How to Use Your Resume

Jul 25, 2023
Jessica Grande

Some of you reading this may have recently graduated from NSS equipped with new skills to add to your resume and ready to start your job search! Others of you might be ready to brush the dust off your resume and look for your next opportunity. But, do you know how to use your resume to land the job? Well you’re in luck, because Nashville Software School’s very own Software Engineer Program Manager, Kate Rogers, recently delivered an insightful talk to our Seekers on how to make the most of your resume in the current job market.

Check out what Kate had to share as we explore her expertise and practical advice to help you navigate the complexities of the market and increase your chances of success. 

Realities of the Market

With the challenges faced by job seekers in the current job market, it’s important for seekers to be proactive when applying for jobs. “You need to take matters into your own hands because you're up against a [hiring] process that's never changed,” she says. While job postings have shifted from want ads in newspapers to websites like LinkedIn, the hiring process still works exactly the same way! 

Seekers used to find one ad in one publication and mail/fax or drop off their resume. Now that jobs are posted online and aggregated to several job boards at a time, everyone everywhere has immediate access and the ability to send their resume with one click. So now that same system is handling 200 resumes when the job goes live as opposed to 15-20 total resumes coming in over time. That deluge of resumes for each new job has broken the system.“Those of you who are searching need to find a way around [the broken system] and need to be working the system to your advantage,” she encourages the seekers. 

Merely applying and waiting for a response is not sufficient. “You need to set yourself apart,” she says. “One of the trickiest parts of being a job applicant is you need to be the right cookie cutter for everything they want, but also be totally different to stand out from the other cookie cutters.” 

Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds reviewing each resume, which means it’s crucial for job seekers to make a strong impression in a short amount of time. The best way to do that is with a targeted resume.

Target Your Resume

How do you effectively use your resume to its full potential? A resume tailored to the job description is far more likely to get you an interview then one that is not.

Customize Your Resume

Tailoring your resume for each job by focusing on what's important for that specific role can make a big impact depending on the jobs you're applying for! “Because you only have those 6 seconds, right? You can't expect other people to make the mental leap from, ‘Oh, if I did this, I probably also did this’,” she says."[Hiring managers] should be able to see what they need to know."

Continuous Updates and Edits

Remember, resumes are never truly finished. You should regularly update and modify your resume as you learn and gain new experiences! During the job search, you’ll learn better ways to optimize your resume  and you’ll also work on projects and add new skills that you’ll want to include on your resume. 

Personalize Your Communications

Avoid using templates or generic messages for cover letters and networking messages. Instead, tailor each communication to the specific person, demonstrating genuine interest in their background or expertise. 

“You want to be specific; you want it to be directed at that person. If they smell a template, they will run, be it hiring managers, recruiters, just people you're trying to network with,” she says. “If you send the same message to everyone and it's very general, like a ‘new to the market, what you do looks interesting. I'd love to connect,’ You're less likely to get a response than to send, ‘Hey, Kate, your background working with career coaching interested me because (insert your because here),’ all of a sudden I'm taking notice because I know that you are reaching out to me [specifically] for a reason. A lot of times you are reaching out to that person for a reason, but if you rely on the words you've used before and [it becomes a template that] can get in your own way.”

Don’t Over Design Your Resume

A heavily designed resume can impact readability in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Resumes don’t have to be the flashiest things to get noticed. Unless you are a designer and showing off your design chops, have a basic version of your resume available for online submissions to large companies or older systems to ensure maximum readability. 

Utilize Targeting Tools

Lastly, try targeting tools like Jobscan and Jobalytics to help you target your resume. These tools match job descriptions with resumes and provide insights on the degree of match. Rather than focusing solely on the percentage match, pay attention to the keywords highlighted as missing in your resume, as well as using industry-specific language to improve the chances of getting callbacks! 

A well targeted resume is just the start! In fact, a resume is only a placeholder until you can get in front of the decision makers yourself. “What you really need to be doing is networking and then reach-outs and follow-ups in order to make sure that you're seen and get to that next stage.”

