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Does your resume pass the resume parsing test?

By Greg Hoy, May 2019

Have you ever applied for a position, thinking you were a perfect match for the job? How could the Hiring Manager ignore your qualifications and experience. Unfortunately, no phone call comes and you assume either the other candidates were more qualified, or you simply weren’t good enough for the job.

The unfortunate truth? You were most likely rejected by resume parsing software and your resume was never seen by human eyes.

Resume parsing, resume extraction, CV parsing, or CV extraction is software that extracts and manages your resume data which is then used by major Australian companies, recruiters and large job listing websites for matching prospective candidates to job requirements.

If you want your resume to be seen by an actual human being and get hired, you need to tweak your resume to satisfy the resume parsing software. It’s not as hard to do as you may think. Assuming you have the qualifications and experience needed, all that is required for the job being applied for is giving the parsing software what it has been programmed to search for.

Follow these rules and you’ll be way ahead of the rest of the pack.

Choose the right format.

Unless the job application states otherwise, stay with Microsoft Word docs. If you don’t have Microsoft Word, you can use Google Docs, which is free, to save your document in Microsoft Word format. Don’t use a PDF document unless otherwise asked for.

Simple is best

Avoid getting too creative. Fancy headings, fonts, charts, boxes, graphics, and logos may look nice but might not be readable to the parser. Some newer software may be able to read these correctly, but for older versions they may be unreadable.

Help the software do what it needs to do by using standard headings such as “Skills”, “Work Experience”, “Qualifications”, “Certificates”, and “Previous Positions”. Stick with the popular frequently used headings.

Choose the right font size. The main part of your resume should generally be 11-12 points. The top part can be a little bigger.

Use targeted keywords

Each and every resume you submit should be tweaked to reflect what is being asked for in the job description and candidate criteria. Use keywords from the job advertisement throughout your resume. This is where the resume parsing software determines if you match the necessary criteria for the job. Also, when listing acronyms and abbreviations spell them out in full, for example CAD (computer-aided design), so the program understands.

Avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is overloading keywords into your resume and is done in order to trick the system and gain an advantage over other candidates. If your resume does make it through to the recruiter or Hiring Manager it will probably be frowned upon and rejected. Keep in mind that your resume needs to be written for both audiences, the software program and a human being.

Include start and end dates

Be sure to include job start and end dates. When you list information where dates are important, it’s best to include both the month and year. When including the month, spell it out instead of MM/YY (e.g., April 2012, not 04/12 or the abbreviated form, Apl, 2012) so that your resume dates will be understood correctly. If you include the year only in order to hide gaps in your resume, it may be considered a warning sign to recruiters. If possible, try to honestly fill those gaps using such options as contract work, volunteering, training, travel, etc. If you’re still working in the particular position use “current”, or “present” for the end date. If you don’t put in the dates, the parser may ignore the position.

The unfortunate down-side of putting in dates is the possibility of being discriminated against because of your age. This is a common reason why many aged job seekers may not get an interview.

By limiting your resume to your last 15 years of experience you can minimize this issue and highlight your most recent experience. If qualifications and experience are older than 15 years but not vital to the job, consider cutting them.

Older experience not dated might not get accurately read so you could change the text colour to white, making the dates readable to the program but unseen to the human eye. The caveat is that some systems may recognize you are doing this and consider it a sneaky tactic. Use this technique with care.  

Don’t make typos and spelling mistakes

It may seem obvious but it can easily happen. Parsing software might not understand “too  years’ experience in nersing”, “Office Manger”, or “Scool Administrator”.

Don’t submit a generic resume

While you don’t need to completely re-write your resume for each job application, you should edit each one to show your relevant qualifications, skills, etc., based on the job listing requirements.

All this may seem like a lot of work, but it will be well worth it if you can get that elusive job interview. Not all parsing software is created equal, and some versions may be more flexible and adaptable than others. By following these rules your resume should keep the parsing software happy, whichever version is used. So, try these steps to get ahead of other candidates and get your resume into the hands of a real live person.

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