the digital age anything you put on-line is considered fair game to prospective employers. If they can find it, they will take it in to account when assessing your suitability for their organisations. So be smart, and keep things professional – or, if you simply must post those photos of you passed out in the middle of the local footy oval after celebrating a win, make sure your privacy settings are on as high as possible!

Written by our resume queen, Christina. If you need help with your online presence, book in to our upcoming workshop series.

MAKING A FRESH START…… Job Applications for Newcomers to Australia

As a skilled immigrant, migrant, refugee or asylum seeker, there are a number of mountains to climb in your new country including mastering the language, adapting to cultural differences and learning how to work and play like the “Aussies” do. So, it is no surprise that negotiating the Australian workplace and its job application processes can also be an uphill battle.

So, to put your best foot forward in relation to job applications, I have provided a few HANDY HINTS below.

BUT FIRST, to avoid disappointment, I would ask that you consider the chart below, and ensure you meet these criteria. You are applying for jobs in a competitive environment with legal and contractual laws.

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1.Stick with the same name

Sometimes when settling in a new country, you may choose to modify your name according to make it easier to pronounce for a native English speaker.

This is a personal preference but just remember that if you choose that name, it needs to be consistent across all your paperwork when applying for a position. Your email address, resume, application and interaction with all employers and services will create a relationship with you based on that name.

2. Ensure an Australian organisation has validated your qualifications.

Although you may have completed a diploma, degree or postgraduate qualification in your country it may not have the same status in Australia.

It’s important to check with the relevant organisation, university, TAFE or industry body that your skills and qualifications are looked upon with the same status.

3. Religious and spiritual beliefs

In Australia, it is an offence to discriminate against any person based on religious grounds, nor to enquire about your religious beliefs in an interview.

In a very ethnically diverse country like Australia, we respect the right of all people to practice their own religious and cultural beliefs. Consequently, we do not put our religion, God or spiritual entities on our resumes or discuss in any way at an interview.

4. Marital status

Every woman and man has equal right within the home, workplace and community in Australia, whether you are married, single, or have children. Again it is against the law to ask questions about your marital status, or not hire you because you have children or are a female. That is private information.

If you feel you need to disclose information regarding your family or children to the employer that is your choice, but do not include that information on a resume.

5. Age

Again, it is an offence in Australia to discriminate by age.

There will always be those who will judge by age, and is doesn’t matter where you come from, and what your skills are, preferences are sometimes given to a younger person or someone they wish to train. DO NOT put your age on your resume; it can influence how an employer may view you as a candidate for the position.

6. References

If most of your references come from your country of origin they must be able to be contactable, by email, phone or Skype and be able to speak conversational English. A written reference is no longer an acceptable way to validate your employment history. If you have any local or Australian people you know who can act as a reference for you, in any capacity, that is most favourable. Volunteering for an organisation can also become very useful in providing you with a referee.

7. Written and Spoken English

If you are not confident writing in the English language please, please get assistance. If you are seeking a position relevant to your industry and qualifications then maybe speak to a professional resume writer, Australian industry body or Australian colleague familiar with that industry.

Despite some immigrants having exceptional qualifications and/or conversational English, errors can be made in a resume or interview that can really jeopardise your prospects. Simple spelling or grammar mistakes may betray your talents and skills.

Get to know some locals, as well as other new immigrants who have lived here many years. They can guide you and educate you on how Australians generally live and work and can be a great helping hand. Make sure you socialise, play sport, volunteer and attend community clubs, anything to give you more exposure to the Australian way of life.

Most importantly “WELCOME”, you are taking a very important step toward your new life in Australia.

Written by Erika, our Workshop Wizard. If you are new to Australia and would like some help with understanding the local job market, please make an appointment with any of our advisors.

Planning a career change? Then you need a killer resume!

Imagine you’re a Construction Worker. You have spent the past 20 years working on construction sites in a variety of roles and want a change. You spend several months thinking about your strengths, what you want out of your next role and finally, having taken these and your financial obligations into consideration, have decided to become an Aged Carer. You complete the Certificate III in Aged Care and are ready to start applying for jobs in your new field. You quickly add your qualification to your current resume and are ready to go.

Or are you?

