If you are gunning for a $500k tech job, chances are you’re highly experienced and are applying for a senior position. When applying for a senior engineering position, condensing all the information about your experience and skills to create a concise yet impactful resume can be challenging.
Crafting a standout resume is the first and most important step to landing an interview at a FAANG company. Top tech and FAANG companies receive thousands of job applications every month. This makes it humanly impossible to efficiently filter the right candidates for interviews.
Given their strong financial and tech capabilities, large tech companies generally deploy internal automated systems to help manage their recruitment and hiring processes.
An Application Tracking System (ATS) is a software designed to manage applications that a company receives. The ATS tracks the hiring status of a candidate from application to interview to offer or rejection. Primary functions of an ATS include scanning resumes online, matching resumes to job descriptions, categorizing and storing information, and assigning a relevance-based score to resumes.
About 75% of resumes submitted to FAANG companies are rejected during the application stage of the hiring process based on ATS screening. This means, if your resume is not ATS-optimized, it could be rejected even if you’re an ideal candidate for the prospective role. Recruiters then screen resumes filtered by the ATS.
Companies that don’t use an ATS also screen resumes using high-level parameters to weed out those that don’t meet basic requirements. Ordinarily, recruiters spend about 5-10 seconds to scan a resume and filter desirable profiles. Shortlisted resumes are further studied to determine if an applicant can be a potential interview candidate.
In this article, we’ve covered some tips to help you optimize your resume to clear screening by an ATS and scrutiny by recruiters:
- Prioritize Content Over Design
- Provide a Professional Summary
- Create Logical Flow and Clear Sections
- Use Appropriate Headings/Titles/Formatting
- Keep It to One Page
- Keep Your Resume Up to Date and Relevant
- Add the Necessary Contact information
- List Relevant Experience
- Highlight Key Skills
- List Successful Projects
- List Your Educational Qualifications and Certifications
- Showcase Contributions and Impact
- Highlight Achievements and Awards
- Customize Your Resume
- Don’t Exaggerate or Include Incorrect Information
1. Prioritize Content Over Design
Pay attention to structure and format. Choose a simple, minimalistic layout that facilitates easy perusal of information. Visually scattered content makes it hard for recruiters to identify important information at a glance.
Use a traditional vs. a functional format that can be easily converted and read by an ATS. Avoid fancy templates that may be visually attractive but are usually incompatible with an ATS.
Avoid fonts and color schemes that distract from the contents of the resume. Stick to standard fonts and font sizes that are easy to read for machines or recruiters. Avoid featuring information in headers and footers or tables and columns. This is not likely to be captured by an ATS.
2. Provide a Professional Summary
Provide pertinent information that tells the recruiter, at a glance:
- Who you are
- What you do
- What you’re looking for
- Your total years of experience
- Why you’re a good fit for the job
Use the right keywords to convey this information quickly.
The summary should entice recruiters to read through the rest of your resume. A summary that doesn’t add value is best omitted to prevent recruiters from spending less time on other, more important sections of the resume.
3. Create Logical Flow and Clear Sections
If the summary serves to capture a recruiter’s interest, the resume’s body should hold their attention. Ensure information is detailed in a clear, organized manner to allow recruiters to absorb key elements of each section of your resume.
Demarcate the different aspects of your resume, such as experience, skills, education, certifications, achievements, references, etc. This will allow recruiters to scan and identify the information they are most interested in and match your profile to the job description.
An ATS will also parse information based on these sections. Stick to traditional headings and titles such as:
- Personal Information/Name
- Career Objective
- Contact Information
- Work Experience
Avoid clubbing information into one category. For example, list your skills in a separate section instead of itemizing them with each role. Also, avoid posting your summary along with your contact information.
4. Use Appropriate Headings/Titles/Formatting
Provide clear titles for every section and subsection of your resume. Utilize bold or underlined text to highlight individual items and key points within the details of each section, such as roles, critical tasks, relevant technologies, etc.
Include full forms of abbreviations to make it ATS readable. This applies to all sections of your resume.
5. Keep It to One Page
Try to keep your resume one page long, not exceeding two pages if needed. Conveying information succinctly when applying for a senior role can be challenging, but readability is important.
Identify key information that will sell you for the prospective position. Avoid descriptive language; utilize bullet points with short, specific sentences.
Important note: Submit your resume in the file format specified by the company. The internal ATS may not accept certain formats, including PDF files. If there are no specifications, a word document (.docx) is the standard format.
6. Keep Your Resume Up to Date and Relevant
Ensure information is as topical as possible; eliminate any outdated information that will not impact the reader. Your resume should be reflective of a seasoned professional applying for a senior or specialized role. Only include information that is relevant to the job and shows why you are right for it.
