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What Employers Are Looking for in a Job Application

Employers can face a huge task when they post a new job opening. Sometimes, they have to sort through hundreds of applications. If you write your application carefully, you will have a better chance of getting noticed.

Most employers use a process that compares what they need to what people have said on their applications and resumés. Large companies often use applicant tracking software (ATS) to help them find the best applicants. At smaller companies, a person might sort through the applications by hand.

The goal of the employer is to screen out as many applications as possible and look more closely at 8 or 10. Here are some tips for writing an application that gets you to the top of the list.

Write to get past the robots

Applicant tracking software usually scans for certain keywords or phrases. It rejects about 75% of the applications it scans. Often, good candidates get rejected. Don’t let that happen to you:

  • Choose your words. Look at the exact words in the post’s job title, skills, degrees, and certifications. Notice whether the post uses long-form phrases or acronyms and do the same.
  • Don’t play tricks. You may have heard stories about how you can get past the software by using keywords over and over. Some people paste in lists of just keywords. Others use the whole job description in their resumés. Don’t do these things! You may get past the software’s screening process, but your tricks will be noticed when humans review your application.
  • Use the right type of file. Microsoft Word files are what most software is best at scanning. Read Applying for Work Online for more information on the file format options for your application.
  • Avoid fancy formats. Tables, fancy fonts, multiple columns, logos, and graphics can confuse software. The careful language you’ve used might get missed. Use simple headings, paragraphs, and bullet lists to get noticed.

Write for humans too

If you make it through the software, a human will read your resumé. Keep a few things in mind to improve your chance of getting an interview:

  • Apply only if you are qualified. It’s okay if you don’t have every qualification in the post. But make sure you have the core skills or you’re wasting the employer’s (and your own) time.
  • Tailor your resumé to the job. Don’t use one resumé for every job. You have a better chance of being noticed with a custom resumé.
  • Connect your keywords to your skills and experience. When you use keywords from the job post, explain how they connect to who you are and what you bring to the job. If you don’t do this, the employer might wonder if you are really qualified.

Create a resumé that will get you noticed

Many employers are faced with dozens of qualified candidates. How do they choose? Help the employer choose you by paying close attention to how your resumé looks:

  • Make sure your resumé is free of errors and typos. This helps show that you can do high-quality work.
  • Use bold font or underlining to highlight important things so your resumé is easy for the employer to scan. This helps you show your skills and experience. But don’t overdo it. You want the best items to stand out.

It can be hard these days to get your application and resumé noticed. If you write each resumé with both software and humans in mind, you have the best chance of getting an interview.

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