The answer is emphatically no – your resume needs far more of an update than just that. It may sound harsh but in the world of recruitment you are a product and your resume is the marketing tool by which you will need to convince employers to “buy” you. It needs to show employers that you are not only a perfect fit, but the only fit for their needs.

Before updating your resume you need to have a clear picture of what your “brand” is, what image you are trying to present to prospective employers. This image needs to not only be in line with the requirements of the role you are applying for but also be consistent throughout all of your application documentation.

But how do you do this?

  1. Attitude adjustment

The first thing to do is adjust your thinking about who you are and what you have to offer an employer. In the above example the Construction Worker will most likely view themselves as just that, and their focus will be on their skills and experience that are relevant to the Construction industry rather than the Aged Care industry.

  1. Skills, skills, skills

Given you are unlikely to have much practical experience in your new career you need to highlight the transferable skills you can bring to the role – i.e. those skills you have developed in one aspect of your life that are relevant to your new industry. Some examples of highly sought after transferable skills are communication, reporting, organisation, team work, accountability and attention to detail.

  1. Re-arrange

Be flexible in the order your present the information in your resume. You don’t have to list your employment history first, instead you should list whichever section is most relevant to your new career first. This may be volunteer work you have been undertaking or a qualification you have recently commenced/completed.

  1. Treat your education with respect

Speaking of qualifications, if you have undertaken training to move into a new career you can, and should, treat it the same as previous positions you have held. How? As you would list your responsibilities for that position, list the skills developed/practical experience gained during the training:

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  1. Context is your friend

When listing your employment history highlight the related duties/achievements that are most relevant to your new career. Then put them in the context of those transferable skills we discussed earlier. Identify the terminology used in your new industry and use it to replace any jargon from your old industry (e.g. if you previously worked in retail and are moving into community services you use “clients” rather than “customers”).

Remember, everything in your resume should be presented as it relates to your new industry and not your old industry.

  1. Keep it relevant

Sometimes it’s more about what you leave out of your resume than what you include. Going back to our Construction Worker, among his training he will have obtained a White Card and several licences. These have no relevance to an Aged Carer position and thus should be left off his resume.

What should be included, however, is the First Aid Certificate he completed as this is something that would of benefit to an Aged Carer.

The moral of the story? Make sure you are only including information that is relevant to the role you are applying for.

Written by our resume queen, Christina. If you are making a career change and need help with how to tailor your resume, make an appointment to see Christina or any of our helpful advisors.

Top 5 Resume Tips!

In today’s competitive job market finding a way to stand out among the scores of other candidates is getting harder, especially when some employers will spend as little as 6 seconds reviewing your application.

So how exactly do you make your resume so amazing that an employer simply can’t help but notice it? No, the answer does not involve glitter and pictures of unicorns – it’s much easier than that!

1. Tailor your resume

When reviewing resumes employers want to know one thing and one thing only – does this applicant have the skills and abilities to be successful in this role? They don’t care about where you went to high school 10 years ago, the incomplete qualification you started in a completely different field or your marital/health status.

Your job is to make sure that your resume contains only information that is relevant to the role you are applying for and is presented in a way that is clear and easy for the employer to read. The best place to start is by carefully reviewing the job ad and/or position description (if applicable). This will help you gain an understanding of exactly what the employer is looking for and which of your key skills/experiences you need to draw attention to.

2. Keep it short and sweet

The ideal length for a resume in Australia is 2 pages. If you are having trouble sticking to this length, one easy way to save space, particularly if you have a comprehensive work history, is to only go in to detail of what the role involved for positions you have held for the past 15-20 years. For roles held prior to that time frame you can simply list the position titles and employers (no dates required) under the heading “Positions held prior to (relevant year)”.

You want to ensure that the layout of your resume helps the employer find whatever information they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. To do this, make sure there is lots of white space, that your sections (e.g. Summary, Employment History) are clearly defined and that you use dot points throughout.

3. Mirror the language used in the job ad/position description

Not only will this help get your application past any Applicant Tracking System (ATS) the employer may be using, it is also an easy way to draw their attention to your suitability for the role. For example, if the job ad asks for someone with the “Ability to maintain up to date documentation” then highlight when previous roles have involved this (e.g. you may have as a responsibility “Created and maintained up to date documentation outlining the department’s Customer Service policy.”)

