With the decline of the economy and growing job stability concerns in this country, businesses and corporations are receiving more job applications than ever before. The problem is that these companies have felt the effects of the economic downturn as well and are unable or unwilling to staff the personnel needed to read through thousands of submitted resumes. Fortunately for them, technology has come to their rescue in the form of Applicant Tracking Systems, which scan resumes for a set of certain keywords that hiring managers deem relevant to the job opening. This can create a problem for applicants, as they have no clue what keywords the ATS will be scanning for; most applicants just submit their resume and hope for the best.
The good news is that job applicants do not have to remain powerless against the resume keyword scanning systems. By following these guidelines, you will craft a resume that is not only peppered with appropriate keyword phrases, but highlights your success and accomplishments.
• Read the job description. This is perhaps the most important of the guidelines. Reading the job description and doing web searches on the department within that company will give you some incredible insight as to the specific skills and knowledge the company is looking for. For example, if a job description lists that clinical research associates must have a Bachelors degree in the life sciences and extensive experience monitoring Phase I trials, then you are definitely going to want to include the phrases “Bachelors degree” and “monitoring Phase I trials” (but only if those apply to you, of course). Remember that there is a difference between tailoring your resume to a job description and regurgitating it. If you are successful in getting past the ATS, the first set of human eyes that read your resume will immediately recognize this and throw your resume out.
• Choose keywords that fit the general position, even if they aren’t detailed in the job description. For an open CRA position, you may want to include phrases such as “Phase II,” “regional,” “monitoring,” and “oncology.” These keywords will not only better your chances of getting passed the ATS, especially since you are not privy to the specific keywords they are looking for, but also highlight your expertise.
• Include keyword phrases in your cover letters and emails. Like your resume, your cover letter is written specifically for a particular company and position. Use the job description and outside research to include probable keyword phrases in your cover letter. Similarly, the email to which you attach your resume and cover letter can include your keyword phrases as well. The email should almost mirror your cover letter and reiterate those important phrases.
• List your keyword phrases multiple times throughout your resume. The way most ATSs work are by awarding “points” to an applicant each time it recognizes a keyword phrase, and after earning so many points, a resume is deemed “good” and added to the pile for human inspection. Without sounding redundant or obvious, include the keyword phrases as many times as you can throughout your resume. Some applicants go as far as typing suspected keywords in very tiny font in the headers and footers of their resumes, and then changing the font color to white. Called “white fonting,” this allows the ATS to recognize and award points for these keyword phrases but makes them invisible to human readers. This practice is “sketchy” and does not guarantee results, however.
A reported 80% of companies use some form of resume keyword scanning systems in the initial stages of their clinical recruiting process. Most applicants feel powerless against these systems, but you don’t have to be! Peppering your resume and cover letter with keywords matching the job description and overall position and industry will greatly increase your chances of beating the machine and landing in front of human readers.
Written by Katie Fidler
Investing in a Lifetime of Success,
Are you considering a career change? We specialize in the placement of clinical research associates. You can sign up for our Job Seeker email course which provides valuable insight into how to become more competitive in the marketplace.