When you think of beginning a job search you probably also think of preparing a great resume. At some point in the job search process, regardless of your job search tactic, networking, targeted marketing, or applying to jobs online, you will need to provide a resume.

Almost always, when you submit a resume online to an employer, your resume must first make it through a computer screen before it makes it to a human screener.

  • Your resume usually has to make it through an initial keyword digital screen (Applicant Tracking System (ATS)) in order to be retrieved from a database.
  • Studies have shown that most human screeners scan a resume for under 10 seconds and toss it if it does not grab their attention. 

How do you craft a resume that stands out and grabs attention? 

There is no such thing as a perfect resume however you can make a resume easy to read and increase the likelihood of your resume being the one that is picked by following these best practices.

Customizing, Keywords, and Formatting

Easy to read

Make your resume easy to read by letting it “breathe”- give it some “white space” and preferably keep it under two pages.

One size does not fit all

It is important that you tailor your resume for each job you apply for. Review keywords and functional competencies described in job descriptions and incorporate them into your resume. Make sure to also include variants of keywords.


Make sure your resume formatting is ATS friendly. Most computer programs have difficulty with design elements such as fancy bullets, tables, headers or footers with your name and address, as well as difficulty with logos and pictures.

During my interview with the president of a firm that specializes in optimizing resumes to be ATS friendly, he said is data indicated, “20% of resumes don’t make it through the computer screening process because of formatting issues and at least 75% of resumes are discarded for using the wrong words.’’ He also recommended avoiding submitting a resume in PDF format because of formatting issues.

Standard Layout

Use a standard layout. Resume reviewers are used to the LinkedIn layout; your name and contact information, a headline, summary or profile, skills/technical competencies, and reverse chronological work history.

Name and address

Place your name and address at the top of the resume. Make sure to have your address on the resume especially if you are local. In my experience, most employers have a bias towards local applicants. Placing your name and address on the side or in a header or footer just makes it more difficult for a human screener as well as computers to find the information leading to errors in data storage.

Be careful with your email address, it should be professional sounding. Job search is not the time to announce to the world your special talent animalbeerchugger@yahoo.com


I prefer a headline over an objective statement. Have a headline that clearly states what you are about in capital letters. For example: PROJECT MANAGER CONSTRUCTION PMP.

Summary or Profile

Have a summary that demonstrates what you can do for an employer, at least one “wow accomplishment” as well as mention functional competencies including technical competencies if appropriate. Apply metrics where possible.

Avoid using up space with cliché words that do not add anything (in your employment history as well); for example words such as hard worker, team player, creative, and problem solver. Show it don’t say it – demonstrate your qualities or competencies by listing accomplishments in your work experience.

Recent Work Experience

Your most recent work experience draws significant attention from a human screener. A brief description followed by three or four accomplishments is the key to gaining and holding their attention. Make sure these accomplishments include the keywords or demonstrate the technical competencies called for in the job description. Use metrics where possible, especially when it’s about making money, saving money or both. 

Fact checking, typos, and date accuracy

Have a few people that know your work history proof read and verify your resume for accuracy. You don’t want all that hard work to go to waste because of a typo or a misplaced date.

It also a good practice to have two “resume types” to customize for each job, one for screening by computers and one for screening by humans for in-person meetings.

Put the effort into crafting your resume and reap the rewards of landing the key interview that leads to a great job.

Paul Hill is a Job Search expert and the Chief Instructor at Transition to Hired and The Panic Free Job Search Boot Camp. He is also the author of The Panic Free Job Search book and can be reached through his web site at www.TransitiontoHired.com