Is Your Resume “System” Friendly?

Posted on: January 31, 2010

As a senior recruiter I review over a hundred resumes a week and the formats never cease to amaze me.  I mean there are hundreds of associations out there offering resume writing workshops and still I see “bad” resumes.   I am sure these associations have experienced and talented people offering resume writing techniques, however I wonder how many have incorporated the “system” touch into their training.    

So, today I am joining in and dedicating this article to individuals who are in-between successes in hopes it will help them review their resume; and apply the necessary modifications to make their resume more “system” friendly.

1.   If you are new to Canada, please don’t attach a picture to your resume.  I know it may be acceptable in your home country but in North America, sad but true, it can be used against you.   In addition, some pics distort the entire format when being uploaded.

2.   Please do not use graphics on your resume, no tables or borders.  Why, because most companies upload resumes to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and graphics, tables and borders do not upload correctly.  If you have a border, it will tuncate the text.  Tables will be distorted which makes the data hard to read.  If the recruiter has to fight to read the resume odds are they will “close” it and “click” on to the next resume.

3.   Please don’t send your resume in PDF format.  Again, most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are build to work with MSWord.  When a PDF is uploaded the recruiter is not able to open it until they save a copy on their desktop.  Personally, when this happens to me, I skip the resume and come back to it after viewing the other resumes.   If the candidate has awesome skills then I will take the extra steps and save the resume as a Word document.   The easier it is for the recruiter to read your resume the better for you – not all recruiters will take the “extra steps” to review your resume.

4.    Keep the formatting as simple as possible.  Don’t get fancy with the font size, style, bold and italics.  If a recruiter has to copy your resume into a template to forward it on to a client or hiring manger and formatting becomes a problem it delays the entire process.   If the recruiter is sending 4-5 resumes for review and your resume is presenting formatting problems, odds are your resume will not be sent.   Again, don’t give the recruiter a reason to skip over your resume.

5.   Please don’t use the Header function to insert your name, address, phone number and email address.  Why? because when it is uploaded the header does not appear, so the recruiter clicks on the document and sees the resume without any contact information.

6.    A resume should be no longer than 3 pages.   Don’t send resumes that are 5, 6, 7 pages long.   Highlight your key competencies, at eye level, on the first page of your resume.  Then present your accomplishments, achievements and education in either a chronological,  functional or combination resume format.   Get to the point quickly and capture the recruiters interest up-front. 

7.    Be careful not to paint yourself into a corner with your resume.  Use of an “Objective” can do just that.   If your objective is to obtain a “Sales Manager” position yet you have keen business development and analytic skills, your resume may be overlooked if there is not a  specific”Sales Manager” position available.   “Objectives” may be acceptable for students applying for Co-op or for the person who will only accept one type of job.  For the most part “objectives” screen you out of the process very quickly – better to be safe – leave it off the resume and replace it with a Skills Highlight or Core Competencies section.

So now you have the inside scoop (from the eyes of a recruiter).  I hope it motivates you to take another look at your resume.  There is no such a thing as a “perfect” resume but I am here to tell you that in this day and age your resume must be “PC” and “system” friendly or there is a good chance it will not be reviewed or get the recognition it deserves.

Lee Koren is certified as a Professional in Human Resources and has extensive international experience in recruitment, selection strategy and Applicant Tracking Systems.


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