Keywords That Get You Hired

Picture the old days of “pounding the pavement”, searching the neighbourhood for job prospects and opportunities: an applicant prints several dozen copies of the same resume and hands them out to any office or workplace that has a “HIRING” sign displayed out in the front. They may get hired on the spot, or they may be told to expect a call. This may have worked, before computers and artificial intelligence became popular tools for employers, but this has definitely gone out of fashion now. For most career prospects, especially in large workplaces and popular companies that receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications daily, digital tools are definitely here to stay. 

A lot has changed with the way resumes are being written and more importantly, read, and the process of hiring and submitting documents has become more technologically advanced with the use of Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) technology. ATS are important capabilities that any employer can utilise, as they help whittle down the applicant pool until they are able to find the most suitable candidates for the job. But how does it work, and how do you use ATS technology to your advantage? 

ATS basics 

As you may have learned, ATS is an essential component of the hiring manager’s toolbox: It is a programmable software that detects keywords or strings of keywords in any resume. Think of this in similar terms as search engines. Search engines like Google are equipped with components that trawl websites for keywords that are embedded in a copy. This makes it easy for search engines to pull up websites that have the corresponding keywords. For instance, when you type in “Chartered Accountant” on the Google search bar, the websites that are most optimised to display this search keyword will be the ones that are highly prominent and visible at first glance. 

ATS scanners work in a similar way. The scanners can be pre-programmed to search for specific keywords, and in the context of looking for talents from a pool of submitted applications, it can pinpoint with accuracy the resumes that stand out because of their keyword richness, density and compatibility with the search criteria. 

With the rising popularity of ATS scanners being used in the job market, having a bland, general resume may not be as effective, and there is definitely a need to custom-write and tailor resumes for each job. This seems like an awful lot of work, but it is important to take the time to study each job description and respond to the search criteria. 

How ATS scanners filter out applicants 

Although there are dozens of ATS scanners available for all types of applications, from small companies to very large multinational organisations, the principle of keyword optimisation remains consistent. Suppose a hiring manager wants to hire an administrative assistant. Some of the more common competencies required of an applicant to this role may include strong verbal communication skills, computer skills, customer service abilities, secretarial and reception duties, and the ability to answer phones and other communications. 

All of these skills can be used by employers as search keywords, alongside other qualities, say, “time management”, “prioritisation”, “accuracy”, and “composure”. The ATS picks out the resumes with the greatest number of keyword hits from their preferred categories, and sets them aside as part of the shortlist.  

Employers can decide on what keywords will be searched for different criteria, but the most important objective in writing ATS-optimised resume writing is to try to reflect most search criteria in your summary, job experiences, and core competencies sections. 
It could also be a simple as wanting to find all candidates with ‘Business Administration’ as part of their education. They can set the ATS to search this too!

How to spot keywords

ATS optimisation may sound daunting at first, but with a basic knowledge of how ATS scanners are programmed, plus a bit of creativity and ingenuity, having an ATS optimised resume may be accessible to most people. All it takes is the ability to look at job descriptions or announcements and seek out the keywords that may be used to filter applicants. Often, job descriptions will feature a section that lists down what type of skills, experience, and qualifications they are looking for.  

Your tell-tale clues can be in sections with the header “About You” or “What we are looking for.” Some keywords may also be embedded in the copy; all you need to do is read and research currently advertised roles. Furthermore, you may also focus on the selection criteria. It is essential to add both the Essential and Desired criteria in your application if these search keywords apply to you. 

ATS optimisation and landing your dream job 

The most important thing in ATS optimisation is to have a keyword-rich resume that reflects an honest and accurate picture of your skills. It is counter-productive to “pad” or “fluff” one’s resume with keywords or search strings that does not correspond to your actual experiences or possessed skills. Remember that you may get past through the ATS scanners, but at the end of the hiring process, you will still need to talk to an actual person who is likely to be highly trained in coaxing an honest and precise picture of your skills and capabilities through an interview. 

