As the biggest food holiday rolls around this year, so does the debate about stuffing your turkey.  Whether you’re team stuffing, team dressing, or team just here for the pies, on the Thanksgiving table, there’s one thing we all agree shouldn’t be stuffed: your resume.

As we’ve previously written about, many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to narrow down job applications before they reach a human for consideration. Applicants can use this to their advantage by tailoring their resume to meet the needs of the employer based on the job requirements. This optimization increases your chances of making it past the ATS and into the hands of a hiring manager.

However, some candidates overstuff their resumes with keywords and skills.  While this may “beat the system” and get the resume in the hands of a hiring manager, that resume will be so overstuffed with jargon that it will no longer accurately reflect the candidates skills or will be so bogged down that it’s difficult to read.  Human readers will see right through these tactics and often set these resumes in the discard pile. 

Avoid keyword stuffing your resume by following these three tips:

1. Be Transparent.  We’ve all heard stories of applicants using white text to hide keywords in their resume to make it past the ATS. While this may work on the surface, most ATS will show recruiters the full-text (including hidden words) of a resume, and they can easily spot the stuffing.  Recruiters don’t like to be tricked, and doing so will guarantee that they don’t consider you for that role and future ones with the organization.

2. Context is Key.  Some applicants like to list hard skills at the top of their resume.  While this can be useful if done correctly, a huge block of skills is a red-flag to a recruiter. Most often, candidates list skills they haven’t used in years or aren’t proficient in because they are keywords on a posting. Recruiters need to see how you are able to utilize these skills, so be sure to give context in your project or experience sections to the skills you’re claiming to have.  If you cannot demonstrate that you have a skill, it does not belong on your resume.

3. Be Succinct. Writing your resume to include multiple mentions of the same skill can make reading your resume very overwhelming. Employers value communication, no matter the industry, and having poorly written and overly repetitive points on your resume reflects poorly on your written communication skills.

At the end of the day, employers want both skilled and honest employees. Stuffing your resume may get you past the ATS, but it won’t carry you through the hiring process.  Recruiters will see through deceit and you’ll waste both your time and theirs when your resume is put to the test with interviews and technical skill challenges later in the interview process. 


tl;dr Focus on stuffing your turkey and your face this Thanksgiving, and not your resume!