Developing An Impactful Application Package: Resume Optimization

In today’s modern job marketplace, 90% of Fortune 500 Companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). A company’s ATS will electronically scan your resume for keywords, score your qualifications based on the description for that position, and rank your application. Recruiters rely heavily on ATS to manage high volumes of job applications, often only reviewing a resume for 6-seconds. As such today’s modern job seeker must have a well-written resume, optimized with keywords and action verbs. To not only survive ATS screening, but also to capture the attention of the recruiter within 6-seconds.

Your resume is your most prized professional marketing tool, so make sure it is optimized for maximum results. However, before you can optimize your resume, you need to make sure that it covers all of the basics – font, structure and grammatical error free. Always submit your resume in MS Word format, as not all ATS are compatible with PDF’s. Avoid headers, footers, tables, templates, borders, lines, symbols, shading, fancy fonts, font colors other than black, tables, columns and boxes. Although, the use of bullet points is fine. Once you have a fundamentally sound resume, you can begin enhancing it maximum effectiveness. Not to mention, having a well-written and engaging resume, will help disperse your job search anxiety and stress.


The most common way recruiters filter resumes in ATS is by searching for key skills and titles. Keywords are graded both by how often they appear and the extent to which they get used in context. You can increase searchability by adding keywords to your resume based on the job description. Thoroughly review the job description for keywords and exact phrases to use throughout your resume and online application. For example, if one of the job qualifications is experience using “MS Word, MS Excel, MS Power Point and MS Outlook.” Then be sure you reference your Microsoft experience in your resume just as they do in the job description. This is how the recruiter will search for qualified candidates. If your experience reads “Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point and Outlook”, your ATS score will be lower and your resume will appear closer towards the bottom of the search results. Increasing the likelihood that you will be passed over.

Let’s say there is an opening for an executive assistant and the job description asks for experience “managing the meeting and travel schedules for multiple executives.” The keywords/phrase you’d want to include in your resume would be managing, meeting and travel schedules, multiple executives. As well as variations for the tense your resume is written in. A great place to boost your keywords is in the qualification summary and skills sections. Using keywords and exact phrases from the job description throughout your resume and online application is the key to bypassing ATS and increasing your odds of landing an interview.


Action verbs are specific, clarify your contributions, and bring a confident tone to your resume and list of accomplishments. You’ll want to steer clear of words that undermine the strength and effectiveness of your resume. Instead, make a point of using powerful action verbs show cases your personality and the impacts you have had in previous roles. Take a look at the below example:

Lacks strength and clarity: “Held weekly tailgate meetings to review safety basics.”

Empowered and detailed: “Spearheaded weekly tailgate meetings to clearly communicate safety principles and job site safety standards to subcontractors.”

Action verbs provide instant information, and are often the first words that hiring managers see after your name. Using industry-specific action verbs will make it easy for hiring managers to see what they want on your resume and prompt them to spend more time reading it in it’s entirety. When you choose great action verbs which accurately showcase your abilities and achievements, you automatically set yourself apart from applicants who use generic verbs that send readers to sleep. This will give you the competitive advantage you need when hiring managers review applications.

I'll reiterate, your resume is your most prized professional marketing tool. It is the first, and often times the only impression a recruiter or hiring manager has of you. To receive an interview in today’s increasingly automated job application process. Job seeker's must have an engaging, well-written resume optimized with keywords and action verbs. It must quickly present an impactful and adequate representation of your experience. So that once it survives the ATS gauntlet, it will entice recruiters to want to learn more.

Best of luck!

Be sure to check back next week for Part III of our Developing An Impactful Application Package series, on Targeted Cover Letters. If you'd like more personalize assistance with developing your impactful application package or with executing your job search, please contact us at

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