Whether you're unhappy with your current job or are simply exploring your options, you're probably aware that to land a new role, you'll need a solid resume to submit as part of the application process. But what happens when you apply to a series of jobs you're qualified for and aren't contacted for a single interview?

You might start doubting your credentials, or doubting yourself. You might also be quick to point a finger at your resume and wonder whether it's somehow loaded with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors you just can't seem to identify. If your job applications are going unanswered, it could be that your resume is to blame -- but not in the way you think.

Is your resume getting seen?

The problem with your resume might not boil down to mistakes, but rather, the fact that prospective employers just aren't seeing it. The reason? That document doesn't have the right keywords.

Man holding his face in front of a laptop as though frustrated

Image source: Getty Images.

These days, a growing number of companies are using applicant tracking software to narrow down their respective pools of qualified applicants. As part of the process, applications, including resumes, are scanned by software designed to look out for designated keywords, and if yours doesn't have the right ones, it could be weeded out -- by a computer program, not an actual person.

The benefit of using such systems is that it makes the applicant-vetting process more efficient for employers. Rather than have to read through, say, 400 resumes for the average position, a company might instead invest in software that whittles the pool down to just 30 or 40 candidates. From there, reviewing resumes on an individual basis becomes far more feasible.

And it's not just large firms that are using this technology to their advantage. Even small and medium-sized businesses are getting on board the algorithm train, thereby making it even more difficult for qualified candidates to get their foot in the door.

Beating the system

You're probably aware that your resume needs to be catchy, concise, and informative. But apparently, you also need to worry about it containing the right keywords.

With that in mind, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your chances of having your resume actually reach prospective employers. First, read each job description you apply to carefully, and aim to have some of the keywords contained in those descriptions appear in your resume as well. For example, if a job listing seems to emphasize project management skills, make sure the words "project management" appear early on in your resume.

That said, don't go overboard with those keywords. Just as search engines penalize websites for keyword-stuffing (putting so many keywords into a section of content so as to render it unreadable), some of the aforementioned programs reject resumes if they suspect that tactic.

Another way to improve your chances of getting your resume looked at? Don't just apply to jobs through online forms. Instead, identify those companies you want to work for the most and try finding individuals to send your resume to personally. For example, if you determine that an old colleague of yours knows someone at a company you're applying to, you might ask that person for an introduction, or to send your resume to that contact and request that he or she personally put it in front of the hiring manager. Many companies offer incentives for referring qualified candidates for jobs, so if you're a good fit for a given role, someone you don't know directly might be willing to vouch for you if you have an associate in common and your resume looks good.

Crafting a compelling resume is hard enough, and having to concern yourself with keywords makes for an even more stressful experience. If you've been finding that your job applications are going unanswered, it could be that your resume just isn't saying the right things. Take steps to be a bit more keyword-conscious without going overboard, and that might spell the difference between having your resume ignored versus noticed.

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