How To Write A Competitive Resume In 2021

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Here’s what you need to know to make your resume stand out in 2021.

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Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’ve been on the job search for a while. You’ve been coming across a lot of listings that you are interested in. You know that you have qualifications and the right profile for these jobs, but you’re just not getting any follow-through or calls back. 

The problem here could very well be in your resume. You may be exactly right that you’re a good fit for the potential jobs to which you are applying, but you may not be nailing your resume.

You may think creating an effective resume is as simple as hitting the marks with your relevant experience. Think again.

You may imagine a benevolent hiring manager leaning back in their chair with a printed copy of your resume, smiling and circling relevant details. In fact, your resume is more likely to meet the cold, unfeeling algorithm of an AI before it ever makes it to a human. In fact, only around 25% of resumes ever make it through the algorithm to a HR professional. 

The good news is that, these days, there are so many amazing resources to help you write a killer resume that is certain to hit the mark when it comes to beating the algorithms and setting you up for job-seeking success.

Here is what you need to know about writing an effective resume, as well as some of the best online tools to get the job done. 

What is an ATS?

The first thing to keep in mind about navigating resume-writing in 2021 is that before your resume ever gets in front of a recruiter or a hiring manager, you’re likely to have to pass through an ATS.

So, what is an ATS? I’m sure if you’ve been navigating the online job search, you’ve seen this term floating around. 

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. An Applicant Tracking System is a software program utilized by hiring professionals to streamline the process of screening candidates. 

Sometimes referred to as a talent management system, ATS software programs handle many aspects of the hiring process from using algorithms to sort applications and resumes to collecting information and scheduling interviews. These days, 90% of companies are using ATS software in their hiring processes. 

But what does this mean for a candidate? Well, the most important feature of an ATS that job applicants must consider is the resume scanning tools. ATS systems are often the first stop for your application and resume. The ATS will scan your resume for relevant information, especially keywords, and determine whether or not to advance your application to the next phase. 

All of this can happen before your resume ever makes it to a hiring manager, meaning before you can even be considered, you have to beat the algorithm. 

Before I jump into some of the great online resources available to help you write an ATS-compatible resume, let’s start with some of the basic boxes to check to make sure that your resume is up to snuff.

A recent study by Cultivated Culture analyzed over 125,000 resumes in hopes of determining the most important aspects of an effective resume.  Here are some great takeaways, as well as some tips I’ve learned by guiding my clients through generating resumes that will play nice with an ATS:

  • Keywords are key: When it comes to ATS, keywords are the name of the game. ATS will usually compare your resume against a job description in order to determine how well you meet the criteria for certain positions. The Cultivate Culture study found that the average resume only utilized 51% of relevant keywords. Scan job descriptions to make sure that you are hitting keywords in the description in your resume. 
  • Include your LinkedIn profile in your resume. Many people don’t think to include their LinkedIn profile link in their resume. In fact, only 48% of resumes reference a LinkedIn profile. Including your LinkedIn profile has been shown to boost your chances of landing an interview.
  • Don’t get too wordy. A lot of people exceed the ideal word length for their resume, which research shows to be between 475–600. Data shows that resumes over 600 words are 43% less hireable. And yet 77% of resumes are outside the ideal range. So, when it comes to word length, sometimes less is more. 
  • Formatting and word choice matter. You may be tempted to show off your InDesign skills or your English-major vocabulary, but when it comes to creating a resume that will pass the ATS test, simplicity is your friend. Simple formatting and headers such as “skills” and “experience” will help to ensure that your resume is processed right. The Muse offers some more helpful tips on formatting.

With all this in mind as you embark on writing your new resume, here are some great online tools that will help you put your best foot forward in the first steps of the hiring process.

ResyMatch.io

ResyMatch is an awesome free service created by Cultivated Culture. I love the simplicity of its functions. 

You upload or paste your resume on one side of the page, and input the job descriptions and simple metrics on the other side. It’s as simple as that. 

From there, ResyMatch uses technology very similar to an ATS system that would represent the first step of your resume’s journey to the eyes of a hiring manager. 

From there, ResyMatch will generate a score based on how closely your resume matches up to the job description. You also get a breakdown of areas that you could improve your resume to better align with the job description. 

The best part: ResyMatch is truly free. You’ll never have to set a reminder to cancel after your first free month. For a great free software that is simple and intuitive, ResyMatch gets my vote. 

Jobscan

If you’re looking for a resume scanner that boasts some more robust features, Jobscan is an excellent tool. 

Similar to ResyMatch, Jobscan can help you analyze your resume alongside a job description, and assess areas for improvement, including in-depth breakdowns of how the skills on your resume match the skills posted in a job description. 

But the Jobscan features go above and beyond. Not all ATS software is created equal, nor will they necessarily behave the same way. Jobscan has data on which ATS software companies are using, and can provide specific tips for how to best align your resume for a certain company’s hiring software, including the majority of Fortune 500 companies!

Jobscan is also a great place to organize your job search, by allowing you to keep track of jobs you’ve applied for, and create data based on how your job search is going. 

The list of excellent Jobscan features for your job search goes on and on. They have excellent resume templates, really great cover letter writing features, and even tools to help you optimize your LinkedIn profile. 

Overall, Jobscan is an excellent choice as a one-stop-shop for streamlining your resume building, job search and application process.

JobSeer

If you’re looking for an excellent tool to help compare your resume in real time as you are going about your job search, JobSeer is one of my recent favorite tools. 

One of the reasons I love JobSeer is that it works as a browser extension for Chrome, thereby allowing you to integrate it into your existing workflow when it comes to job searching on your favorite career platforms. 

Here’s how it works: you create a profile on your new JobSeer account, and upload your resume. Then you can head to your favorite place to look for jobs, and open the JobSeer extension. 

To start a search, you will input some of your desired job titles, your skills, location, and other metrics related to potential job listings. Once you’ve inputted this information, JobSeer will conduct a scan of job listings and provide a customized search based on your individual metrics. 

Here’s where it gets interesting: for each of the jobs in a given search, JobSeer will provide you with a score based on how well your resume matches a certain job listing, including a breakdown of which skills you have listed on your resume are relevant for a certain job, and which skills are missing. 

This data gives you the opportunity to see exactly what matches and doesn’t match about your resume, helping you to create a resume that is a better fit for a given job description by adding the skills you might be missing to your resume—provided that you really have those skills of course!

JobSeer also offers other amazing features, such as an estimated salary generator, and up to five free email addresses per day related to your job search to help you connect with potential recruiters or even other employees with whom you might have a connection. JobSeer even offers a “company insights” section, which gives you data based on a company’s size, revenue and other relevant information. 

I love this program, because it offers such functionality, while still allowing a user to navigate their job search on their favorite platforms such as Indeed, LinkedIn or Google.

One downside of the program is that it is designed to work only with the Google Chrome browser. So if you are a Safari or Firefox loyalist, you may have to cave and download Chrome. All in all, though, I think it’s a small price to pay for such excellent job search and resume-writing functionality.

In many ways, the advent of online job searches has made life for job seekers and recruiters alike more streamlined. However, it can also be very intimidating, especially when you consider all the ways in which AI-based recruiting tools such as ATSs can trip up your job search.

But fear not, with a good understanding of how these systems work, and a little help from some of the many excellent online resume and job seeking tools, your resume writing and online job search can be more informed and targeted than ever before.

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