Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dos and Don'ts for your CV

Action keywords: Start each sentence with an action word. List here.
Correct section headings: Section heading should be readable by a computer. List here
Standard fonts: Stick to Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif, Times New Roman, Impact and Georgia.
Research the role: Ask seniors, lookup LinkedIn, Glassdoor.
Contact information: Very critical. Name, email and phone number.

Abbreviations: Unless you are 100% sure it is an industry standard in which case it is fine to use.
Irrelevant information: Resumes need to be job specific and CV real estate is limited.
Tables: Resume screeners might not read them well.
Images: Resume screeners don’t read them.
Spelling errors: Run a spell check
Special characters: no arrows/ symbols etc. Use standard bullets at most.
Borders/ shading: the format could get messed up over transit.
Verbal diarrhoea: These are phrases that actually mean nothing. Phrase list .
White text: Do not get clever on keywords to beat systems. There are consequences.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Resume 'must haves' and 'good to haves' to land that interview

Nowadays, resumes go through at least two rounds of screening. The first round of screening is done by HR systems called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). The next round of screening is performed by humans. 72% of resumes are screened out in the first round on average. This means that it is very important to play by the rules of the ATS. The ATS evaluates candidates and finally prepares a report based the candidate’s resume.  Hence, it is critical for resumes to pass the ATS test. Here are a few things the ATS looks for.

First and foremost, the ATS takes keywords as input from HRs as per the job requirements. The ATS then gets to work by dividing the resume into several sections. This process is also known as resume parsing.  A few of the resume sections are as follows:

  1. Contact Info
  2. Objective
  3. Summary
  4. Employment History
  5. Education History
  6. Competencies
  7. Professional Qualifications
  8. Accomplishments / Achievements / Honors and Awards
  9. Hobbies / Interests
  10. Patents
  11. Publications
  12. Certifications

These are some of the sections that the ATS first divides the resume into. The objective of this task is to make sense of the information in the resume. The mere presence of keywords is not enough. Checking which section the keywords belong to goes a long way in evaluating a profile in a much better manner. Let us take a simple example. Let us just say that an employer is looking for a social media specialist with experience in Google Analytics. Google Analytics being mentioned in the employment history section of the resume is much better than Google Analytics being present only in the competencies section. The former shows that the candidate has more expertise on the subject because of concrete work on the subject as opposed to enlisting it. Many such aspects make resume parsing a very important first step. What does this mean for a job applicant?


  1. Job applicants must write resumes that have an ATS-friendly format so that they are easily parsable, i.e. they can easily be split into the right sections by the ATS. This means that resume section nomenclature should be observed.
  2. Keywords identified by the applicant must be added in the appropriate sections. This shows the applicant in the best possible light both to the ATS as well as the HR.
  3. Sections that an ATS would definitely look for would be the Contact Info, Employment History, Education History, and the Competencies sections. These sections play a vital role in the evaluation of the applicant.


Sections that are also good to have are those such as a Summary section highlighting expertise, the Objective section tailored to each job showing high level of relevance and research, an Achievements section to display the accolades received, and other details such as Patents, Publications, etc that also add immensely to the value of the applicant.


In conclusion, these are certain good practices to follow in order to make an ATS and HR friendly resume to drastically increase the chances of landing an interview. Details on other aspects such as keywords and the actual process of resume optimization are mentioned in our other blogs. To find out what you should be putting on your CV, read this. Please stay tuned. Good luck.

What are keywords? Where do i add them?

Let us start with a question. In your view, how many job applications do big companies get for their job postings? 100? 500? 1,000? 5,000? Nope. It runs into tens of thousands. Yahoo!receives 12,000+ resumes every week. Companies eventually land up with an enormous pool of resumes in their database. It is humanly impossible to review so many applications for all sorts of job postings. Time is also of the essence. Behold the savior, technology. HRs use systems called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to streamline their screening process. The job of the ATS is to find the most suitable candidates (thereby eliminating others) for a job posting and present them to the HR.

