How To Get Your Résumé Noticed In The Online Application Process

By Mark Lyden

Before you apply to any job opening, before you set up any account or profile on any website, before you do anything, wouldn’t it be nice to have the inside story on what the manager is looking for in a candidate?  Especially the required skills or knowledge they want you to have so you can highlight that on your résumé?

Now, I can’t tell you what key words and phrases they are going to use.  But let me enlighten you on how this often gets done.  You have a person sitting at a computer.  Their job is to essentially screen all the résumés that are associated with a particular job.  You know what is scary?  You would think that these people understand the difference between, for example, an industrial engineer and mechanical engineer or the difference between finance and supply chain management.  Well, many of them do, but a significant amount may not, and some don’t have a clue! Ironically, the same thing I just told you to do, they do.  They just look at the job description and simply look for the key words and phrases the manager put down, type them into a field on the computer, and press “enter.”  Then whoever doesn’t have those key words or phrases in their résumé, exactly how they typed them in is simply counted out.  But be careful.  You need to incorporate those key words and phrases verbatim.  Remember, you don’t know how sophisticated their screening system is.

Whether you think that is totally unfair or not, it is a reality in many companies.  So use this to your advantage.  Outmaneuver the computer-screening process so that you have the best chance of being looked at.  I am not saying to lie or cheat.  I am just saying to completely cater your résumé to each and every job you apply to.  Use the 7 Critical Steps and you will have a far better chance of getting to the next step in the process:

  1. DON’T FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS when a company website tells you how to apply! Before doing anything else, go to the company website and print out all the jobs that you qualify for and not just the ones that you are most interested in.
  2.  Take a highlighter and highlight all the key words and phrases in the job description used to describe the skills, knowledge, and years of experience they want or prefer.
  3. Take the key words and phrases you highlighted, verbatim, and incorporate them throughout your résumé.
  4. Create a heading at the very end of your résumé labeled “INTEREST AREAS” and take all the key words and phrases you previously highlighted and list them, verbatim, under this heading.
  5. NOW follow the directions of the site, which may include setting up an account online.  Make sure to take those same key words and phrases and incorporate them into your profile or the “interest areas” section, if they have that option.
  6. Apply for the job.
  7. As you apply for more openings, continually update the key words and phrases in your résumé in your profile or interest area section.

This is called “reverse engineering” your résumé.  From the job description, see what they want first.  See what are key words and phrases are that they want to see.  Then adjust your résumé and apply.  Just remember:  to do it right, it will take you about forty to forty-five minutes to take your “base” résumé and transform it into a résumé specific for each job.  Approach it this way:  each job that you apply for is the ONLY job your résumé is geared to.  It may sound like a lot of time and effort, but to stand out and to get contacted, your résumé can’t just be a good match; it must be a GREAT match.  This is the way to ensure that is the case for each and every job you apply for.

When I teach seminars on this topic, some ask, “Won’t they look at my résumé and count me out when they see that I just listed all the key words and phrases in the ‘interest areas’ section of my résumé?”  The answer is they might, especially if you haven’t first incorporated those same key words and phrases throughout your résumé.  That is why doing both is critical.  For example, just incorporating the key words and phrases into your résumé is great and might get you through to the next step, but might not raise your percentage compatibility to a high enough level and you miss the cut off.  Remember, with the online processes being the way they are at most companies, there are very few ways for candidates to stand out.  There could be ten candidates that by luck score a higher percentage compatibility, and although you meet all the qualifications, others are “more qualified” according to the computer, and you are counted out.  That is why having the “interest areas” section helps.  Again, it helps boost your compatibility percentage.  Moreover, if you just cut and paste all the key words in the “interest areas” section without also incorporating them into your résumé, they will probably see this and count you out.

When I say to incorporate the key words and phrases into your résumé, what I mean is to have them distributed throughout your résumé.  Change or add bullet items in appropriate places.  Change your objective to have some in there.  The more time you spend doing it this way, the more calls you are going to get.  Try the 7 Critical Steps.

Lastly, if you are applying to jobs online and you are quickly getting counted out, that is the BEST indicator that you are not doing a good enough job at catering your résumé to each specific job.  If you find yourself in that situation, you must go back to the 7 Critical Steps and follow that advice step by step.  Remember, when you are applying to a particular job, your résumé should be entirely focused on just that one job.


Mark Lyden is an expert at getting people jobs…in THIS difficult job market. He has already helped thousands with his advice because it is different and it is PROVEN to work! The advice he gives is not the traditional advice that can be found on the Internet or being given by most career professionals. Now and for the last 15-years, Mr. Lyden has been a Professional Lead Recruiter for a Fortune 50 company. Mark is the author of: College Students: Do This! Get Hired!; Veterans: Do This! Get Hired!; and, Professionals: Do This! Get Hired! Visit for additional information. A substantial portion of the proceeds from book sales are donated back to charity to help veterans and to help the stray and abandoned animals at Logan’s Run Rescue.

Now and for a limited time, ERAU students/alumni can get a discount on any of the books by visiting:

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