“Help! I have no prior experience, but I need a job for the upcoming school vacation! What the heck do I do?”
We understand that the first job can be daunting. And you’re not alone because truth be told, it’s a question we hear all the time!
Here are some steps that you can take today so you can up your resume game in no time.
1. Dissect The Job Posting
There’s no question about it! Employers want to find the best person for the job. In order to be considered as that perfect hire, it’s important that you’re precisely aware of what the employer wants.
One way you can do this is by dissecting the job posting you’re applying for. Take note of keywords that are important to your field. Also try to keep track of keywords that come up more than once. Here’s an example.
In an Amazon Digital Marketing Manager posting I dug up, the term “email marketing” came up 7 times, “data-driven” 3 times, “demand generation” 2 times, and “digital marketing” came up 5 times (quick tip: quickly find the number of times a keyword comes up by using ctrl+f).
This tells us that Amazon is looking for a “Data-driven digital marketer who has experience with demand generation and email marketing.” And there we have it. In a matter of minutes we know exactly what skills we need to be that “perfect hire”.
Although this posting is for a senior-level position, the idea still applies to entry-level positions! Use this technique and you’ll even be able to bypass hiring bots and get your resume noticed by HR.
And before you ask, YES – most companies are now using bots called ATS to filter through and rank applicants based on their resumes. More on that later.
2. Spice Up Your Resume With Your Education, Coursework, and Skills
Okay so you’re a little late to the work experience party! If it’s too late to get some last minute internship experience, try to brainstorm the following things:
- What skills you possess
- What education you have and what courses you took
- What interests and extracurricular activities seem relevant
Pro Tip: If you don’t have any projects you can showcase, you can move the Education section of your resume above the Work Experience section. ALWAYS put your strongest assets as high up on your resume as possible, that way employers get to see what you’ve done, instead what you haven’t.
Maximize Your Education and Coursework
Are there any job-relevant courses you took? Well, you can really make a statement to the employer by putting them in the education and coursework section.
Even if you don’t have relevant work experience, the employer will still be convinced that you can learn on the job. At the end of the day, no one comes in as a new hire knowing everything. All you need to do is to convey that you know the concepts and you’re ready to learn.
For example, if you’re applying for the position of customer service representative, you might want to mention courses which helped you build computer and communication skills.
If the job you’re applying for is something you learned about at school, make sure you mention this.
Perhaps you majored in English Literature, but took a course in digital marketing and caught the bug. Expand your education write-up by including that course.
Pro Tip: Some experts argue that GPAs don’t matter, but if yours is solid, i.e., as close to a perfect 4.0 as possible, you might want to put it on your resume.
Quantify Your Skills
Applying for an entry level position at a start-up company? They most likely use Google Suite (Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, etc.) and you do too!
Does your job require driving experience? No problem, because you have a driver’s license!
Skills like these are called technical skills and employers love them.
Let’s look at another example! There’s a job posting that requires the hire to update the company’s WordPress-powered site. If you’ve ever run a WordPress blog, then it’s the perfect experience to add into the Project Section of the blog and explain what you can do! Once you’ve done that, add the “WordPress” into the skills section.
Like the example above, make sure you add in as many details as possible backing up each of your skills in your resume. Think of it as the proof you need to convince employers of your expertise.
When it comes to skills, you need to quantify whenever possible.
Let’s say your prospective job requires you to do a lot of typing. Show the recruiter how fast you are at typing by taking an online typing test (yes – they exist)!
If you have to drive a lot for a prospective position, let the employer know that you’ve had a clean driver’s license for X amount of years.
Now let’s take a look at transferable skills. These are skills that (you guessed it) transfer or cross over into other tasks and jobs.
Have you ever organized a concert or event? Awesome! You just honed your organizational skills, which can transfer over to other areas. And don’t forget: be specific about what you did and explain why/how you did a good job of this (quantify).
You’ve also got soft skills. People don’t show as much love to soft skills, but don’t be mistaken, they’re still very important!
What’s considered a soft skill, you say? People skills, communication, sales, customer service, are all examples of soft skills. If they’re not a technical skill, then they’re most likely a soft skill.
Let’s not forget about licenses and certifications. This is a great way to show an employer your proficiency.
Foreign languages are also a valuable skill to possess – add those into your resume as well.
3. Don’t Forget About Applicant Tracking
If you’re asking what an Applicant Tracking System is, don’t worry. Most job seekers simply aren’t taught about these tricky hiring bots.
Simply put, they’re software solutions to recruitment. Because recruiters are bombarded with hundreds and thousands of resumes, they need a way to browse through candidates, give careful consideration to the ones that stand out, and skim through (most of the times skip) resumes that don’t stand out.
This is all done by the Applicant Tracking System which acts as a HR search engine.
What’s the problem? The issue is that these hiring bots are ranking job applicants based on the quality of their resumes.
The ranking factor is primarily based on two criteria:
- Does the resume contain the right keywords and
- Is the resume in an ATS readable format
If your resume is un-readable by ATS, the bot can’t properly read your keywords, making your resume pointless. In fact, ~43% of resumes are discarded because they are in “unreadable” formats. Well, what’s the big issue with that? Can’t a human HR manager just read my resume and pick up where the ATS failed? Not exactly.
Because human hiring managers can only spend so much time on each resume (7-10 minutes max), a low ranking resume will receive very little attention from recruiters.
Here are some shocking numbers:
- Only 25% of resumes are seen by human hiring managers (the rest are ignored)
- 99% of big companies use Applicant Tracking Systems
- 26% of Fortune 500 companies use “Workday” as their ATS
Okay, I Get It. Is there any way to beat this ATS?
Yes, here are some ways to kick ATS in its algorithmic butt, without lying about your experiences.
Use ATS optimized resume builders and resume templates. They’re not as nice looking as fancy resumes with cool graphics, charts and colorful icons, but they work well with the hiring bot. Also, what’s the point of all those design elements if human HR managers don’t even get a chance to appreciate them! Absolutely none.
Here’s a quote from Amanda Augustine, a resident career expert at Talent Inc.:
“Avoid images, charts, and other graphics. While these may look nice to the human eye, resumes with embedded images become a garbled mess, or get completely omitted from your application, after it passes through the applicant tracking system.”
ATS is not some imaginary threat. With more and more employers using ATS every year, it’s safe to assume that ATS is here to stay. So make sure you familiarize yourself with ATS and create resumes that work with these systems!
A Closing Word Of Advice
Here’s the bottom line—
Employers understand that entry level candidates don’t have much experience. And although they’d love to hire someone with a solid history of employment, they understand that part of hiring someone new is the training. Prove to employers that you can be trusted to learn fast on the job and you will win their vote.
Make the most of what experience you already have, leverage your educational background, and quantify when possible.
A Summary Of What Was Covered
- Get relevant keywords by looking at the job posting.
By properly implementing the important keywords into your resume, Applicant Tracking Systems (the tricky little hiring bots) will rank your resume higher.
- Quantify your skills and education to show your expertise.
Remember, employers need proof of your expertise. Use coursework and projects to quantify the skills you possess.
- Know what ATS is and avoid using lavish resume templates when possible.
75% of resumes are ignored due to Applicant Tracking Systems. Use the right templates and your chances of getting seen by a human hiring manager will increase.