I see a lot of resumes that look good, have the right keywords, but they still aren’t landing interviews. While it’s critical to identify your skills on your resume and include important keywords, you have to take it one step further – you have to sell your skills. And you sell your skills by providing evidence. There is a tendency to state what your skills are without providing any evidence that you actually have them. Having the right keywords is the first step, but you have to demonstrate how you have used and proven those skills.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re the hiring manager, and you have, a resume from Applicant 1. And it says she has “Strong written and verbal communication skills.” You may think, ok, that’s a skill I’m looking for…maybe she is a good communicator, maybe she isn’t. But then you have Applicant 2’s resume that says that she has “excellent written and verbal communication skills demonstrated in presentations made to various classes and student groups in her work with the student government.” Who do you believe more? Who do you believe at this point is more qualified? Who do you want to learn more about? Of course, Applicant 2. Why? Because she gave you evidence of her skills. Providing evidence gives context and makes it more believable.
Your resume needs to include skills AND evidence. You can’t wait for the interview to provide the evidence. You have to provide that up front.
But how does this work with applicant tracking systems or “robots”? Many businesses are using software systems to make the initial cut of applicants. On average, job postings get 250 applicants, so hiring managers have to have a quick way to decrease the pool. Among Fortune 500 companies, it’s estimated that 98% are using these kinds of applicant tracking systems. For other large businesses, it’s estimated around 66%, and for small businesses around 35%. So you’re more likely to get your resume in front of a person first if you’re applying at smaller organizations. But it’s still highly likely that your resume will see a robot before it sees a person. And the number of companies using these systems is only going to grow. Especially in a competitive job market where they’re going to see even more applicants per job.
Listing skills and keywords on your resume can get you past the robots. But people want to see the evidence more than robots do. So once you make it through the applicant tracking system, it becomes even more critical that you have demonstrated that you actually have the skills you say you do.
Also, just because your resume is read by a person, doesn’t mean they’re going to read the whole thing or spend more than 30 seconds on it. Around 40% of HR managers spend less than a minute initially looking at a resume. 20% spend less than 30 seconds.
It has to be crystal clear that you meet the qualifications and you have to give them a reason to want to know more. The more story and context you give them, the more they want to know. This isn’t about withholding information to peak their curiosity. It’s the opposite, given them more, and then they’ll want more and invite you for an interview.
But keep in mind, that it’s not just about beating the bots and getting past that first 30 seconds. 75% of HR managers reported that they caught people lying on their resume. Your resume has to represent you. Now I don’t think many people are out there making up stories on their resumes. But I do think people sometimes get some bad advice and feel like they have to do what it takes to get their foot in the door. There’s pressure to compete and pressure to beat the robots. I’ve noticed a concerning trend online. I keep seeing things about “10 words your resume must include” and “top phrases to put on your resume.” NONE of them should be on your resume if they aren’t true and accurate. So stay away from any of that kind of resume advice. You can compete and you can beat the bots by being intentional and clear on your resume. Focus on YOUR skills and evidence of them, and on what the job requires.
If you’re stuck on how to identify your skills and evidence of them, check out the Successfully Hired program. Module 2 includes four tools to help you extract your skills and evidence from your experience, and the rest of the course teaches you exactly how to sell them.