The New Science Of Resumes–And Why Yours Sinks To The Bottom Of The Pile

Everybody now needs two resumes–one for the computers that scan them, and one for the humans. And don’t forget your keywords and social resume.

The New Science Of Resumes–And Why Yours Sinks To The Bottom Of The Pile

Keywords, social resumes, applicant tracking systems, and LinkedIn are all relatively new additions to the vocabulary associated with job searching. These systems affect the way your resume is read, interpreted, and shared. For employers looking to hire, these systems make it easier to find the right candidates. The successful job seeker must know how these work to be discovered by employers.


As CEO of Interview Jet, a daily-deal service for finding tech talent, I see hundreds of resumes each day. I’m always impressed by the unending online inventory of people available to employers. In the world of hiring, the total measure of a person is, at first, their resume. Below are insights from a world knee-deep in resumes.

All Resumes End Up In The Same Pile
When you use a job boards like Monster or Dice, you may or may not realize that resumes you upload can lead to many places, including a mind-bogglingly massive database that’s eventually visible to thousands of recruiters and hiring companies alike. Companies like these earn their keep by collecting data from multiple job boards, aggregating them into one massive repository, and then making that data searchable for recruiting companies. This way, almost all resumes eventually end up in the same pile.

The job boards aren’t the only path to the Giant Pile of Resumes. Your resume may end up there even when you apply to a single job opening at a single company. Companies like JobScore encourage resume sharing between companies.

What does this mean for you? Two things. First, the odds of getting hired based on your resume are more slim than ever, unless you have highly sought-after technical skills. Second, it means your resume may need updating to fit into the brave new world of hiring.

SEO for Your Resume
“Employers are now searching with keywords,” says Josh Holtzman, founder of Headhunter Labs, a tech incubator for HR-related startups, “so consider ‘keyword-packing’ your resume, including synonyms and different commonly accepted spellings of your skills. For example, if you specialize in ‘Objective-C,’ and employers search ‘Objective C’ with no dash, you may not appear in their search results.”


“Keyword packing” means matching the words in your resume with search terms your employers might use to search for candidates. When applying to one company’s job opening, you’ll want much of the language in your resume to match the language in the job posting, particularly when it comes to skills required. Systems that match keywords between resumes and job postings will sort applicants higher when keywords match.

If you’re not sure what keywords to use, consider enlisting help from an industry-specific recruiter. A recruiter knows which keywords are in vogue and can help you format your resume. Your new resume will be longer, more complicated, and less readable than one you might create on your own. That’s okay, because it’s the search engines–not humans–that you’re trying to please.

A New Section Called “Keywords”
To add keywords to your resume without reducing its readability, you can create a new section of your resume called “keywords.” It should be formatted to match traditional headers like “education” and “experience,” but the text will be a block of terms separated by commas. It looks best either near the top of the resume just under your name and contact info, or at the very bottom of your resume.

Have a Human-Friendly Version, Too
What looks sexy to bots looks terrible to humans. Your margins will be extra wide, fonts will be really small, and there will generally be too much text on the page. For these reasons, you should create a human-friendly resume as well. That’s the resume you give your buddy’s rich dad.

The cover letter is for humans, and you should put extra effort into any cover letter you believe a person is actually going to read.


Don’t Forget Your Social Resume
Another way of standing out in today’s job market is adding keywords to your social media accounts, also known as your “social resume.” Employers are beginning to use these sites as sourcing tools to proactively find candidates. Keywords matter here, too. “The recruiting industry runs on keywords,” says Chris Russell, CEO of “Make sure you say something about what you do in all your social media accounts. For example, on Facebook you can fill in your current employer and job title. On Twitter you can mention your skills in the profile. Social media profiles allow you to identify your skill set so it’s important to make that part of your job hunting strategy.”

The Near Future
Keyword packing, preparing an SEO and human resume, and maintaining the social resume are daunting. Hopefully the world of resumes will consolidate in the coming years. “The future of candidate presentation is LinkedIn,” says Holtzman. “Before LinkedIn, there was no commonly agreed-upon structure for resume data. It’s so complicated that companies like Sovren and Burning Glass exist to parse data in resumes. LinkedIn forces users to work within its structure.”

Related: This Resume Angel Can Help You Get That Job

[Image: Flickr user Kevin Trotman]

About the author

I'm deeply passionate about improving life at work. From napping chairs to better 360 review software, my entrepreneurial ventures have been focused on making work healthy, meaningful, and joyful.