When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me, “If you do what others won’t, you will have what others don’t.”
She didn’t coin the phrase. It’s one of those motivational phrases that’s been around awhile. It’s a reminder that if you spend a little more time, or focus your energy more, or do the unpleasant work no one really wants to do, you’ll prosper.
Every time I write a resume, I tailor it for the type of job my client is seeking. This strategy, proven to work effectively with both human eyeballs and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), looks like this: I study job ads provided by my client, identify common themes, create a list of keywords and skills based on those job ads, and write the resume accordingly. This resume—assuming the client applies for jobs similar to the job ads that he or she provided up front—will perform very well with an ATS.
But there may be times when you want to do more. Maybe you find a job ad for your perfect job at your dream company. This is your one shot to break through the ATS and you want to “do what others won’t” to increase your odds of landing the interview. Here’s how to laser-focus your resume toward a specific job opening.
How to Laser-Focus for One Job
If you don’t already know about Jobscan, you should. Jobscan is a five-year-old, Seattle-based company that promises to fine-tune your resume to help you break through the ATS and put your resume in front of a real person.
According to Jobscan, 90 percent of large companies are now using ATS to qualify candidates. Jobscan exists not to scam the system but to make the hiring process easier and more accurate for employers, recruiters, and job seekers.
If you are willing to more closely align the keywords in your resume for the specific ad for which you’re planning to apply, consider Jobscan your tool to do that. You’ll be letting its software run your resume against the actual job you want.
After you see how you rank in the eyes of ATS—what your score is—you can tweak your resume’s content by incorporating more of the specific verbiage from the job ad. Don’t be discouraged if your initial score is low. It’s not difficult to laser-focus your resume for the job you want and bump your score way up.
Jobscan’s algorithms match the most common ATS algorithms to calculate your job fit. These algorithms are based not only on job title but education and skills as well.
After some light editing, you’ll run your resume again and see if you bumped up your score. To get a higher score or “match,” you want the resume content to be phrased exactly the way the job description is written. A score of 85 is considered good, so aim for that before you submit your resume.
Tips on Using Jobscan
If the position calls for “CRM software,” for example, use those exact words. If you list “Salesforce,” an ATS will not recognize that as a match. If the position calls for “project management software,” use that exact phrase.
When it comes to acronyms, you can include both the spelled-out version and the shortened one. Or, you can just use the version that appears in the job ad. If the ad has “MBA,” use that version. If the ad has “Master of Business Administration,” use that version.
Pay attention to how a company spells words that might be hyphenated, capitalized, or abbreviated. Is it nonprofit or non-profit? Three years of experience or 3 years of experience?
Look for any way you can tweak your resume’s wording to create matches. For example, you could change “training workshops” to “training sessions” if the job ad uses that phrase. If your job title is “Project Coordinator” but the job you’re applying for wants a “project manager,” work that phrase in somehow. While you can’t change your job title on your resume, you could, for example, state that you “work with other project managers across the organization.” Be creative and work exact keywords and key phrases into your resume whenever possible.
It would be time-consuming and tedious to tailor your resume in this way every time you apply for a job, but going the extra mile for that special opportunity with your ideal employer might be a strategy to consider. Going above and beyond—doing what others won’t—will make a difference.