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Avoiding the Resume Black Hole
One of the most frustrating parts of a job search is submitting your resume to job after job and never receiving a response; sometimes not even a notification that you weren’t selected. Where do all those cover letters and resumes end up? I submit to you; the proverbial resume “Black Hole”. It is, quite possibly, the same place where all those missing socks have disappeared to.
As mystifying as it sounds, the “Black Hole” can actually be explained quite easily. Employers are inundated daily with an extremely large volume of resumes. To help manage that volume, the resumes are digitized and parsed into keyword-searchable databases. Companies then use software to search those databases for specific keywords that relate to the job openings.
The results of those keyword searches may also be ranked based on the number of keywords or on the weighted value of certain keywords. Many employers also search the databases of third-party job-posting and resume-posting boards on the Internet utilizing keyword searches.
These searches; either within the employer’s internal resume database or on the 3rd party job boards, could be automated (i.e. the search software automatically filters through the resumes) or they could be conducted by a Recruiter or Hiring Manager. Either way, keywords are the common denominator in this equation.
Pat Kendall, president of the National Resume Writers’ Association, notes that more than 80 percent of resumes are searched for job-specific keywords. Resumes will NOT show up in a search if they do not have the exact words or phrases that the Recruiter or Hiring Manager is searching for. Keywords represent the knowledge, skills abilities and experience the employer is looking for in a candidate.
This can mean “hard” skills (job/profession/industry-specific), technical terms (i.e. hardware or software programs or languages), job titles, certifications, industry specific awards, acronyms or lingo, professional organizations, types of degrees, names of colleges and company names.
The most effective way to determine which keywords an employer is searching for is to review the job posting for the job description and the required/desired skills. The next step would be to add those specific phrases and keywords to your resume and cover letter.
Be cautious not to inflate any experience just to ensure that your resume appears in search results. If you don’t have the experience, don’t include it. But, if the keywords in the job description are things you have experience with, but they are just stated in a different way; don’t hesitate to emulate that verbiage on your resume.
One caveat to that; if an ad mentions a keyword for which you don’t have the associated expertise, but you still want to be considered, you can use the keyword in your objective statement or in your cover letter to indicate that these skills are areas of interest or that you want to be using that experience in your next role.
A “general” resume that does not use job-specific keywords is simply not competitive and is likely doomed for the “Black Hole”. This means that you will need to create a specific resume and cover letter for every job you apply for. This does not mean that you need to overhaul your resume every time you are applying to a new position.
The most practical method is to modify certain elements; such as your objective or summary statement or the description of some of your responsibilities in the work experience section.
Now that you know more about utilizing keywords for your resume (or for this version of your resume), put them to use. Creating unique resumes for each position you apply for is certainly more time consuming, but in today’s competitive job market it is imperative that you do everything you can to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job.
Rachael Del Pino
Rachael Del Pino has significant experience in recruiting and talent management for Fortune 100 companies, as well as a master’s degree in Management with an HR concentration from the University of Central Florida. She also owns Accendo Careers, a career development and coaching company. She has an innate passion for helping people reach their highest career potential.