The ATS requires some inputs from the HR to find relevant candidates. HRs express these requirements in terms of words, also known as “keywords”. The ATS scans the entire resume pool and uses sophisticated algorithms to find the most qualified candidates with respect to these keywords. Let us illustrate with a simple example. 

Suppose Google is looking for a iPhone Developer in San Francisco. The HR at Google could look for a certain skill set, educational qualification, and location of residence of the candidate. Keywords for this position may include iPhone, iOS, software design, cocoa, objective-c, San Francisco Bay Area, Computer Science Engineer and so on. These are words that an ATS would expect to see in a resume of a person who has experience in iPhone Development. Their absence could indicate that the candidate is a poor fit for the job.  This is a very simple example to explain the concept of keywords. If one thinks about it, there is a fascinating parallel between keyword search and a typical Google search. Making your website more searchable for a particular user search is commonly known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Likewise, making your resume more searchable for a particular job is slowly being referred to as SEO for Resumes or Resume Optimization.

Let us dig deeper into the different types of keywords that HRs look for. Keywords could be of but not restricted to the following types:

  1. Skill or Competency Keywords: These are generally core to any job requirement. Some examples of skill keywords from different streams include financial modeling, object-oriented programming, market research, sales, intellectual property rights, calculus, French, leadership, teamwork, and so on. Employers might look for a good mix of both hard and soft skills.
  2. Contact Information Keywords: Employers might look for local talent and so the name of the city itself could act as a keyword for that particular job. If Google wants to fill a position of Java Developer in their Mountain View office, they might want candidates from the San Francisco Bay Area only. So, San Francisco Bay Area is a keyword.
  3. Educational Qualification Keywords: It could so happen that an employer is looking for candidates who have finished a college degree only. Then, B Tech, BA, BSBA, BS, BE, etc. are all keywords for the job. Similarly, companies could look for candidates who have done their MBA from a certain list of schools. Essentially, MBA and the names of those schools are keywords being searched for by the ATS.
  4. Work Experience Keywords: Companies could also look for candidates who have worked in certain companies, or certain industries, or in certain job positions or in certain locations, and so on. For instance, Wikipedia might want candidates who have worked in the telecom industry space in emerging economies in Asia since they are looking to fill a job that demands such expertise and experience. Then, telecom industry, India, China, etc will be keywords that the ATS will look for.
  5. Action Keywords: These are words that are used to construct sentences in a person’s resume or cover letter that exhibit actions, personality traits, and achievements of a person. Examples include achieved, executed, accomplished, reviewed, analyzed, and so on.

These are a few categories of keywords. As one can see, the keywords for a job are very specific to each job. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all resume.

Given a job posting, how do you find the keywords and where do you use them on your resume?

Now that you have a good idea about keywords and their different types, the next step is to identify them in each job that you are applying to. There are ways to do this. Here are a couple of ways:
  1. Manually go through the job description to identify the keywords from the lens of the employer with respect to the different types of keywords mentioned earlier. Add them to your resume in the appropriate sections.
  2. Use a resume optimizer to get all the keywords you require and the sections you need to add them in. Resume optimizers are nothing but ATS simulators. They simplify the process for job seekers to a large extent saving a tremendous amount of time. 

Location Matters: The location of the keywords in a resume matters. For instance, if you have a high level of expertise in a certain skill like “financial modeling”, the ATS would expect to see “financial modeling” in your work experience section and not just your skills section. The ATS is smart enough to identify contexts and extract meaning.

In summary, when interested in applying to a job, keeping in mind the different types of keywords, you need to identify the keywords, and add them in the right sections of your resume. This makes sure that you are considered to be a very strong candidate for an interview. For more important dos and don'ts on your CV, follow the link.

How to prepare a CV

Maintain a master CV: List down all your achievements in your life. You shall taper this down based on the job description. Make sure to include the following:
  • Work history
  • Internships
  • Extra curricular activities
  • Project Work
  • Honors & Awards
  • Skills
  • Educational Qualifications
  • Courses
  • Certifications
  • Volunteer work
  • Language
  • Interests
  • Publications
  • Test scores
  • Patents

Most of this can be found on LinkedIn as fields in your profile. Update it from time to time. Your memory is not that great. List it down, keep it, and use it later. It does not matter whether you are applying to a job right now.