You can learn more about ATS optimisation and the right keywords to use by getting in touch with our expert resume writers. We have helped thousands of applicants land their dream roles through our extensive experience and insights on resume keyword richness, selection criteria response, and packaging your skills to achieve the best results.

Contact us today to find out more or discuss the services we offer!

How To Select The Best References

Most applicants expend their energy and effort writing the perfect role descriptions and qualifications in their resume, but forget to pay enough attention to a vital part of any resume: References.

Professional resume references may come in different names or forms: character references, professional references, personal references, career references, or even just referees. They all serve a similar purpose: to offer a chance for your potential employer to acquire insights about you separate from the information already listed on your resume.

It is a widely accepted practice to request references, and more often than not, you will have previous supervisors, managers and colleagues who will be willing to attest to your competence and character. 

Why Do Employers Request References?

Some employers may choose contact your references to corroborate your work history, skills and experience or simply to verify you worked somewhere.

            Employers often request for references so that they can talk to people whom you have worked with before. These people are often in the best position to vouch for your abilities and skills, and more importantly, your behavioural and non-job-specific capabilities and attributes. It is quite a challenge to encapsulate one’s character in a written resume, so employers reach out to your previous colleagues to validate the skills as listed in your resume. 

Some employers may also request for multiple references. Employers commonly require references from superiors, so it is very common for applicants to include references who were their previous direct reports, managers or supervisors. This gives one’s resume references more creditability to speak about your skills and competencies, as they are able to respond to questions on how you were able to meet certain professional expectations. 

            On the other hand, some employers may need to ask questions relating to your character or your attitudes at work. Some companies prefer a certain type of personality within their team, and may look for specific insights to help them decide if you are the best person for the role. Often, when employers are left with the last two choices for a role, they will likely hire the one with the most glowing recommendations from previous colleagues or managers. In short, resume references can mean a world of difference if it narrows down to how you are able to balance skills and competencies with the right attitude and disposition in the workplace. 

How To Select The Right References? 

There are some important points and tips to keep in mind when selecting the right references for your application: 

Select the references most likely to give a positive review 

Needless to say, since are being given a chance to select the best references who can vouch for you in the most positive way, you must take advantage of this to choose the best people for the job. You may have left the company on good terms, but it is always advised to select a character reference or a professional reference who will surely provide you with a glowing recommendation and will speak highly of your work ethic and contributions to the company.

  1. Choose referees who are relevant to your career 

It is also important to provide recommendations that come from the same industry or in the same line of work. If a company is hiring for an accountant position for example, it is essential to include a reference that will be able to put into context how you are able to adapt accounting legislation and guidelines into your day-to-day work activities. These references will have a closer understanding of the job at hand and will be able to give insights as to why the employer must hire you and do not necessarily have to be from your most recent role.

List down references from a subordinate 

Certain companies or employers may also look for references that are not necessarily from people who you reported directly to, or were higher than you. For example, some roles that require team management and positive team building may benefit from testimonials from references that you led or supervised in a previous role. They may be asked details on how effective you were in a management exercise, and these references will be in the best position to highlight your positive traits as a leader or a supervisor.

Include personal references (only if required)

Most employers will prefer that you give a reference from your previous jobs. It may come as a disadvantage if you list down references such as friends, family, or other personal acquaintances because they may not be able to answer professional reference questions with substance. 

Other things to remember 

  • Let references know in advance. It is important to ask references for their permission or consent before you list them down as references. Having a professional reference being contacted without their knowledge may reflect poorly on you. It is important to talk to your possible references about the job application so that they are also prepared to take a call.
  • Respect their privacy.  Some individuals may be concerned about having their phone numbers or email addresses being sent out to various employers and job sites. It is acceptable to have resume contacts available only a pawn request but it is important to consider putting the numbers and contact information on hand and readily available if the job description specifically and explicitly requires it. You can trust that a lot of reputable companies will exercise prudence and destroying resume files if they are not hired. 
  • Thank them. It is a reflection of good character to thank others for assistance that they have given you. Even if you get the job or not, you may send a thank you note or even a digital message to your references, thanking them for agreeing to vouch for you.

