The first thing many jobseekers do with a new resume—whether they wrote it themselves or worked with a writer—is show it to people they know for their opinions. But who should you ask and what should you ask them?
Who should you ask for an opinion on a resume?
“I showed my resume to (my cousin who works in HR, my sister, my friend who manages a coffee shop) and they said…”
While it is a good idea to get feedback on your resume, who you ask and what you ask are important. Everyone has an opinion about your resume.
Be strategic about who you ask to review your resume. There are a couple of people you should ask for feedback.
The first is someone who knows you — and your work — well.
This might be a close friend, a spouse or significant other, or a past colleague. (Why not a current colleague? Be careful who you let know you’re looking for a new job. Some bosses presume you’ll stay with your current employer forever and may perceive it as disloyal that you’re looking. You can’t count on your current co-workers to keep your job search completely confidential.)
The second is someone who hires for jobs in your field or industry. This might be a past supervisor (perhaps someone you’re listing as a job reference). It should be someone who is currently hiring, not someone who used to hire candidates. The job search process changes rapidly, and the advice that you may get from someone who hasn’t reviewed resumes in a while might be dated. (For example, the one-page resume is no longer a big deal in the age of electronic resume submission.)
What questions should you ask?
Ask people that review your resume to answer the following three questions:
- Do you see anything I need to change or correct?
- Does this sound like me?
- Is there anything I should add?
If you’re working with a professional resume writer, he or she should be able to answer any questions you have as a result of the feedback you receive and either let you know why the resume reads the way it does, or make the change.
Beyond those changes, though, trust your resume writer. Start using the resume because real-world feedback is the best feedback there is. The job of the resume is to generate interviews. If you’re getting interviews, the resume is likely doing its job.
Remember, though, that the person involved in hiring likely sees resumes only after they have made it through their applicant tracking system (ATS) software. The challenge is to get your resume out of the ATS and into the hands of the hiring manager.
Is the company I’m applying to using ATS software?
A vast majority of large employers—and many smaller companies, too—are using ATS software to scan the large number of resumes they receive in response to their job postings. The ATS seems like a mysterious box into which our resumes go. Only about 25% of the resumes come out, according to some experts.
An ATS is a search engine of sorts. Looking for something online? Type what you’re looking for into Google, and you’ll get search results that match what you’re looking for.
That’s what ATS software does for a hiring manager. The hiring manager puts in the requirements and keywords and the software produces resumes that match the specifications. However, if your resume doesn’t include the specific keywords the hiring manager is searching for, it won’t show up in the search results, even when you are among the best qualified applicants for the job. If you’re applying to companies that use ATS software, it’s especially important to create an ATS-friendly resume.
So how do you know if the company you’re applying to uses ATS software?
The first clue is when you click the “apply now” button. If a company requires applicants to submit their resumes through an online application form (vs. sending the resume as an email), it’s likely that the company uses ATS software to process and manage those applications.
Second, look at the web address, or URL, on the application screen. Before you even click the “apply” button, you can mouseover the “apply” button and look at the URL. You may see the name of the ATS software in the URL (Jobvite, Taleo, etc.) or specific codes – numbers, categories, or locations. You may also see ATS software branding at the bottom of the company’s “Jobs” page.
Another clue is the size of the company. Larger companies — those with more than 50 employees — are most likely to use applicant tracking system software. Jobscan reports that more than 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software in their hiring. And if you’re working with a recruiting firm, be aware that the majority of recruiters—75 percent according to Capterra—use some type of recruiting software or applicant tracking system.
There is also a quick way to assess whether your resume will be readable for an ATS system. Open it in a text editor such as WordPad. An ATS will probably read it if a text editor can interpret the document properly.
Ensuring that an ATS system will read the resume is only the first step. You will still need to use your expertise in the industry and the information in the job posting to make sure the right keywords are on the resume. It’s also important to be sure your credentials match the requirements in the posting to avoid wasting your time. And keep in mind that employers and industry contacts will hold you accountable for the content of your resume, regardless of whose opinion you accepted, or who collaborated with you on resume writing. Accept the best advice you can get on content, format, and ATS compatibility, make the final decisions yourself, and then test the resume in the real world.