Identifying your skill gaps and refreshing your resumé are CRITICAL to winning the job of your dreams.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that your resumé only needs updating when you change jobs or complete a training course. Twenty years ago this would have been acceptable, however due to recent technological advances and the increasing volume of applications employers have changed the way they screen job applications.
To have any chance of getting noticed, job seekers need to look at their resumés from the perspective of a computer first. Your focus should be on matching the keywords in your resumé to the requirements of the employer’s Application Tracking System (ATS). Furthermore, if your application passes the ATS, what can you do to capture the attention of the recruiter?
The Job Ad
Before you tailor your resume to a specific job ad it’s helpful to know what the employer is really looking for.
Let’s take this Job ad for a Junior Bookkeeper for example:
- Some candidate attributes are essential while others are only desirable.
- The ideal candidate for this position has NDIS / Disability industry experience, however a bookkeeper with the relevant skills and experience to perform the role would not necessarily be disqualified as a candidate. Throughout the remaining stages of the hiring process the recruiter will evaluate the candidate’s competencies and suitability for the role in relation to each key area of responsibility. If they like what they see, it may be enough to outweigh the lack of industry experience.
It’s important to remember too, that other types of not-for-profit work could increase the odds in your favour. Perhaps you have volunteered for a charity or assisted someone in your personal life with a disability?
- Being a ‘qualified bookkeeper’ requires further clarification. For example, a bookkeeper with a degree in Accounting and Finance may have limited experience using Xero, or fulfilling the day to day tasks of an Accounts Receivable officer.
- Expectations of skills and experience are also reflected in the advertised salary, however in this ad it’s worth noting that the hourly rate is for a casual position. Bookkeepers with less experience shouldn’t be deterred from applying just because the rate is higher than they think their experience is worth.
- To ‘Be competent in Microsoft Office Suite’ is a fairly vague description as it doesn’t specify Basic, Intermediate or Advanced skills, nor does it specify the types of tasks to be performed. In this case it’s definitely an important requirement for the job, however in the order of placement it probably ranks as a lower priority than Xero competency.
Presentation, structure, wording and file naming conventions all play a part in the success of your job application.
Keywords and Application Tracking Systems (ATS’s)
Application Tracking Systems (ATS’s) are set up by Human Resources teams and managers to filter job applications according to the company’s selection criteria.
Your resume needs to contain enough keywords chosen by the employer to get ranked highly by the ATS for the job description.
In the above ad for a Junior Bookkeeper you will notice keywords that are specific to the role and job requirements, including:
- Junior Bookkeeper
- Data entry
- Accounts receivable/payable
- Microsoft Office Suite
- Inventory management
To pass the ATS (and make it into the hands of a human being!) your resume should be:
- Concise (1 or 2 pages max.)
- Well-spaced with no large blocks of text
- Typed using professional fonts (Arial, Calibri or Verdana)
- Image free
The ATS may also be searching for other keywords that are not included in the ad.
As the above role is with a non-profit organisation it can be assumed that in addition to the technical and interpersonal requirements of the job, the selection panel will be looking for somebody who is aligned with the values of the organisation. An organisation providing disability support services will want to hire somebody with the maturity and emotional intelligence to serve their clients with compassion and empathy.
Take a moment to review your own strengths as they relate to the position you are applying for. Just because they are not specifically listed in the ad doesn’t mean that the employer won’t see them as being valuable to the role.
Close The Gap
Although you may find that your skills and experience don’t match perfectly with the job requirements, you shouldn’t necessarily disqualify yourself at the outset.
Here’s an extract from a Junior Bookkeeper’s resumé:
At first glance we can see several matches with the sample job ad, including:
- Bookkeeping and accounting
- Attention to detail
- Communication skills
But what keywords could be added to this resumé?
The most obvious missing keywords are related to Role and Responsibilities, such as:
- Data entry
- Accounts receivable/payable
- Inventory management
Identify the Shortfall
Highlight the important aspects that are mentioned in the job, compare the resumé to the job ad and then highlight items that you could change to make your resumé align more with the job ad and description.
Is it really a shortfall?
The ad above mentions ‘Be competent in Microsoft Office Suite’.
This is quite a vague description and the exact level of competency is undefined. Most licensed bookkeepers will have used Word and Excel to some degree by the time they apply for a position like this one, so ‘competent’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to become an expert.
If you do identify genuine gaps between the advertised position and your resumé there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of securing an interview in the future.
Even if you have all of the skills listed in a job ad there will always be another applicant who has more knowledge and experience in a particular area. You may be a Xero Superstar but lacking in Excel skills. A short training course may be enough to close the gap between you and your competitors and help you to meet the requirements of the job.
Unpaid work is another way to gain hands-on experience in a particular field or area of expertise. In addition to practical skills, volunteering can also teach you invaluable soft skills in organisation, leadership, communication and teamwork.
The days of sending in a generic job application and hoping for the best are long gone—and that’s a good thing! Technology has not only provided employers with a tool for scanning large volumes of job applications, it has also given job seekers the competitive edge by allowing them to customise their applications with relevant keywords and attributes.
Before you submit your next job application, take some time to really understand what the employer is looking for. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and then take actions to elevate your hiring potential to the next level.
How Accounting Job Seekers Beat Employers ATS’s With Their Winning Resumé
So, you think you have perfected your resumé? You may have to think again.Your resumé might be professional, clear, modern, and well-written, but will it pass the ATS?
JobSeeker Training Program
The Career Academy JobSeeker Success Training Program contains real-life case study examples, checklists and questions you can answer to improve your self-confidence and narrow down the list of jobs you ideally want and are suited to.