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Your Resume is Killing You - Five Formatting Errors Keeping You from the Job You Want

Your resume is a key tool in your kit for finding the next job for your career. Done well, it summarizes your skills, talents, experience and education where a prospective employer cannot help but bring you in for an interview. A well-formatted resume just pops – it quickly gets the point across and all the important bits can be found within seconds.

We often see resumes that have been professionally written – they look great, are kinda flashy, and vary in creativity, style and tone. No matter how great the content, one little formatting mistake will keep you from getting to the interview and torpedoing your chance of getting a dream job.

The problem lies in the technology companies use to collect, sort, and store resumes. When you apply online to a job post, your resume will be uploaded to a company’s applicant tracking system, or ATS. An ATS is designed to keep track of who has applied, store the job seeker’s contact information, and house resumes for review. Most ATS systems will parse your information into your candidate record for you (so you don’t have to enter an application) and everything on your resume will be searchable. The ability to search resumes allows the corporate recruiters to find your resume based on any keywords. If they get several hundred resumes, that is the usual method of paring down the list. Theoretically, the corporate recruiting team will also search their own ATS for viable candidates before commencing a new job search.

While ATS’s have come a long way, many are still lacking. If your resume is formatted in anything but the most basic format, the ATS can choke on it. Information will not upload correctly at best and at worst, your resume will not upload at all. Imagine after applying to the dream job…you are sitting waiting for the company to call, but your name will not have a resume to back it up. No resume = no keywords =no phone call.

These are some of the most common land mines in resume formatting:

  1. Lines – candidates often have a line dividing their contact information and the body of their resume. ERROR!

  2. Boxes – That frame around your resume is quite frankly unnecessary and usually the kiss of death.

  3. Columns – Professional resume writers often use a column off to the left use to separate the highlights of a resume. It will confuse the ATS in most cases.

  4. Bullets – that arrow, check mark, diamond or box can come out as a question-mark, rendering your resume unsearchable.

  5. Non-standard fonts – if you get fancy with some weird font, you run the risk of bad interpretation.

What’s the fix? It’s OK to have different versions of your resume. One with flash and other with function.

If a recruiter, hiring manager, or other human asks for a resume electronically, you can email them the flashy version. Once you have an interview scheduled, you can email them the format you wish them to share with the hiring manager.

If applying to a job online, you should have a plain-format resume. To test your resume, try saving it in a plain text format. In word, click on File --> Save As --> Plain Text (.txt). Any problematic formatting should show up that way. You might see crazy margins, error symbols, etc. You can use that file as your resume to upload or cut/paste into your candidate file in the ATS.

Technology is a tool - and is not perfect. The ATS is designed to help the company keep tabs of their process, but can be a hindrance to your success. Knowing where the gaps are and bridging them will help you get to the interview.

We often write about resumes – because every professional needs to have one. Some are great, and some are, well, "all hat and no cattle” as the cowboys would say.

If yours needs some work, whether some polish or a complete overhaul and it’s something you dread doing, outsource it to us! The Rivet Group has a team of resume writers on call who can craft a document to get you noticed, and hopefully to the interview.

Thanks for reading and kindly consider sharing with your networks. Have questions? We’d like to hear from you!

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