How to Avoid the Resume Black Hole

You have written your professional resume and applied to numerous positions online that you are qualified for … yet no response. It’s almost as if the well-written resume you prepared disappeared into a black hole. Selecting the right keywords and phrases to get noticed will play a major role in a successful job search.

Below are some professional resume writing tips from a career expert to help you better align your efforts with the resume scanning systems in use today and increase your interview rate. For more help, there are also samples of an IT Director resume, executive resume samples, professional resume examples, and entry-level resume examples on our samples page.

Include Industry-Specific Keywords and Phrases:

With the vast majority of professionally written resumes being processed through computer-scanning technology, commonly known as ATS (Applicant Tracking System), in order to pass these resume-parsing systems and the 10-second human scan, your resume will need to be front-loaded with the right industry-specific keywords and phrases that help illustrate your match for the job.  

Keywords are generally showcased in your professional resume headline, qualifications summary, and / or peppered throughout the professional experience section as nouns and verbs that reflect the skills and experience sought by an employer. Be mindful of some commonly misused words on a resume such as detail-oriented which is sometimes confused with detail-orientated and affect versus effect, or lose versus loose.

Regardless of whether you are writing a CEO resume, executive resume, or an IT Director resume the same keyword concepts still apply. Balance the keyword components of your executive resume with action verbs that communicate achievements, contributions, results, and value to further connect with an actual human reviewer.

The HR professional or recruiter will input certain qualifications into the system for a job. If the computer scans your professional resume and finds key skills, this increases the possibility of the resume getting read by a human. 

Use the Correct Technological File Format:

OK … you have written your interview-winning resume; the final step is to determine whether you will need multiple versions of the document based on each employer’s database requirements and how you will distribute it to your target audience. With the overwhelmingly large number of resumes received by hiring professionals, many companies are using a keyword search engine, which helps to streamline their recruiting process. However, this may pose a problem for you; ideally we would all like for a human to evaluate and determine our fit for a position versus a computer.  

Review the prospective employer’s instructions detailing those formats that are acceptable … and follow them. It is a good practice for you to have a format that can be uploaded as a Text file, Microsoft Word document, and/or PDF. Our office routinely receives files in jpeg and MS Works format and scanning systems are unable to properly process them.

Text Resume:

Though the text-based or e-resume layout removes most formatting, it is easily uploaded or pasted into employer resume databases, and maintains the same format in all email systems.

PDF Version:

PDF versions are highly compatible with most platforms. Carefully review the employer’s instructions to determine if PDF is an acceptable format for uploading.

Microsoft Word Resume Format:

The Word version/professional format is great for bringing along to the job interview.

Avoid the System Altogether: Tap Into the Hidden Job Market:

About 80% of available jobs are not published or advertised. The Internet can be useful for locating the 20% of posted positions. However, tapping the hidden job market to find the other 80% that are NOT posted can be accomplished by possibly initiating contact with the company in an attempt to get the hiring manager’s name and send your resume directly to him or her.

Network to connect with people who have inside knowledge about un-posted positions, use LinkedIn, or target specific employers, and post your professionally written resume directly to a role in their career section.

Tip: Networking can be very beneficial throughout the life of your career. However, when networking, try to build a relationship—and keep in touch—with your professional community, regardless of your career stage.  Be patient, because relationships develop over time.

Give back and provide something of value to your network versus only focusing on what you want to get out of the relationship. The Internet is just one tool for job searching; the key takeaway is that you should use a multi-tiered approach to your job search.

If you need help with writing an executive resume, professional resume, or LinkedIn profile we can help. Contact us at or toll free 1-888-607-7793.