7. Add the Necessary Contact information
Besides your full name, include and highlight your latest contact information, i.e., address (location), phone number, and email address.
Include links to your LinkedIn/GitHub and any other relevant online professional profile. Ensure these are consistent with the information provided in your resume.
Ensure you use a professional email id and username. Ideally, this should include your first, last, and middle name, if necessary, or a variation using initials. Utilize a period to separate names or an underscore if a period isn’t feasible. For example:
8. List Relevant Experience
If your resume is shortlisted, recruiters will focus on the ‘Experience’ section of your resume to decide if you should be called for an interview. The experience you list indicates your value-offering to the company and will also form the basis of interview questions.
This section should form the bulk of your resume and should include all relevant information.
List your experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your current/most recent role and company. Indicate the title and role, company name, and period of experience for each listing. This will make it ATS-friendly and allow recruiters to follow your career progression easily.
You may have garnered considerable experience over the years, either by working at different companies or by functioning in different roles within one company. Avoid describing every role at every company you have worked for in the past.
Detail roles and responsibilities only for relevant job experiences limiting descriptions to about six points or less per role. Specify clearly what your past roles involved in terms of responsibilities since titles aren’t self-explanatory. Don’t assume a recruiter understands your role by your job title.
9. Highlight Key Skills
Clearly mention key skills that you possess or have used in past roles. Highlight and detail skills most relevant to the prospective role. If applicable, mention skills you possess that are in demand or growing in demand in the industry.
Mention key non-technical skills needed for the prospective role in addition to technical skills, such as project management, communication, leadership, problem-solving skills.
Include proven or demonstrable skills or skills you have a working knowledge of; avoid mentioning skills you cannot elaborate on confidently. Alternatively, indicate your level of proficiency for skills mentioned as Expert, Intermediate, Competent, etc.
10. List Successful Projects
Mention successful projects that you have worked on, highlighting your contributions along with the outcomes. Include personal or side projects you worked on that showcase your skills and complement your professional experience. These can be consulting or external projects.
At a senior level, engineers are expected to demonstrate the ability to identify and solve problems by leveraging their technical expertise. Showcase this aspect through your projects.
Avoid listing irrelevant projects as it implies that you haven’t understood the role requirements.
11. List Your Educational Qualifications and Certifications
As a seasoned professional, your education details should be limited to your top qualifications. Mention your degree, university, and area of specialization. Organize this information starting with your highest degree. Mentioning your educational qualifications is important as senior job roles usually specify academic requirements.
Tailor this section to provide as much information as specified in the job description. This section should not consume more space than necessary and should feature below more important sections viz. work experience and achievements.
List certifications to indicate your level of expertise in various skills. Include only relevant and credible certifications to appear professional and save space on your resume for more important information, viz., work experience. Mention the skills you are certified in as these act as keywords, increasing your visibility in automated searches.
12. Showcase Contributions and Impact
Your resume shouldn’t be a laundry list of past positions and qualifications. Highlight the impact you created in your past roles instead of describing the responsibilities assigned to you. Quantify your contributions, if possible. To stand out, your resume should communicate what you can bring to the table if considered for the position.
Highlight instances when you worked beyond the technical scope of your role. Talk about times you provided technical direction or influence, identified and solved problems, led small teams or projects, collaborated with stakeholders and clients to design solutions, etc.
Your resume should indicate that you’re already qualified and capable of performing in the prospective role. It should convince recruiters you can add value and not just execute tasks.
13. Highlight Achievements and Awards
Also, highlight achievements or recognition you’ve received as part of your work experience. Keep it short and specific, quantifying your achievements where possible. Achievements can be related to your professional experience or external projects.
Important note: Don’t Repeat Information: Show diversity in skills, experience, and technical knowledge. Repeating roles or projects that satisfied different goals but utilized the same technologies or skills won’t help you stand out.
14. Customize Your Resume
Besides industry and generic keywords, identify specific keywords and key phrases that you can utilize in your resume by studying job descriptions for prospective roles at companies you’re targeting. Tailor your resume for each job you apply for instead of sending out a generic version of your resume to all companies.
Your resume should specifically speak to the role you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a position focused on client management, specify experience that relates to this.
Study profiles of people currently in the role you’re applying for to see how they describe their work or position. Study prospective companies to understand their unique cultures and practices, products, and business operations. Customize your resume to resonate with a company’s culture and highlight how you can add value.
15. Don’t Exaggerate or Include Incorrect Information
Ensure the information provided in your resume is true and verifiable. If shortlisted, your resume will be referenced during interviews. You will be asked about past roles and achievements and will be expected to prove your capabilities during technical and behavioral interviews. FAANG recruiters and interviewers are seasoned professionals who can easily identify disingenuous candidates.
And that's wrap! Be sure to follow these tips to create a stellar resume.
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