What happens to my resume after I click ‘apply’?

So you’ve applied for a job. Now what? Your resume usually goes through a series of stages before it’s decided whether or not you’ll be invited to an interview. As the applicant, you don’t get to see what those stages are, and who might be reading your resume at each point in the process. But if you know what happens to your application after you submit it, and who’s reading it each step of the way, you’ll be able to tailor it to those audiences and have a greater chance of landing an interview.

We asked Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand, to share his insights on each stage of the application process.

  1. You submit your application.

These days jobs can have hundreds of applicants. So how do you make your resume stand out at the very beginning? Deligiannis says you have to format your resume in a way that makes it easy for employers to immediately notice your relevant skills for the job. “It’s the relevance of your skills and proof that you did your previous jobs well that will help you stand out,” he says.

Deligiannis recommends including the following information in order in your resume:

  • Contact details. “Ensure the email address you supply is professional,” he says.
  • Short professional summary. Include “relevant keywords that prove your value proposition and differentiate you from your competition—don’t just list your career objectives,” Deligiannis says.
  • Work experience. List this in reverse-chronological order, beginning with the most recent job, Deligiannis says. “Personalise this section for each position you apply for, and add more details for experience that relates directly to the job,” he says.
  • Education and qualifications
  1. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) scans resumes for keywords and eliminates irrelevant applications.

Many companies use software to track and sort applications by relevance to the job advertisement. That’s why including keywords used in the job description is crucial for making your resume stand out. “Read the job description to determine the hard skills relevant to the role,” Deligiannis says.

“For example, ‘project management’, ‘governance’, ‘efficiencies’, ‘health and safety’, ‘financial reporting’ or ‘budget management’. Then, scatter these throughout the responsibilities section of your resume.” Deligiannis says it’s also important to include keywords for the required soft skills too, such as ‘communication’, ‘adapt’, ‘organise’, ‘time management’ or ‘professionalism’. And don’t forget to include the systems you use.

Deligiannis explains you can incorporate keywords naturally by using them to describe your achievements, for example, ‘I used my time management skills to plan a successful annual conference with a strict budget in a short time frame’. It’s also important to avoid unusual job titles. “Even if your official job title is unconventional, use an industry-standard title in your resume so it will be recognised by an applicant tracking system,” he says. So delete Director of First Impressions and stick to Receptionist instead.

Also, ensure your resume is in the accepted file format, such as a Word document or a PDF, not a JPEG file, Deligiannis says. “An alternative style might not contain the content that the algorithms recognise, meaning your application could fail to make the shortlist,” he says.

  1. A recruiter reviews and shortlists possible applicants.

Not all companies use recruiters, but if they do, this will be the point where they will take a look at your resume. “Recruiters review hundreds of resumes each day, and what really helps you stand out is to quantify your achievements,” Deligiannis says. “In other words, add proof that you did your previous jobs well. That’s because it’s your achievements and results that really count at this stage of the resume review process. After all, anyone can say they are innovative, but not everyone can say they designed and delivered a new online sales booking system that increased sales by 15% in the first six months.” Facts go a long way with recruiters, so do yourself a favour and share the results of your hard work.

  1. The decision-maker within the business reviews the shortlist

At this point the person doing the hiring will look at their shortlist of candidates. This could be someone from the Human Resources department, or a staff recruiter.

Deligiannis says it’s again important for this stage to have proof to highlight your successes. “The one difference is to describe or provide details of how you achieved your results,” he says. “One great tip for doing this is to use action verbs. For example, instead of writing that you managed a team that delivered a 55% year-on-year increase in customer service scores, write ‘I united and motivated a team of five underperformers. After one year our customer service scores had increased by 55%.’ This not only proves to an employer that you can add value but shows how you can achieve it.”

Ultimately, every person who looks at your resume—whether they’re a recruiter or an HR representative—wants to see how your skills align to the job description. So, take notice of the words used to describe the role in the job advertisement, and if your skills and experience align, be sure to use the same wording in your resume. Speak their language, and you will make it easier for employers to recognise all the fantastic things you have to offer.