The Future is Now: How to Build a Resume for the Digital Age

Have you ever applied to a job on a big job site, like Indeed or ZipRecruiter? Did you ever wonder what happens after you press that magic button? Does anyone even get your information?? In the end, the answer is yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Modern technology has transformed job-seeking into more and more of a consumer experience – you can find and apply to a job in roughly the same amount of time it takes you to order a Lyft. In the same way, so too has the recruiting frontier been enhanced into a consumer experience – a recruiter can run a search, adjust some filters, and find great potential candidates for their job in mere moments.

Let me walk you through this. You hit the big shiny APPLY NOW button on that website, what’s next? Well, remember that profile you built with your name and contact information, and the area where you attached your resume? If the place you applied to is a high-volume recruitment operation (i.e., a staffing agency, or a large company that hires frequently), it’s more than likely that the information you’ve entered all gets sent to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that makes a file for you where your information is stored. Then that precious resume is sent through a digital tool called a parser that scans your document and interprets the juicy details. You and your resume become a set of keywords and phrases that can be used in a search!

While it sounds barbaric and insensitive, it’s really very efficient – step into a recruiter’s shoes for a moment and imagine that you posted a job and received 400 applications in one day. How are you going to comb through all of those one by one and find the right person before they’ve taken another job? The answer is simple: you can’t, and that is why technology has stepped up to shoulder that responsibility in milliseconds. It’s only fair, after all, technology is what put is in this predicament in the first place ????

So, with the digital world blossoming all around us, how do job seekers tailor their resumes to better suit the needs of the future? Here are some of my best pointers for building a resume that satisfies both man and machine.

1. Contact Info

Be sure to include your contact information – and triple-check that it’s correct and formatted properly. Nothing is worse than getting a great resume with all the right skills and experience, but the number is invalid and the email comes back undelivered. If you have a new phone number or email address, or have moved to a new city or state, be extra sure that you update your contact information before submitting your resume.
a. Additionally, make sure that your phone number has formatting of some kind! Most resume parsers can’t interpret a series of 10 digits with no punctuation, so if your phone number is 1234567890, make sure it has some sort of punctuation inside it, like this: 123-456-7890 or (123) 456-7890.

2. Language

Understand that the job post contains the language that the recruiter is looking for in the ideal candidate’s resume, so use it to influence how you compose your resume. Terms common among employees may not be the same common terms used among employers. Consider that you might have worked at a car dealership as a “Lot Tech”, but what the industry employers are looking for experience in is called “Car Detailer”. While Lot Tech might have been how your boss referred to you while you worked there, Car Detailer is more forthright, and is what the recruiter is going to be searching for to find you – they may have no idea what a Lot Tech is, but anybody could guess what a Car Detailer might do.

3. Simplify

Refrain from using multiple paragraphs or whole sentences. If it can be summarized with bullet points, do that instead. It looks cleaner and is easier for both a human and a machine to digest quickly. Save the conversation for the phone/video/in-person interview.
a. However, be as specific as possible! Make sure each of your jobs that you list has several bullet points (3 or more) that explain the primary duties of that job and any skills you learned or used while working there.

4. Organize

Separate the sections of your resume and give them section headers. This may seem like common sense, but we may overlook this step or sacrifice it for aesthetic reasons. In fact, these section headers act as a handy guide for resume parsing software used by ATS’s; think, once the machine sees a section titled ‘Skills’, it will understand that the items in that section highlight your skills and will categorize it appropriately, and same with sections titled “Work History” and “Education History”. Consider you’re also using this to clean up the presentation of the resume and break it into smaller, more digestible pieces not only for a machine but for the human who will eventually see it. Looking at a resume needs to be quick and easy to do – it needs to be easier to read than it is to throw away in the nearest wastebasket.

5. Focus

Remember that the prettiest resume is not always the best one – that is, unless you’re applying for Graphic Design positions, but that’s a story for another day. If you’re spending more time choosing a fancy stationary than you are spending composing the text, you’re doing it wrong. If a machine is going to handle your resume first, remember that the machine does not care what font you chose or the color of the background image, as long as it can read the content. If the content is strong, legible, and well-organized, and describes your relevant experience in full, you have a resume that will pass the robot test.

6. Get a second opinion

Have a friend, family member, random library attendant – another human besides yourself – do a proof read of it. Ask them if it’s easy to read and if they can understand what your experience is in 60 seconds or less. Ask them if they would hire you based on your resume! Have them read it out loud back to you, so you can both pick up on sentences that sound weird (change tense, repeated words, etc). Two sets of eyes – or more – is better than one. That applies to almost all forms of writing, but a resume in particular needs to be thoroughly proofread, because your potential future career can hang on that one poorly-composed sentence. Understand that a human recruiter reading your resume can interpret some errors (though it doesn’t exactly help your cause if you have errors), but the robot parser will choke on them.

7. File Format

Once you have the content finished and finalized, it’s important to have it saved in the proper format. Most parsers will only read text-based documents – the best ones are text-based .pdfs or Word documents like .doc, .docx, or .txt files. If you’re composing your resume on your phone, make sure you’re using an app that lets you choose the file type, or take the extra step to go to a library instead and use a computer that has a word processor. If you’re composing your resume on a cloud-based storage app, like Google Docs, don’t use the Share button to send your resume to a recruiter – export or download the document by saving a local copy as a .doc or .txt file.

Meghan Evans is our Associate Service Representative and Retention Specialist here at Employment Solutions – which means she is here to help our associates achieve success! She also helped us set up a new offering for our associates that can help you put some of these tips into action: free resume writing services! Call or visit our office to learn more.