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Nothing is more frustrating than applying to jobs in this day and age. Hours lost scouring job boards for positions, submitting endless numbers of cover letters and resumes into the universe hoping your materials will stand out from the hundreds of others. The applicant-tracking systems (ATS) that HR departments use can be the ultimate black hole. Your job application is sucked up into oblivion, unless your kick-ass credentials are formatted to a robot’s liking. Increase your odds of your resume landing in the lap of a real human being with this little-known resume hack that recruiters don’t want you to know about.
Cover the Basics First… Have a Solid Resume!
No amount of “hacking” is going to get you a job you are unqualified for. If you’re looking for that type of cheat, you’re out of luck. When your resume makes it past ATS and into the hands of a recruiter, you need to be certain that it is the best that it can be. I have read a lot of job-hunting resources in my day (graduating in a field that starts to nosedive during the recession has that effect, I suppose), and by far some of the best general tips for sprucing up my job materials were from Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? by Ellen Gordon Reeves.
This was my bible as a recent college grad. It’s a quick (and cheap!) read filled with tips for flushing out your resume, including resume formatting with examples, guidance on what and what not to include, and loads of additional information. Check the book out on Amazon, because to this day I still use it when friends and family reach out about preparing for the job hunt, interviews or even asking for a raise.
Avoid at All Costs
I’ve worked on a number of search committees, and there are certain red flags that will land your resume straight in the trash if found. Avoid these common errors at all costs:
- Mizzpellings! It goes without saying that misspelling the name of your prospective employer, supervisor or HR rep earns your application a one-way ticket to the shredder. Know that it can go beyond that. Misspellings are an indication to recruiters that you are careless and didn’t even take the time to have someone look over your materials. Odds are, you’re not too interested in their job if that’s the case.
- Not referencing the qualifications and experience recruiters are looking for. Again, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. Nine times out of ten the criteria for vetting applicants is built right from the job description. I’ve seen countless applicants eliminated because they forgot to reference their experience with something listed directly in the job description. The assumption is you don’t have the experience if it’s not in black and white.
Be one of the firsts to apply for the job. The hope is that an employer will look over every application that makes it past ATS with the same amount of energy. We all know that’s just not true. If HR’s software has picked out 30 applicants for recruiters to review, the ones closest to the top of the pile are those who applied first and get a fresh set of eyes. Resume-reading fatigue is real! By the 30th application, recruiters are tired and have 29 other applications to compare yours to. Give yourself the edge by applying as soon as possible.
The Ultimate Resume Hack
“Enough about the basics,” you say. “Give me what I came here for!” Your wish is my command. Here is how to prime your resume with a hidden footer that will increase your odds of getting past the ATS bots.
The logic here is that applicant-tracking systems are scanning resumes looking for certain key words. By creating a hidden footer with the top 100 resume action words, your resume is more likely to make its way through the process into a recruiter’s hands.
How to Add a Hidden Footer with Resume Buzzwords
1) Find the top 100 resume action words. If you’re truly dedicated to the hack, you can research the top resume buzzwords specific to your career field, but I’ve found that general action words work just fine. I’ve done the work for you and compiled a list of 100 action words. Click here to download the list as a PDF.
2) Copy the list and paste to the footer of your resume. In most word processors you can double-click the footer area and it should open up. Paste the action words there. This step will throw off your resume and make it look a little wonky. Make sure to complete the last step!
3) Make the header invisible to the human eye. Minimize the size of the font (I chose 2-pt font). If you’re working with a traditional resume, odds are the background is white. Your action words’ font color should be white to “disappear” into the background. For the fancier folks, make sure the text matches the background color exactly.
And that’s it folks! This little-know trick has helped me and loads of people I know make it to phone interviews at the very least. Resume buzzwords are the key to success.
If you’re concerned about the rest of your job materials or your interview skills, make sure to pick up a copy of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?