How to write a resume that gets read

How to write a resume that gets read by more employers

Peter Harris|

When writing a resume, read job descriptions for your field carefully, and make sure your resume is specific for each and every job that you apply for, and describe your skills and experience in a way that clearly demonstrates how you are just right for the role.

Those are the basics, but for your resume to impress an employer and land you a job interview, it first has to actually be seen by a human being. With modern recruitment software, many resumes never get read at all.

Here are some things to keep in mind when writing a resume to post online or use to apply for jobs over the internet.

    Use relevant keywords

    Keywords are aptly named as they really can be your keys to opening doors. This is true whether you apply directly to jobs or merely post your resume online so that potential employers can find you. In both cases using the right keywords and phrases can make or break the chances that your resume will even be read.

    For example, recruiters search the Workopolis resume database for candidates 1,600 times a day. Most of these searches are done using keywords reflecting the skills that they most need to hire. So even if you are a talented professional in that industry who would be brilliant at the job – if the words you’ve used to describe your skills and experience don’t match those in the employer’s search query, your resume won’t be found.

    Workopolis recently launched a semantic search engine called Candidate Connect to help employers quickly find the talent they need. In the case of semantic search engines, keywords are still important, but so is the context in which they are used. List your relevant skills, but also explain how you used them on the job and what you accomplished with them.

    Keep it up-to-date

    When the relevance of the two resumes is equal, then more recently posted or updated resumes will turn up higher in employer search results. Some employers may also be reluctant to contact candidates whose resumes were last updated a very long time ago – assuming that perhaps the candidate won’t be interested in new career opportunities.

    So if you are open to being approached about jobs, it is a good idea to periodically update your online resume with your latest skills and accomplishments. Or you can even just open it for editing and resave it without making any changes; this will update the revised date to the current day.

    Applicant Tracking Systems

    When you apply to a job directly, the keywords in your resume are also critical. This is because many companies have resume-scanning systems that are the first hurdle to overcome. These applicant tracking systems (Or ATS as they’re called in the industry) screen all of the resumes submitted for a position, and filter them based on how the keywords they contain measure up to those sought by the hiring manager. If the keywords and phrases that you’ve used don’t match what the employer has set the ATS to scan for – your resume won’t ever be read by real person.

    You can determine which are the most relevant keywords for your job and industry by carefully reading job descriptions for opportunities in your field. Make sure that the wording you use to describe your skills and experience closely matches the language used by employers. Generally, they’ll be looking for things such as technology, job titles, industry-specific terms, degrees or certifications, specific skills, etc.

    Keep it simple

    Have your resume formatted as plainly as possible, with your work history listed in reverse chronological order. That will make it easy for search engines to find and understand the context and relevance of your information. Avoid using tables, columns, images, or other layout devices that can confuse the system.

    Quality and quantity

    For electronic resumes, there is no need to consider the number of pages it takes to describe your information. So you can use the space that you need to describe all of your relevant education, experience and accomplishments. However, while it seems like adding more skills and experience to your resume will help you be found more often and rank higher in employer searches, you still have to use them wisely. Simply padding your document with terms that don’t reflect skills that you actually have isn’t going to do your career any good. You don’t want to interview (or worse get hired) for a job that you aren’t qualified to do. That would just be setting yourself up for failure, hurting your professional reputation, and wasting everyone’s time.

    When applying directly to a person via email or handing over a paper resume, you should have a shorter, focussed version of your resume that can be laid out in a visually appealing format.


The real job of your resume is to successfully market your abilities to an employer so that they will want to find out more about you in a job interview. Of course, your odds of impressing someone go way up when you’re actually being read by a real person.

That’s why you need to incorporate as many relevant keywords as you can into your resume to help it get passed the search queries and automated filters that come between your writing and human eyes.

See also:

  • Your resume has less than 10 seconds to avoid rejection
  • The biggest mistake on a resume
  • More about Workopolis’ Candidate Connect resume database search

  • - Peter Harris

    Peter Harris on Twitter


    Category: Resumes, Student,