If the requirements of the role involve specific technical experience or software, and you have that experience, make sure you use the exact same wording in your resume as is in the job ad. There is always a risk that the person reviewing your application does not have any experience in that role and has simply been given a checklist of skills/experience to shortlist against. If, for example, you were applying for a role that involved welding, the person shortlisting may not have the technical background to understand that your experience with MMAW (manual metal arc welding) is the same as having experience with SMAW (shielded metal arc welding).

4. Always include a cover letter

I really can’t stress enough how important it is for you to include a cover letter with your resume – even if the job ad does not ask for one. Not only is this your chance to inject some personality in to your application and create a point of difference between yourself and other applicants, including a cover letter automatically makes your application stronger than those that have only submitted a resume. The cover letter offers a great opportunity to build on the information in your resume and clearly state what you have to offer that specific employer and why you want to work for them. It also offers a chance to highlight any values or community involvement you share with the employer.

5. Quantify your achievements

Which sounds more impressive – I increased traffic to our social media accounts by 68% over a 6 month period OR I increased traffic to our social media accounts? Hopefully your answer was example number 1! By providing actual figures around your achievements you paint a much more complete picture of your capabilities for the employer. You also save them wondering “well, how much did they increase traffic by? How long did this take?” Again, this is about giving the employer the information they need in the quickest and easiest way.

By creating a streamlined, easy to read resume you are making the employer’s job that much easier and increasing your chances of being invited for an interview. And that, after all, is the whole purpose of your resume – to get the opportunity to stand in front of the employer and convince them you are the best person for the role.

Written by our resume queen, Christina. If you need help with your resume, make an appointment to see Christina or any of our helpful advisors.

Why your job application is just like a cake!

Ah cake, delicious cake. Weddings, birthdays, the fact it’s 3pm on a Wednesday – any excuse will do. My personal favourite is the mini Cookies & Cream cupcake from Cupcake Central, which I used to treat myself to whenever I had a job interview (sadly, Geelong is currently lacking in the Cupcake Central department). Not only is cake a great reward that can be used to celebrate milestones throughout your job search, it is also the perfect metaphor for how you should approach your application documentation.

Resume

In this metaphor your resume is the bottom layer of the cake. Targeted to an industry (e.g. Community Services) or occupation (e.g. Youth Counsellor), your resume should outline your relevant skills, experience and training in basic, to-the-point fashion. Use dot points rather than long paragraphs to get the information across, making the document clear, concise and easy for employers to find the details they want. Your resume should provide the base of your application, painting a picture of who you are and what you have to offer.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter is the middle layer of the cake and a chance to build upon the information contained within your resume. It is here that you should be highlighting why you want to work for this particular employer, as well as going in to more detail about the skills, experience and training you have to offer that directly match the requirements of the role. It is also an opportunity for you to inject some personality into your application, making yourself memorable to the employer and not just another name on a piece of paper. Just don’t go making yourself memorable for the wrong reasons, you should be making the employer want to find out more about you, not file a restraining order against you!

Key Selection Criteria

If applicable, your responses to key selection criteria are the top layer of the cake. Not all applications will require a separate document addressing key selection criteria, but for those that do this is where you get down to the nitty gritty and provide in-depth, specific examples of situations you have been in where you have demonstrated the relevant skills the employer has indicated the role requires. Each criteria should have a separate response that is 1-3 paragraphs in length, and all should use a different example.

When putting together your application documentation don’t forget that its purpose is to get you to the next stage – an interview. This is where you will have the opportunity to elaborate even further on your suitability for the role, providing the icing on the cake. Now please excuse me while I duck out to the bakery, I’ve suddenly got a craving for a slice of cheesecake!

Written by our resume queen, Christina. Sign up for Christina’s resume workshop to find out all the resume tips and tricks.

photo credit: Vanessa via Flickr cc

Help Your Resume Score a 10/10!

Time is money, as they say in the world of business. Employers, especially those running small businesses, are finding that increasing demands on their time are leaving them with less time to spend on the recruitment process. As a result, applications are often simply glanced at when an employer is making an initial “yes/no” judgement, sometimes for no more than 6 seconds.

