Resume Ignored by Online Application Sites? Here’s Why.

You’ve filled out hundreds of online job applications, and have never heard from an employer. You are beginning to feel rejected, unloved and unappreciated. Why doesn’t anyone call back? The reason may be in your resume and you haven’t noticed it.

This cartoon appears's site for Aug. 18, 2008.

I’m going to start with the assumption that your resume is neat, truthful, printed in a simple font, no smaller than 11 points, no more than two pages covering the last 10 years, and that it is spell-checked and proofread. No “manger” for “manager,” no “it’s” when it should be “its.”

There are two areas that will get your resume ignored–fast. One of them is the “Objective” statement. Anything vague  gets you rejected. “I’m looking for an exciting job to advance my career,” is an example of a sinker. So is “Powerful executive with 20 years of increasing responsibility available for lateral applications of bricks-and-clicks viral e-marketing,” or anything else that looks like it comes from a jargon generator.

The objective is not a PR statement–the purpose is to get your hired. You will need a new one for every job you apply to. Hate the idea? Then get used to longer unemployment.

Your resume is being scanned for key words every time you submit it. If you don’t have the right key words, your resume will be shot into the shredder. What are the magic key words? Read the ad. The job description contains the key words. That’s why you need to change your objective for each job. Because the key words change. Look for nouns (titles, duties, responsibilities), not verbs (action words). You’ve probably been taught to create a “results oriented” resume. They don’t work anymore. Everyone “generated top results,” “managed profitability” and “won industry-wide awards,” and the scanner is not interested.

The new resume flies in the face of reasonable writing, but right now, just for resume, nouns are winning the eye of the scanner. And they are the nouns in the job description the scanner is looking for. A match gets your resume in front of a real person. Until that happens, you won’t find a job.

The second mine-field is the words you use to describe your job responsibilities–especially if you are changing fields or job levels. Your resume is about your past. If you use words that link you to your past job, you won’t find the new one.

For example, if you were a financial writer and want to be a trainer, don’t describe yourself using financial language. “Wrote extensively on retirement plans, 401(k) investment options and high-yield portfolio management” are words that classify you as a financial writer. Instead, read the ads for a trainer and use those keywords to describe your old job. No, don’t make it up. I’m talking about using a different vocabulary to describe the work you did.

If the training ad is looking for someone who “develops training programs and is familiar with adult learning practices,” you might want to say you “developed stories to train adults to prepare for retirement,” or “Wrote material to familiarize adults with practices that provide a secure future.” Those aren’t wonderful sentences, yours will be better because you have more job description to choose from. The point is to use the key words for your future job to describe the past. So you can move out of the past and into a future–or at least get a job interview with a real person.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She is a trainer in business communications. © 2009 All rights reserved.