💡 Resume Tip 💡

Creating a complete story within your resume is vital to the effectiveness of it. The "about you" section introduces you to the recruiter and hiring manager and explains your background, while the "experience" section demonstrates how you acquired the relevant skills needed for the position they are hiring for. Including projects provides tangible evidence of your abilities, resulting in a well-rounded resume.

Don’t forget to include unpaid projects in your “experience section.” It's common for applicants to overlook school experiences and personal projects in the “experience” section because they weren't paid jobs. However, unpaid experiences are valuable and should be included, as long as they are honest and clearly stated.

Always Be Networking

It’s important to "Always Be Networking" (ABN), a reference to the popular sales phrase "Always Be Closing," or as we like to say at NSS, “Always Be Coding!” And while networking can be uncomfortable, it is crucial for job seekers. 

“How many of you have applied for jobs that you know you're perfect for and never heard back or applied for jobs and actually heard back, but heard, ‘oh, even though that job was posted, (Clearly posted because you just applied to it). ‘I'm sorry, we've closed [that position]. We're not holding any more interviews’, or ‘We already have a candidate in the mix we like’. So often that starts before that job is ever posted.”

The truth is, people have networks. They have personal networks and they have professional networks. Networking allows you to get to know hiring managers and gives you an advantage over blind applications. Start networking while applying for jobs and develop a strategy.

From connections at conferences, to people reaching out to for informational interviews, hiring managers have many qualified connections buzzing around them before they even touch the stack of resumes on their desk. “And when they go to open a new job, they almost always have at least a couple of people in mind who they want to talk to about that role. So when you're applying blind from the outside, you are already behind those people,” Kate shares. 

But you too can be on that list of people a hiring manager wants to talk to when they open a new job. How? Kate says the best way to get around this “hidden job market,” so to speak, is to always be networking. “If you are reaching out to the hiring manager, if you're talking to people, as you apply, you become a known entity, the same as the person who was already on their desk when they opened the job.” 

Don’t focus solely on in-person networking events if they are not comfortable for you. Instead, find networking opportunities that align with your preferences and interests. LinkedIn is a valuable tool for connecting with professionals in the industry, including alumni and individuals with relevant experience. Small-talk isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea, afterall! 

Work Your LinkedIn

Leveraging LinkedIn to enhance your job search efforts and increase networking opportunities should not be overlooked. You should use LinkedIn as a tool to continue your proactive follow-ups and networking, 

💡Try it out! 💡

Here are Kate’s 6 tips to make your LinkedIn work for you!  

  • Check for connections

Before applying for a job, see if you have any connections within the company. Reach out to them, as they can potentially refer you, which benefits both parties.

  • Reach out to hiring managers

Even if you don't know the identity of the hiring manager, it's important to make direct contact. By doing so, you demonstrate initiative, interest in the company and role, and the willingness to go the extra mile.

  • LinkedIn is not just for known connections

LinkedIn is a professional platform where individuals expect to be contacted for job opportunities. Don't hesitate to reach out to reasonably correct individuals, including potential hiring managers, to increase your visibility.

  • Follow up with enthusiasm

When following up with a hiring manager, introduce yourself, mention the application, and express your enthusiasm for the role. Use your cover letter to demonstrate your passion and alignment with the company's requirements.

  • Be prepared for responses or rejections

Understand that not all responses will be received, but implementing these strategies increases the likelihood of getting more responses, even if they include rejections.

  • Focus on facts and authenticity

Rather than trying to sell yourself, focus on presenting facts about your background and accomplishments. This approach makes networking more manageable and authentic.

Remember, networking on LinkedIn can significantly enhance your job search efforts and help you stand out in a competitive market. 

Whether you’re a junior developer, or a senior lead, starting a job search can be scary -  but it doesn’t have to be! Take some tips from Kate and see how you can transform your resume and proactively network to get that next interview.

Topics: Learning, Analytics + Data Science, Technology Insights, Web Development, Software Engineering