Without indulging in anything illegal, it's important to hedge the bets in your favor and optimize your job search. A few simple job search cheats and resume hacks can help. We're not talking about breaking into company servers to boost your position, the cheats worth mentioning are all legal, of course.

Cheat #1: Trick the robots

Many large companies use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to scan resumes prior to physically reading them. The “robots” weed out applicants based on keywords, design and layout, length and other factors chosen by the employer. Tricking these robots is the first resume hack you can use to increase your chances for an interview.

One of the easiest ways to trick the robots is using keywords to convince the software you are the best fit. Look at the position description and carefully circle the words specific to the position. Ignore basic, generic words and filler content. Copy paste these words into your resume and cover letter. Never use the exact sentence, but rewrite it to include the keywords and key phrases. Here's what to look for and include in this resume hack:

  • Look for action verbs.

  • Keep an eye out for specific skills mentioned.

  • Compare to other similar job posts.

  • Copy-paste keywords, not entire sentences.

  • Never lie about your abilities.

  • Work the keywords and skills into your past job descriptions, achievements and career biography.

Cheat #2: Use a cover letter template

Let's clarify something first; cover letter templates are okay in most situations. Resume hacks in the form of templates are never okay. Always use fresh content for your resume or risk being rejected by the aforementioned robots. While templates are often helpful, be careful; they can also become disasters in the wrong hands. Many career centers, colleges and libraries have cover letter templates on file. Ask a career specialist for help determining the best template for your position.

You can recycle the main sections of the cover letter with each new position. However, it is best to freshen the keywords, skills and notable achievement bullets with each application. To keep in mind:

  • Save the document as a Word template, not document.

  • Highlight areas requiring changes to prevent errors or stale information.

  • Use the same layout and design used for the resume.

Cheat #3: Upload your resume

Online applications often offer the option of filling out an online form or simply submitting a resume. In these cases, always choose the latter. Designing your own resume ensures that the hiring manager sees the look and feel you want, without worrying about the redundant design of computer printouts. The upload feature also saves time and energy, allowing you to apply for multiple positions at once.

Before uploading any document, make sure your resume and cover letter are up-to-date, free from spelling and grammatical errors, fit the ATS requirements and have all the information you need for the job. Here are some guidelines and job search tips to prevent the system from rejecting your file:

  • Use standard fonts and sizes – Times New Roman, Cambria, Calibri, etc.

  • Don't use fancy designs – Shadow, Inner Glow, All Caps, etc.

  • Save your document as a PDF or RTF.

  • Don't use tables, columns, photos or color.

  • Save your resume and cover letter in a separate file.

  • Reduce file size to less than 50MB if possible.

Cheat #4: Write down interview Notes

Hopefully everyone prepares and practices for the interview. If not, please start doing so. One of the easiest ways to fail during the interview is not to prepare. Using a cheat sheet is one step to boost your confidence and reputation with the new hiring manager. No one will look poorly at you for having information written down. Just the opposite, coming prepared will impress your future boss.

Take 20 minutes to write down everything that you've accomplished during your time at different jobs. Include dates and quantifying information (e.g. “Grew $500K startup from scratch within two years by…”). Next pick five questions you would like to ask the employer. Freshen this list often and keep it safe. Some store a copy on their phone. This job search tip means the next time you have an interview, you won't have to scurry around looking for information to provide the hiring manager.

Cheat #5: Make others do the work

Job boards are great for advertising your skills and experience. Set up an account with the leading networks – LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed and Glassdoor. Put those sites to work for you. Hiring managers often look for candidates on career sites before listing the position on a job board. Include all of your information; don't be shy. While resumes and cover letters should be short and to the point, career sites should not. Leaving anything out may disqualify you from a good fit.

Cheat #6: Put your email to good use

Who said being lazy isn't a virtue? Most job boards offer email feeds to keep job searchers in the loop. It doesn't take long to set up the notifications. Many allow you to choose jobs based on industry, position, salary, location and more. Once you start receiving notifications, you are free to peruse the list as your time allows.

Don't restrict your search to:

  • Jobs in your immediate location, unless necessary.

  • Specific positions.

  • One industry.

  • A few job boards.

Optimize your search by:

  • Using keywords and phrases.

  • Specifying a minimum salary.

  • Including major cities in your state.

  • Comparing positions and listing similar jobs.

Work on your mindset

Cheats are great to help you start and keep you going. Some may even land you a job within a few days. The key is your motivation and mindset. This isn't something to try once and stash it in a drawer. Job searching is a career in itself. Treat your search as if you're losing your job tomorrow. Don't wait until the last day. Remember the old saying; “Practice makes perfect.”

Let TopResume help you write the next chapter of your career with our resume writing services.

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