Make Your Resume Work For You And Cut Through AI Blockers

Ed Pintwala
April 21, 2024

Here is a 6-step common sense guide on how to cut through the clutter and be the star that shines a little brighter in the black hole of applying for jobs. The theme here is, to do some basic research, connect the dots, and craft this into your resume to present your credentials well. 

This may sound simple, but here it goes:

Step 1: The Dreaded, Updating Your Resume

Don’t worry too much about the format, but whether by choice or not, make sure you put in the effort to get things up to date.

Two to three pages are acceptable, I recommend a simple word chronological format, highlighting, Education and work experience - be sure to break out your key accomplishments/achievements for each position - and hobbies/interests/volunteer work.

A bullet point or column format section of key skills and strengths is also worthwhile. (You do not need an “Objective”).

  • Pro tip: Try and update your resume once a year, or whenever you win an award, get a great performance review or promotion, achieve a big milestone, complete a project, complete more education or certifications etc.

Step 2: Spend An Hour To Survey The Market

There are enough tools out there to do some quick googling and find out who the top employers are in your field, who is hiring, expanding, or located close to you. Ask some colleagues or friends who they’d recommend etc.

Look at Association member lists, trade show exhibitor lists, vendors and customers who are already part of your industry. In any school project, if you want a good grade, it starts with research. 🙂

  • Pro tip: Use a running Google sheet or Excel file to make a “Top 10” list, of where you think you’d love to work. Track your applications and note the date, the weblink you applied to, the hiring manager or recruiter you dealt with, and what the outcome was. Don’t throw this out, you never know when you may want to refer back to it.

Step 3: Create Job Alerts

If you have an updated account with Indeed and LinkedIn, you’re pretty much going to cover most of the ‘Active’ advertised job openings. Make sure your social profiles / online resume has up-to-date contact info and is professional (ie also typo-free). If you are not overly active, choose a weekly email update on new job alerts vs. daily.

  • Pro tip: LinkedIn is an amazing research tool, this is no secret, but by searching any company profile page, you can also add a search alert for that specific company to be notified if they ever post a new job. Not to mention figure out some of the Org Chart structure, and the who’s who, when it comes to potential hiring managers and HR or talent acquisition contacts you may wish to get in front of.

Step 4: You Are Finding Relevant Job Postings

The keyword here is relevant. If you’re only hitting ‘Apply’ based on a Job Title and know nothing about the industry, company, or role profile, you are already wasting everyone’s time.

Make sure you feel you meet 60-70%+ of the qualifications. Now things get real.

Step 5: Matching, Connecting The Dots, & Painting By Numbers

Have the Job Description and your resume in front of you side by side. Scan for keywords, key themes, expressions, and language the employer is looking for, then ask yourself:

“If I were this hiring manager, do I see these things in my resume?”

I’m not saying to give your resume a false makeover. But there may be things on your resume that are not relevant or that can be removed or simplified. Similarly, you may be missing keywords, acronyms, and skills that you do have, and can highlight to better present yourself.

  • Pro tip: Don’t spend hours on this or feel you need to fully customize every resume for every job. Skim the Responsibilities and Qualifications, then pretend you’re reading your resume for the first time as the Hiring Manager, ask yourself, what may lead to a ‘Yes’ I want to meet this person, vs. a ‘hmm’ this looks OK but nothing is jumping out at me.

Step 6: Apply, Track, And Follow Up After 5 Business Days If You Really Want The Job

If you’re really interested in a company or specific open job. Give it 5-7 business days, and if you have not heard back, follow up with the recruiter, company email address, or better yet, attempt to reach the hiring manager or HR professional via LinkedIn - even if you have to guess.

  • Pro tip: On your follow up don’t just state a generic, “I’m really interested in this position and hope to hear back.” Keep it short, polite, and concise, but find a common connection, a tidbit of info that stood out to you, or something that is unique that you offer, that other candidates likely do not.

Ie “I noticed your position for X, and given I was successful in my previous role executing a very similar project that seems to relate to your needs, I feel a conversation could really help me explain how I can help your team advance in this area.”

A Few More Resume Pro Tips To Leave You With


  • Word format is best when applying online. (or a pdf file that is in a simple Word format) Most likely your resume may be scanned or matched via some HRIS or ATS tool. A PDF with charts, side columns, multiple sections and graphics and pictures could limit readability.

Dates, Cities, Location, Accuracy

  • Be chronological with dates, including full education university college names, locations, accurate degree names and institutions (even if from a foreign country).

Promotions, Title Changes, Progression

  • If you are a rare long-term employee these days, show your title changes, promotions, and role changes along the way. This shows steady performance growth and high performance. Ie even if you are a Senior Manager now, but started as an Associate, don’t just say ‘Senior Manager - 2019-2024’ - highlight each role and title change.

Career Moves, Contracts, Restructures, Mergers

  • If you’ve changed jobs a few times over the past 5-7 years. Don’t be shy to add in brackets a reason or explanation. Ie (Company Restructure, Company Sold, Merger, COVID Downsize, or Family Emergency Leave) whatever the reason, this should not hurt you, and only help answer questions that will come up in an interview anyways.

References & Reporting Relationships

  • I don’t see too many people including their References with contact information on their resumes these days (for obvious reasons). However, including even 2-3 Reference Job Titles References such as: VP Operations, Director of Quality, Former President may stand out. State, “Contact details available upon request.”
  • This immediately gives you credibility and shows you have nothing to hide when it comes to providing current senior reference contacts that you work with or recently worked with.

Hobbies, Interests, & Extracurricular

  • A lot of people seem to leave these more traditional sections out now, perhaps to try and keep your resume to 2 pages. However, IMO this information tells more about who you really are, and what you do outside of work.

  • This can be a great conversation starter or eye-catcher for interviewers. While sometimes irrelevant to the reader, it should not hurt your chances, and if anything may help strike a chord or spark some interest from the reader and may just give you an edge.

In sum, use plain language, but add some drive and desire to your tone and messaging. If a hiring manager senses you really want to go after a position, you’re already standing out from the passive crowds.

Use common sense, precision, and logic that leverage your own industry market knowledge and contacts. And if you can (without falsifying anything), position your resume so that you do not give the viewer a reason to say ‘no’.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this. Here I found some interesting stats in this blog, 2024 Hiring Trends Survey: What Makes a Great Job Candidate?

Including: 78% of Hiring Managers spend over 1 minute reviewing a resume. (57% claim 1-3 minutes is spent).

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