How to Focus Your Resume


Oct 21, 2017

A resume must be focused to get past the gatekeepers

How do I focus my resume?” is one of the main questions that career coaches get asked. Most job seekers have already heard that they must have a focused resume to get past either the software or human gatekeeper – an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) or the person tasked with screening the resumes received. What these ‘gatekeepers’ are looking for is that applicants meet most of the requirements to do the job – these will also probably be the selection criteria used at interview.

So here are some ways that you can ensure that your resume is focused on the requirements of the job.

Firstly and most importantly, read the advertisement for the position you are applying for. This will contain a job description and a section usually called ‘Required’. The ‘required’ section may be divided into ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ qualities. You need to go through that job description and required qualities and mark or highlight all the keywords used. In particular, you are looking for the keywords used to describe skills, experience and education or qualifications. You should also do this for the desirable qualities.

Type this list of keywords and keep it in front of you. These keywords must appear in your resume for it to be ‘focused’ and to get passed the gatekeeper.

Determine the more important keywords and use these in your profile / summary and in your key strengths sections. If possible, use some of the other keywords here too. When writing your experience section, use as many of the keywords as you can when describing your responsibilities. If an educational or other qualification is required, make sure you list that too. Your aim is to show that you meet at least 80% of the requirements – less than that and you probably won’t be called for interview – more than 80% almost guarantees that you will.

But what if the job wasn’t officially advertised and there isn’t a job description with requirements? This can happen when you hear about a job through networking – somebody tells you about a vacant position and asks you to send in your resume to the hiring manager. Don’t worry – you still have a couple of options.

The US Department of Labour (Labor) maintains a huge database of jobs that includes the requirements for each job. This database can be freely accessed at https://www.onetonline.org/ – just type in the job title and you will have a [usually] long list of job requirements. You will need to do some guesswork here and reduce this list to a manageable number of key requirements to work with to focus your resume.

Another option is to use the job title in a Google search and look for previous advertisements for similar jobs. You can also do this in a LinkedIn search. Use a few previous advertisements and see which are the common requirements mentioned in each. These are likely to be the key requirements for the job you are targeting too, and the keywords you need to use in your resume.

You could also use LinkedIn search to identify specific people in a similar role – you might even be lucky enough to find the previous holder of the position you are going to apply for! Look at their profiles and again note the similarities in their skills (especially the ones they have listed as key skills), experience and education / qualifications. Again, these are likely to be the key requirements for those positions that must be used as keywords to focus your resume.

Focusing your resume in this way with keywords that reflect the key requirements of your targeted job should ensure that you get more interviews.

  About The Author  

Nigel has vast experience in Training & Development, Facilitation, Lecturing, General Management and Operations. In addition to an educational background in philosophy, psychology, theology and communications, he has advanced qualifications in business, adult education and coaching.

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