Contact us today to learn more or find out what services we offer!

Choosing the Right Resume

Selecting the best type of resume to fit your purpose is one of the most daunting choices one has to make during the job seeking process. For a good number of applicants, the decision to outline their resume a certain way is made even more complicated because of the wealth of resources found online. While there may be an abundance of various resume-related articles or information pages, there certainly is a lot of conflicting information and there doesn’t seem to be a single definitive resource on which resume styles or templates are the most appropriate. This leaves lot of applicants flustered or even frustrated with the resume writing and the job application process.

If you are going through the same thing, rest assured you are not alone in this predicament! The reason for this seemingly impossible task is that though there may be accepted or recommended standards to resume writing, there isn’t an iron-clad set of rules that comprise this seemingly complex system of rules, standards, and ‘must-dos’.

The secret to choosing the right resume, however, is to stay within best-practice methods of presenting information and National Employment Standards. Only extensive experience in the hiring industry can inform what works and what doesn’t work, something that Wellington Resume has worked to maintain over the years.

There is an endless array of different formats to choose from, with each one presenting its own set of benefits and advantages. Read along to get a understanding of which resume style suits your particular situation:

Chronological Resume

In a nutshell, chronological resumes may be some of the most popular and widely used formats as it is straightforward and direct to the point: it shows a steady progression of skills acquired through the years after doing various engagements or jobs in different positions. More ideally called reverse-chronological resumes, they include an objective statement and summary and features the most recent position occupied, with subsequent mentions of previous positions. This format is more typically used if the candidate does not have any gaps in the employment, which is something that must be avoided. Fill any gaps with explanatory notes for circumstances such as going back to school, taking care of family or children, or even extended vacations or trips – anything but a gaping space in between two jobs. As a general rule anything over 3 months would require such an explanation.

Functional Resume

On the other hand, a functional resume focus on skills and competencies, and not on the chronology of your employment history. This resume style is often employed to directly address the skills required by the employer. When chronological resumes benefit from having a structured and straightforward work timeline, some applicants may have concurrent positions and a complex system of part-time work, secondments, and other complementary activities that will not be served well by a strictly linear historical account. By zeroing in on the skills and providing an in-depth narrative of how you are able to address these required skills and abilities, you are able to provide a clear picture of how you are able succeed in given tasks. Functional resumes may also include a relevant work history section, then a brief work history section towards the end of the document for any other positions held, but as the name suggests, this truly functional resume format directly responds to the specific skills listed in a job description.

Combination Resume

A good halfway point between chronological and functional resumes is a combination resume, which emphasises both work experience and pertinent professional skills and abilities.  Since a combination resume is the most flexible format, it is really up to the applicants to highlight certain sections that they think may be more helpful in getting them their desired role. The goal of the combination resume is to take advantage of visual hierarchy in presenting information – if your most viable skills are in plain sight, ATS scanners and HR managers or recruiters may focus on those skills at face value and consider you for the role immediately. Highlighting what is important is key in combination resumes. This works especially well for someone who is adaptable across multiple industries, those who want to shift or transition to a different career path, or, in the case of more complex academic and senior roles, highlight highly transferrable skills that apply to any position.

There are clear pros and cons for each type of resume, but here at Wellington Resume our practice has always been to strike a perfect balance between chronological and functional resumes. Adopting a combination resume style, we try to bridge the need for a structured narrative of one’s professional history and career progression, whilst also highlight our clients’ skills and ensuring they are front and centre. More importantly, our years of experience and over tens of thousands of clients served has informed us that our standard of resumes proves to be more versatile and successful.

Contact us today so we can help you get started with a resume that is appropriate and targeted for any role.