So how can you make sure your resume makes it into that all-important “yes” pile and receives a thorough review?

It all comes down to looks. Employers are far more likely to favour resumes that are visually pleasing over those that are messy and difficult to read, regardless of the content.

To get your resume looking so good no employer could pass it up, follow these tips and hints:

Resume Formatting Graphic

Written by our resident resume queen, Christina Matthews. Book an appointment with any of our helpful advisors for assistance with a resume or job application, or sign up for Christina’s resume workshop.

Why this robot might be reading your resume!

The fact that applying for a job is an incredibly stressful experience is something I think we can all agree on. No matter which industry you work in, whether you have been applying for jobs for years or it’s your first time, no one gets much enjoyment from having to spend hours creating a standout resume and cover letter. Which is why it’s so depressing to realise that even with the perfect resume you may not get past the first stage. Why? Let me introduce you to that invisible member of the recruitment panel, the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Before I go into too much detail, a disclaimer – not all job applications will go through an ATS. However, with a rise in on-line applications and a drop in the cost of such software, the use of an ATS by employers is becoming more and more common. With this in mind it is probably best to assume your application will be put through an ATS and to prepare your documents accordingly.

What is an ATS and how does it work?

In simple terms an ATS is a software system that is used by employers to process job applications and to manage the hiring process. It’s basically a robot that scans applications for key words and phrases identified by the employer, and then ranks those applications based on a combination of the amount of times those key words/phrases appear and the length of the applicant’s relevant experience. Only those applications that rank highest will be passed on for review by a staff member.

Flaws of an ATS and how these can affect your application

Like anything computerised, an ATS looks for exact matches and doesn’t have the human ability to identify “like for like”. For example, an employer might have identified “collaboration” as a key word but if you have used the term “team work” instead, the system will not recognise that as a match. Now, we both know that collaboration and team work are pretty much the same thing but unfortunately the ATS does not. Thus, the system can miss suitable candidates who have simply used different terminology to that which the ATS has been told to look for.

Additionally, the first thing an ATS will do prior to scanning your resume is to remove all formatting. This can cause issues if, for example, you have used a table. Rather than reading the information contained within that table from left to right, an ATS reads it vertically. This can cause the context of the information to be misinterpreted (e.g. rather than reading your qualification as “Bachelor of Engineering” the ATS might read it as “Deakin University”) or worse, lost completely.

How to make sure your application gets through to be seen by a human

As we have seen, an ATS does not read documents in the same way you and I do and thus can miss information if it is not presented in a specific way.

To ensure your documents match their formatting requirements make sure you stick to the following:

  • Save your documents using Microsoft Word – avoid PDF, RTF and JPG documents as ATS’ have difficulty reading these correctly
  • Use fonts such as Arial, Georgia, Courier or Tahoma, and always use black text. Avoid underlining lowercase words as this can impact on the legibility of some letters (such as j, y and g)
  • Don’t include headers, footers, tables, graphics, borders, symbols or shading as these will confuse the algorithms used by ATS’s to extract information
  • Stick with straightforward section titles such as Summary, Skills, Work Experience, Education and References which are easy for ATS’s to recognise
  • Include key words/phrases and qualifications which are relevant to the role. Make sure you use them in the exact same way they appear in the job ad and/or position description (if applicable) – e.g. if the wording in the job ad is “experienced in Occupational Health and Safety”, don’t write “have experience in OH&S”
  • Triple check your spelling and have a trusted friend or family member also check. If key words are incorrectly spelt then the ATS won’t be able to pick them up
  • ATS’s always look for your previous employer’s details first so when listing your work experience start with the employer’s name, then your position title and then the dates you worked in that role:
    • Barwon Health
    • Porter
    • 2012-2015

Following the above tips will help ensure your resume stands the best chance of making it through to be seen by an actual human. However, don’t forget that you do actually need to meet the requirements of the position. Peppering your application with key words might get you past the ATS but they need to be backed up by evidence of experience if you want that interview.

Written by our resident resume queen, Christina Matthews. Book an appointment with Christina for help with your job application or sign up for Christina’s resume workshop.