With the advent of automated hiring practices and the proliferation of LinkedIn, the role of the traditional resume has become a hotly disputed topic among career advisors in recent years. Are resumes an outdated, insufficient relic from a simpler time? Or are they an unequivocal necessity that still does most of the heavy lifting in any job search? Like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
For women returning to work after a career pause, however, we have found that a strong, modern resume—one that can stand up to the constantly shifting maze of today’s hiring practices—is absolutely essential.
Before you dust off that decades-old version, it’s important to understand the many pitfalls that can unknowingly kill your job search before you even hit ‘submit.’
Here’s how to avoid the all-too-real resume black hole that exists in today’s market.
Keywords, keywords, keywords! Hiring managers from companies of all sizes are increasingly using online filters, known affectionately as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These automated hiring bots are estimated to filter out almost 75 percent of candidates, often due to poor keywording, according to Stephanie Smith co-founder of Career Muse. To increase the chances that an actual human sees your resume, read job descriptions—lots of them, even ones you are not applying for—to identify those industry and job-specific keywords that keep appearing in similar postings.
Mind the gap. If you have a gap in your resume, don’t sweat it. But also don’t ignore it. Recruiters understand that people step out of the workforce, but don’t make them guess about what you were doing. Chances are you gained some very real and very marketable skills during that period. Make sure your resume reflects that.
Focus on measurable achievements, not a list of responsibilities. Wherever possible, quantify and be specific about your achievements with metrics and data points. How many people did you manage? How much money did you save or gain? If you worked for a small company or with a small budget, use percentages rather than hard numbers to show impact.
One size does not fit all. Start by creating a longer master resume with the full scope of your achievements, skills and keywords. And then use that to create tailored versions for each position you apply to. Submitted resumes should never exceed two pages.
Don’t neglect the human filter. Networking is still the name of the game, particularly for women trying to get back to work. Recent research suggests that 85 percentof open positions are filled through smart, strategic networking. But even with a strong connection at your dream company, you’ll need a solid, tailored resume that both you and the person referring you can be proud of.