You came to university, worked like crazy, deprived yourself of sleep, dried up your bank account and now you want a job. Not just any job. The job. One that challenges you, satisfies you, makes a difference in the world and pays the bills. The stakes are high and the job hunt isn’t always fun, nor is it easy, but good advice goes a long way to give you an advantage.

One important factor, especially in this digital, paper-free society, is to know how to craft a proper resumé. Yes, we have moved on from newspaper ads and letters in the mail, with recruiters now using LinkedIn, Twitter and online job boards to find their ideal candidate, but the majority of recruiters will still ask you for a resumé.

This move to e-recruiting has created somewhat of an obstacle for the traditional job hunter, however. Have you ever submitted numerous resumés to online job postings only to hear nothing back except the automated ‘Thank You for your Application’ email? Do you feel like your application is going into a resumé black hole, never to be looked at by human eyes? You’re probably right.

Wise words

HR robots, or “Applicant Tracking Systems,” are indeed now used by both small and large organizations to filter out applicants whose resumés do not match a specified percentage of the key words identified by the employer. This is especially true for graduate, entry-level positions with reports suggesting that up to 75% of applications are automatically rejected. So, step one to keeping the HR robot happy is to make sure your resumé includes key words from the specific job description.

But that’s not all.

Can you read this sentence? What about this one? I can, you can, but the HR robot can’t. If you underline a word on your resumé, the system can’t read it; it may as well not be there. The same goes for anything in italics, in a table, diagram or a header or footer.

Five rules for formatting

Here are my top tips to create an ATS friendly resumé:

  1. Do not use headers (even for contact information), footers, templates, graphs, charts, accents, shading, underlining or italics.
  2. You can still use bold, capitals, bullet points and some colour (although keep it minimal and professional).
  3. Place dates for education and employment at the right hand side of the document.
  4. Customise each resumé (time consuming, but worth it) for the specific position, using language from the job description.
  5. Edit carefully. The ATS will not recognize misspelled words.

Don’t forget the people

After all that, you also need to remember that your resumé also has to be suitable for human evaluation! Don’t be tempted to include key words from the job description that you don’t actually possess, or create a completely stripped down text format document. If you survive the HR Robot, it will next be reviewed by a HR professional so must be visually appealing and error free.

I did say it wasn’t going to be easy. But help is on hand! Student Employment Services will be offering four career management workshops this term, starting with Resumes: Get into the ‘Yes’ Pile on Tuesday, January 27, Noon – 1 p.m. in Library building, room LB214. Join the event at or email me at to register.

More Career Management Workshops – Spring 2015

Writing a Winning Cover Letter Don’t forget the cover letter! Over 40 per cent of recruiters believe that cover letters are just as important as resumés. This workshop will help you to create an attention-grabbing cover letter that supports your resumé. Tuesday February 17, Noon – 1 p.m., Library building, room LB214.

Job Search Strategies: Going Beyond Job Boards — More than 80 per cent of available jobs are not advertised. This workshop will provide you with useful information and advice on how to access this hidden job market and land your perfect job. Tuesday, March 3, Noon – 1 p.m., Library building, room LB214.

Interviewing 101 — Interviews can be daunting, but preparation is key. This workshop will provide you with information on how to give the best first impression. What should you do before the interview? What should you wear? How do you answer their questions? Do you ask questions? Come find out! Tuesday, March 17, Noon – 1 p.m., Library building, room LB214.

I am also available to meet one-on-one to assist with your job search including resumé and cover letter preparation, networking and interviewing skills. Email or drop by the Birch building, room 270C for an appointment.

Submitted by Eilidh Sligo, Student Employment Services