3 Barriers Holding Your Job Search Back
Do you have the job-search blues? Are you exhausted from giving the job search your all but seeing your optimism and hope fizzle like a pool floatie at the end of summer? Don’t give up!
Shake off the deluging thoughts of rejection or worse yet, silence. The world is changing each day. Computers with machine-learning and artificial intelligence are so small they can now fit in your earbuds. The modern-day job search is changing too. Let’s reignite your job search and supercharge your optimism with the knowledge that will empower you to overcome the three most common barriers to a successful job search.
What are those barriers?
Barrier #1: Keywords
Even if you have a beautifully written resume—one that describes you perfectly—if your resume doesn’t have the right keywords but checks the boxes on everything else, it’s still not going to give you the results you deserve. Why?
Three words: Applicant. Tracking. Systems.
What are these mystery systems? Commonly referred to as an ATS, Applicant Tracking Systems are specialized software that companies purchase and use to manage recruitment, cull candidates from the applicant pool, and generally make their search for the right person “easier.” They will program the ATS and use artificial intelligence-type algorithms to analyze the pool of applicants and block those whose resume does not contain the predetermined keywords that reflect the skills they desire for the position. These keywords are often taken from the job description for the role they are looking to fill.
How do you get past an ATS? Keywords. The more keywords you can incorporate into the content of your resume the better. Like we noted above, job descriptions are your number one resource for identifying the keywords that are critical for beating the system. There are a few different options to consider for identifying and using keywords in your resume to your advantage.
There are resources on the web that will scan the content of a job listing and produce a list of keywords for you to use. Some are better than others, and some will even provide you with additional tips and advice to ensure that you are using the correct terminology and including the best content to pass through an ATS and get the attention of potential employers.
Another option is to work with a professional resume writer. Today, most professional resume writers are familiar with ATS and will utilize various tools to identify what keywords are lacking in your resume and work those that apply to you into it. Working with a resume writing professional (maybe not all but most) means that your resume content will not only have the necessary keywords, but they will be used in a natural and compelling manner.
For our clients, we rely on the same systems that employers use to cull their applicant pool to learn the important keywords that will beat the machines and get you into an interview. From the critical hard skill keywords to the soft skill keywords that aren’t necessarily critical but will give you a competitive edge over other applicants. We work hard to craft the best possible resume for our clients, one that they feel completely confident in using to land the right job.
Additionally, if you prefer to do the work yourself, it is possible to spend some time going through several job descriptions for the position you want, highlighting the words used to define and describe the required and preferred skills for the job, and noting how often they appear. Those that appear the most should be given highest priority for inclusion. Those appearing second most, the second-highest priority, and so on.
Barrier #2: Compelling Content
For a resume to be truly effective, it not only needs to include the important keywords to beat the ATS barrier it needs to show the potential employer who you are, what you can do, how you do it, and the results of your efforts in a compelling fashion. This is commonly referred to as a results-based resume. If you simply tell someone that you graduated with a degree in (fill in the blank) and list a number of transferable and technical skills you possess, including the keywords you need to get beyond the ATS, you may get called for an interview but it’s not very likely.
Employers and their hiring managers want to read a story, your story. It should show them (not tell them) the knowledge and skills you possess and what you have accomplished by using those skills and that knowledge. For many people, writing about themselves is very challenging. This is normal, most of us were raised to be humble not boastful. Remember, the objective of a resume is to show and compel a potential employer to want to learn more about you by calling you in for an interview. In simpler terms, you are selling them you.
Writing compelling content for your resume is just as important and critical for a successful job search as including the right keywords. Show them what you did during your past work experiences, at school, at a volunteer position, and at any other experiences of yours where you used skills or knowledge relevant to the job you want and where you accomplished something. When you write the individual bullet points to describe your experiences for a results-based resume, there are three questions each statement should answer.
Ask yourself: What? How? And, what was the result? Each bulleted statement is an opportunity to sell yourself to a potential employer and show them why they need to hire you. Your bullets should answer each of these three questions:
What did you do? The duty or task.
How did you do it? The technical, transferable, or other skill(s) you used to accomplish a result.
What was the result?
The outcome of using the skill(s) such as: surpassed your sales goal, resolved “x” coding errors, increased net profits by “x” percent.
You should make every effort to give quantifiable results, facts, and data. These are often referred to as “measurable results” or “measurable outcomes.” It is much more compelling, and you will provoke a hiring manager to take a greater interest in you if you show them that you used an important skill to make a discernable impact. See for yourself. Imagine the following bullet points as coming from two different applicants. Which applicant would you ask for an interview?
Analyzed internal financial and human resources to effectively allocate the necessary assets to expedite a key software integration project and meet a shortened, aggressive deadline under the targeted budget
Performed data analysis in support of project planning responsibilities
If your resume content is compelling and contains all of the important keywords to get into the hands of a decision maker, only one barrier remains that you must overcome.
Barrier #3: Design
Nearly as important to an effective resume as keywords and compelling content is the appearance of your resume. The final barrier to overcome is the design barrier.
Your resume should be formatted and finalized with a design that is visually appealing, modern, and professional. When your resume reaches the hands of a hiring manager it is still one of many in a stack that are to be reviewed. The average hiring manager or recruiter will spend six (6) seconds reading a resume. How many sentences can you read in six seconds? Unless you’re a world-class speed reader (and even if you are) you won’t be able to read much, let alone all, of a one-page resume.
It may seem petty or unfair that someone’s resume will be placed in the “yes pile” over someone else’s resume that lands in the pile of rejections, but with stacks of resumes to go through it is a product of the circumstances. The good news is that you have control over the visual and professional appeal of your resume. The days of simply utilizing a resume template offered by word processing software for your resume are gone. The most effective resumes stand out from the rest of the pile. Modern resume designs are eye-catching, clean, crisp, easy to navigate, and professional without relying on gimmicks or being overly colorful or flashy.
It is best not to rely on the prepackaged word processing templates if you can. They aren’t necessarily bad but, as we noted above, they are old fashioned. Your resume will benefit greatly from a design and formatting that is created with modern document-design software. We use Adobe InDesign to make our clients’ resumes capture the attention of hiring managers. We recommend InDesign but there are many other great applications available. Need some inspiration? Check out our examples, a link will be provided in the comments below. Or, if you’d like some help with your resume’s design, please feel free to comment below or reach out to us directly.
As you overcome the speedbumps and hurdles that every applicant goes through, you’re going to need to stay focused. As you know, job searching is not easy and it’s important to remember that it is worth your best effort. A career isn’t everything, but it does affect everything. A dead-end, frustrating, or defeating job can drain more than just your vocational aspirations.
Stay focused and motivated. Your dream job doesn’t have to be just a dream. Your job search doesn’t need to be endless.
All you need are the right tools to overcome the barriers.
About The Author
Founder and CEO
Jason started CareerLaunch after spending too many years in jobs that didn’t inspire him. When his application to star in the much anticipated Friends reboot was rejected, he began searching for work that meant something—and so, CareerLaunch was born. His expertise, passion, and personal drive keep the wheels turning and CareerLaunch growing. Jason is the go to for career development, job search, and interview advice. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.