Identify the job: Find out what others from similar positions have gone on to do. Use job portals and search for a job that you have identified as something achievable but at the same time, is a step forward in your career. Use the following parameters to do it:
  • Job title
  • Location
  • Salary required
  • Skills possessed

Identify an ATS friendly template: The resume needs to be readable by a computer.Here is an article on how Applicant tracking systems(ATS) work. Make sure you pick the right template. Make sure you have your resume in chronological order.

Identify keywords for your job: This is based on the job description. Please ensure you identify the key skills required for the job and cater your resume directly to it. It should look to the screener like you were made for this job. Here is an article on how to find these keywords

Make a resume header: This is the first in a list of sections for your resume. Here is an article on Must have and good to have sections to optimize your resumeMake sure to include your contact details in the resume header. It should have the following sections.
  • Full Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address

  • Address
  • Linkedin/ Facebook profile
  • Personal website
  • Fax number

Job Objective Statement:
  • Make it very specific, make it very targeted to the job.
  • Avoid buzz words like strategic, synergy, challenging position, opportunity to grow etc. All this is verbal diarrhea.
  • Research the career ladder within the organization and use company/ profile specific phrases.
  • Keep it simple and it should display to the manager that you have done your research on the job.
  • Look 5-10 years ahead on what you aim to be.
  • Restrict it to between 10 and 15 words.
  • Make sure to include the area of work(eg. data science), the specific title(eg. project manager) and specialization(eg. Cognitive automation)
  • Example: I aim to be a project manager in Data science focused in cognitive automation.

Summary section:
  • Start with your strongest and most relevant skill/ qualification related to the job and highlight your relevant key achievements. Consider adding the following if relevant and you see as your strong point:
  • Experience related to job or key skill required for job. (eg. 4 years of android development)
  • How does your personality fit the job (eg. Analytical mindset that consistently help me solve problems faster than others)
  • Any passion that is valued by the employer(eg. Linux enthusiast, and up to date with latest developments on the OS)
  • Any technical or linguistic skills that might help you on the job (eg. Intermediate VBA macros on excel)

Employment history
  • Include as many relevant keywords to the job as possible in this section
  • Write this in reverse chronological order. As far at the timeline is concerned, date: not necessary, month: optional, year: mandatory
  • Do not use a table for entering the dates, use left/ right align.
  • If you were unemployed between two jobs for whatever reason, be honest but clearly ensure to fill in the gap with some productive activity (eg. Studies/ parenting etc.)
  • Highlight and elaborate on job relevant experience. Keep irrelevant experience very brief.

Achievements- don’t be modest:
  • Take some pride in your achievements. It should not sound like you were just doing a job.
  • Add numbers, percentages, dollar figures, and timelines to quantify your achievement.
  • Make sure you answer according to how success is measured in your field.

Education history
  • This would normally come after work experience. However, if you are a fresh graduate and this is most relevant to the job you are applying to, put this right upfront after your summary.
  • Major specializations, minors and coursework should be included only if they are relevant to the job.
  • Common industry wide abbreviations on college degrees (eg. B.E. for Bachelor of Engineering) are okay to use.
  • Abbreviated college names are not advisable.
  • If you are yet to complete studying and are applying for a job, state when you expect to complete your degree and any honors you are on track to get. (eg. anticipated completion July 2015)
  • Add grades if you believe it is to your advantage and if it is relevant.

  • This is one of the most important sections in your resume. Add all the keywords you have researched that you possess relevant to the job. You can use CVLift for this purpose.
  • Make sure all the skills you add here are job relevant. Remove non-relevant skills
  • Add language skills if you believe it might help you in the job.

Volunteer Work
This is an optional one. However, this is a strong portrayal of character. Include any social service if you personally deem it as an achievement and you still have space on your resume.

Interests/ Hobbies
This might include travel, sports, religious, political, and other personal activities. Add it only if you think it is relevant to the job or if you think this portrays character that would add value to the job.