5 Great Resume Tips for Online Job Applications

Get your resume in gear with these tips

Submitting a job application isn’t the way it used to be. These days, most job applications are completed online and processed by an applicant tracking system. How does this change the way you should write your resume? What are some of the latest tips for writing a resume in today’s job market? Keep on reading to find out!

1. Keywords
Resume tracking systems are trying to determine if your resume is a good match with the job. Therefore, experts recommend that you include keywords in your resume.

What are keywords? They are the terms that are most relevant to the job posting. For instance, if you are applying for a Medical Assistant job, and the job posting wants someone with experience in Electronic Medical Records (EMR), then be sure to use that phrase in your resume, because that could be one of the keywords that is being tracked. A few tips on keywords:

  • Look at the main terms that relate to the job duties, and use those exact terms in your resume (assuming you have that experience).
  • Make sure the job title appears in your resume, even if it is only in your objective line. Employers want to hire experienced employees, so the resume tracking systems will often look for the actual job title to weed out people who have not held this position before. So if you’re applying for that medical assistant job, make sure the words “medical assistant” appear in you resume.
  • Don’t overstuff the keywords. You can’t just throw in a long list of keywords in an effort to trick the scanning system. Make sure your keywords appear in natural-sounding sentences and phrases.
  • Double check all your spelling. It would be a shame for the resume tracker to miss your keywords because they were misspelled.

2. Tailor your resume and cover letter for each job application
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume. In order to help your resume get past the screening systems, you will have to tailor it to the particular job you are applying for. Much of the tailoring will be adjusting the keywords to match the job posting. But in addition, you may want to rearrange your experience, emphasize some skills more than others, or select different references. Take the time to customize your cover letter too. Both documents should be rich in keywords and written to line up with the job posting.

3. Don’t lose out because of formatting issues
Keep two different resume formats ready at all times, and choose the one that best fits the job posting.

Word or text file – Most systems can read Word files or occasionally you may be asked for a plain text format. Keep your file very simple, and avoid fancy formatting. Special lines, graphics, and logos can throw off the computer system and land your resume in the trash heap. To remove formatting from your resume, remember these tips:

  • No bold, italics, underlining, or centering
  • No headers or footers
  • No bullets or automatic numbering
  • No tabs
  • Use simple keyboard symbols to create separations in your text, such as ==== or ~~~~~ or ****** or +++++++.
  • Use a simple font like Verdana or Tahoma

PDF – PDF format is most often used if you are asked to attach a resume to an email, and you are relatively sure a human will read it. A PDF version allows you to use attractive and eye-catching design elements in your resume. But remember, they can trip up a resume scanning system, so don’t use a PDF if you think a computer will be reading it. If you have an interview, be sure to bring the printed version of the PDF with you, since it will look more attractive.

4. Complete the cover letter even if it is not mandatory
Many online job sites give you the option of writing a cover letter. Even if it is not your favorite task, you should write it anyway. The cover letter will give you more opportunities to use your keywords. And in addition, it will make your application look more professional and will show the employer that you are serious about applying.

5. Follow Instructions
Before you submit your resume, look closely to see what the employer is asking for. There may be specific instructions on how to submit your resume. There might be certain items that you are supposed to include in your submission. Take the time to make sure you follow these directions. In a way, it is your first test on how well you follow the employer’s instructions!

Bonus tip

While you are writing your resume, it’s a great time to create a LinkedIn profile. If your resume makes it past the screening process and into the hands of a hiring manager, the odds are good that he or she will look up your LinkedIn site. You want it to be professional and something you can be proud of.

With these tips, we hope you are well on your way to starting your resume. If you’re still stumped, take the time to look at a few sample resumes, and before you know it, you will be ready to go! Find more useful tips and advice at Branford Hall’s weekly blog.


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