Have you ever applied to dozens of jobs online, only to hear nothing back, not even a whisper of interest? You’re not alone. Job seekers often compare applying to jobs online to throwing their resume into a black hole. Turns out that’s not too far from the truth. Only about 2% of candidates who apply for a job go on to secure an interview. For those of you who aren’t so great at math, that means only about 1 in 50 job applicants lands an interview! Before you get too depressed at that statistic, there’s good news: there are things you can do to beat the odds. Are you making any of the resume mistakes below?
you didn’t include any keywords
Keywords are phrases that you want to be associated with, professionally. Automated screening tools are used to search the text in your resume to identify these words and select you as a possible match for the job that the recruiter is trying to fill. Skills and software that you use at work make great keywords. The more frequently you repeat each keyword in your resume, the better, as more repetition equals a stronger match. However don’t go overboard. Your resume should still be readable and professional so when a human reads your resume it makes sense. Finding the right balance is crucial, as you often need to get past the initial screening before a person will even see your resume. A resume with no keywords can land in the ‘no’ pile even if you’re perfect for the role. However, you still need an engaging resume that will appeal to a hiring manager after it passes the initial screening.
it can’t be read by resume screening tools
It might not seem fair that your resume could get weeded out just because you saved it in the wrong format, but we live in a world where technology is an important consideration. And in the world of recruiting, applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by some companies to pre-screen resumes and search for specific keywords. This is intended to narrow down the amount of resumes recruiters end up reading and save time. Sometimes that means your resume can get cut, even if you’re perfect for the job. Make sure that your resume is saved as a Word document or a text-readable PDF. You do not want a resume that’s a flat image, for instance a jpg or a print-only PDF, because text can’t be parsed on those types of documents.
the design you chose is off-putting
If your resume looks like it belongs to a cartoon character, you might be running into some resistance from recruiters. Avoid resumes with sparkles, scents, too many fonts or colours, or any other over-the-top design elements. Creative designs can be a mark in the positive column and make your resume stand out, but there’s a caveat: you have to know what you’re doing. Overzealous resume designs can backfire and put you out of the running for a job before a recruiter even reads your resume. When in doubt stick to a simple design, or better yet download a template. There are tons of professional but creative options available online for free.
it has glaring typos
In the era of spellcheck, there’s absolutely no excuse for not thoroughly reading and editing your resume. Typos look unprofessional, sloppy and, if they’re really obvious, indicate you haven’t read your own resume thoroughly. Run any text you plan to put on your resume through Word or a tool with spellcheck. If nothing else, there’s always Google. A quick search will turn up plenty of free spellcheck tools to help you clean up your resume. And while you're at it, why not check out our guide on editing your resume like a professional proofreader? Being extra careful never hurts.
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it’s too long or too short
Yes, there’s a happy medium that recruiters look for in resume length. Somewhere in the 1-2 page range is usually safe. Using only half of a page says you don’t have any brag-worthy credentials to share or simply didn’t care enough to write a detailed account of your work history. Taking up 3-4 pages indicates that you have no filter and don’t possess the very important skill of being able to edit yourself and zero in on your most important skills. Some people will tell you that a single-page resume is the best option, but most recruiters won’t disregard a resume that’s 2 pages.
it doesn’t match the job description
Any recruiter will tell you that a resume that closely mirrors the job description will be more successful. Too many people go for quantity over quality, using a single resume to apply to hundreds of jobs, hoping that a few will stick. Instead of wasting your time applying to countless jobs you aren’t really sure if you want (or perhaps haven’t even read!) spend a little more time on applications for jobs you actually want. Seek out roles you’re excited about that correlate with your skills and job expectations. Then take a little time to ensure your resume is tailored to reflect the skills and requirements in the job description. Hiring managers usually include their wishlist of ideal skills and qualifications in the job description (they don’t always expect candidates to have them all!) so if you can show that you have a lot of these ideal qualities you can position yourself as a shoo-in for the role.
it doesn’t stand out
The average job posted online receives over 100 applications. That’s a lot of other people to be competing with! If your resume blends into the pack and looks like the other 99 applications that the recruiter received, there’s a good chance that your resume is going to end up being passed over. Make sure that your resume has a little of your personality in it. We’re not saying you have to go overboard with crazy colours and fonts (please don’t!) to draw attention, but a tastefully unique design, or a splash of personality or humour can go a long way to making your resume a little bit different than the norm. This is especially true if you’re working in a creative field. When you’re competing with so many other people, as is the case with online job applications, drawing a little attention is crucial. Just ensure that once you’ve got a recruiter’s attention that you follow through with a well-executed resume that includes all the necessary info.
you’re not telling a story
People love stories. Consider social media. Check out your feed and I’m sure you’ll find a few heartwarming stories about pets or people helping others that have an outrageous number of shares and likes. Stories appeal to our emotions, tug on our heartstrings and paint a picture. The same is true of your resume. We’re often taught that our resumes should be a strictly professional document with zero personality or charm. That kind of thinking is outdated. It’s unique resumes that tell a story and paint a picture of where your career has taken you (and where you plan to go next) that stand out and make you an impressive candidate. People aren’t a series of qualifications and skills. Tell your career story, and it’ll transform a bland list of skills into a story that hiring managers can relate to. We’re not advocating swapping out your resume for a short story about your life, but do make sure to include a professional summary or statement that talks about your career path in your own words!
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Once you fix up your resume with the tips above, test out your shiny new resume by applying to jobs in your field. If you’re still having trouble finding a job through online applications, why not connect with one of our recruiters at a branch near you? Our job is to help bring the opportunities to you, and our services are 100% free.