The recruiting and hiring process is changing dramatically. In years past, a resume was reviewed by a human and then passed along to a hiring manager. Now, during a typical job search, your resume will go through several automated screening processes before it lands on the desk of a hiring manager. These "screeners" will likely be a combination of recruiting software and recruiters who may not even have a firm knowledge of your industry. If you are a programmer, for example, you may be trying to impress a Lead Programmer with your ten-page resume of accomplishments that neither the software nor the non-IT recruiter will understand. Does this mean that you do not explain experience? Absolutely not. But it changes the way you frame your resume when compared to years past. job seekers need to SEO optimize their resumes to be noticed.
What is SEO?
Traditionally, the term SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, refers to websites. Businesses use various strategies both in the programming and on the screen to improve their ranking with search engines, especially a giant influencer like Google. A ranking determines whether a website appears on page 1 or page 21 of the search result. Have you ever visited the 21st page of a search? Me neither. Therefore, SEO is critically important for all businesses. Without it, customers cannot easily find them online.
What does SEO have to do with my resume?
You are not a business. You are a person. So why should you concern yourself with SEO? Many sources are looking for the golden resume, and they start with SEO.
1) Companies and Employment Agencies today use software called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). This unique software pre-screens thousands of people applying for a single job. From your own screen, you are blind to these searches, but this software is determining the best fit for that one position. In other words, ATS functions like Google; a computer program ranks your resume, whether fair or not. And just like Google, a human will not even see your resume unless you land on the the coveted "Page 1".
2) Websites like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and Dice that you use to enhance your job search are very similar. Employment agencies and organizations, who were just using ATS, find people based upon keywords. To recruit and hire, they search for essential skills and certifications. If the word they use in their search is not on your resume, it does not matter if you were the most qualified candidate. Why? Can’t the recruiter see that you are the perfect candidate? Unfortunately, no, because SEO cannot see you.
3) Human Recruiters review your resume after it has ranked in the ATS or a job search site. These recruiters are sifting through many resumes and looking deeper than just keywords. They are not unlike a person stumbling through websites with interesting content, reading engaging pages that prompt them to buy a promoted product or service. The recruiter needs to skim very fast in order to keep reading and eventually bring you in for an interview.
How do I SEO my resume?
I promise no programming is required. Let us look at what you need to know.
1) Know the lingo in your industry. You will need to determine the most commonly used words in your industry. Think from the perspective of the employer. What words would the employer search for right now? What are prized assets within the job role in terms of character, skill set, and education? To find big clues, thoroughly read the job description. Understand the company's brand and mission. If you tailor a resume to include the keywords that recruiters and employers are using, you are already pulling ahead of the candidate pack. It is not about being dishonest. It is about sharing your skills in the most searchable way.
2) Keep formatting really simple. ATS systems have trouble reading complex formatting. Okay, columns and bulleted lists can stay. But calm down and do not get fancy with text boxes, graphics, and formatting. The lure of creating a beautiful resume with Adobe InDesign is real. Keeping your resume in a simple text format, however, will really show off your qualifications.
3) Check your spelling. I hope that you have already heeded this advice from teachers, bosses, recruiters, and all those how-to-write-a-resume books. This is especially crucial for optimal SEO. A human can forgive the simple typo; however, search engines will be less merciful of a keyword spelled incorrectly.
4) Add long-tail keywords. Keywords can also be phrases. Adding complimentary phrases can help, and it is so, so easy. Extend “Java” to “Java Developer”.
5) Don't forget software, languages, and certifications. What do you have to offer? Listing industry software, databases or office products that you work competently with is important. If you know programming languages, have certifications, experience with certain regulations. Be sure to include these things clearly and thoroughly. They may just be the icing on the cake that makes your resume search engine optimized.
6) Engage the recruiter. You got past the ATS, very nice. Now, it is time to engage the recruiter. The most important skills relating to that position should be toward the beginning. For each job, put the most relevant skills first in the list and word them honestly, so that you sound desirable for the position.
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