How to Optimize Your Marketing Resume Like an SEO Pro
What’s up with your marketing resume?
You’re a marketing wizard. You know what users want better than they do. You speak their language and take copy from meh to wow.
Yet your marketing resume doesn’t show that. How come?
You’re so good at your job you could sell links to Google. But once you start typing your resume, you turn from Rick to Morty.
Trust me, you already know everything there is to know about writing the perfect marketing resume.
I’ll prove it to you in 5 minutes.
Keywords, Bots, and Search Intent
So you’ve found a marketing job you love. You know more than enough to get it, but not enough to bore yourself dead once you’re hired.
Just submit your resume and wait!
Well, that’s what many a marketer would do anyway.
But not you—you know that your resume will be scanned first by an ATS, or applicant tracking system. You need to get through that first ATS hurdle before a human ever sees your marketing resume. Here’s how.
1. Create a spreadsheet of all the skills and qualifications you possess.
To save time, create a really extensive master resume. Like seriously long. A never-ending scroll page, really. You won’t ever send it out, you’ll simply customize it for every application.
2. Reread the job ad.
You’re the job search Moses and you just got handed Stone Tables.
The job ad is like a keyword package handed down from the Almighty. Extract the most important keywords. These are usually marketing skills, requirements for experience or background. (You don’t need to be an SEO researcher to get this right!)
3. Compare your master list with the keywords.
Yes, we’re working on your resume content–keyword map.
Resume keywords matter a whole lot. Much like Google in its early days, Applicant Tracking Systems crawl resumes in search for specific keywords. There’s no guesswork—these are exactly the keywords you extracted from the job posting.
Now, about those bots—
The more relevant keywords they find, the better you rank. Don’t worry if you miss a few, though. Most ATSs will OK resumes as long as they score high enough (i.e., contain at least 75–80% or the crucial keywords.)
If you don’t meet most expectations, you’ll get rejected. But don’t treat this as an invitation to keyword-stuff your resume. In the end, it’s going to be read by a human. If you try to game the system, they’ll see through it—32% of them will desk reject your resume.
Be honest with yourself: If you don’t meet the employer’s requirements, you aren’t going to pass the ATS.
And if your resume does make its way to the human reader, it’s not going to answer their search intent. That means a 100% bounce rate. No conversions for you!
4. Understand search intent.
Figuring out search intent is rather straightforward. The job listing tells thou what thou shall—in bullet points. Verbatim.
If the job posting mentions a requirement you don’t meet, come up with a similar strength you could offer. Have a look at similar job postings (the good ol’ people-also-search-for hack.)
Plus, go through a few Linkedin profiles of people in this position (i.e., research your competitors.)
5. Target search intent and personalize your outreach campaign.
Would you suggest people buy a black chopper if they came to your site looking for a silver Vespa?
Listen, I understand you could sell pasta to a Crossfitter doing keto. But would you really like to work for someone who fell for a resume equivalent of the Nigerian prince scam?
Don’t email-blast your cookie-cutter application to everyone. Instead, target your resume for a specific job offer. To be precise, you need to customize it to the employer’s needs as expressed in the ad.
If you don’t, 36% of recruiters are adamant about this: they will auto-reject your application if the resume doesn’t feel customized.
Remember that master resume file I suggested you set up?
Time to let it do its magic.
Come back to the keyword list you extracted from the job ad. Start trimming your resume and leave off fluff that doesn’t address the employer’s search intent. Get some good keyword density.
Again, don’t overfit your model!
Simply remove non-relevant entries, tweak the wording to better reflect the employer’s intent. Focus on your work experience section.
Use bullet points to prove you can do what the new job requires of you when talking about previous jobs.
If you don’t meet a certain requirement, mention a close alternative. Don’t worry too much about details. If the job listing requires candidates to have 5 years’ experience in content editing, your 4 years of experience don’t have to be a dealbreaker. Never used Trello, but you used Asana? Close enough.
Optimization: Content, Copy, and Design.
Recruiters only spend 6 seconds scanning a resume. Can’t find what they’re looking for? Bounce.
You need to keep the bounce rate down. Here’s how to get them hooked and prevent them from going alt + F4 on your resume:
1. Optimize your above-the-fold real estate.
Enter eye-trackers and heat maps. You know how this goes on websites, so you’ll understand what I’m about to explain:
First, recruiters look at is the header. They’ll double-check they’ve got the right resume first, and move on to scanning the headings.
Next, they’ll focus on the most recent position and company. They’ll check the date to make sure it’s not suspicious. Rinse and repeat for older positions.
Finally, they’ll move on to the education section. Everything in the familiar F pattern.
So how to optimize the top third of your resume?
Create a professional career summary. It’s your one-minute elevator pitch that answers the most common of all interview questions: Tell me about yourself.
You’ll make the most of this section if you first get the rest of your resume in tip-top shape. Once you are clear on the search intent and have relevant skills and accomplishments, put this knowledge to use in the heading section.
What’s the pattern? Position + years of experience + quantified achievement. For example:
Digital marketer with 5 years of experience in content marketing. Boosted organic traffic for PaperClipMaximizer.com by an average of 300% by improving content marketing strategy…
2. Optimize the UX and usability of your resume.
Here’s a comparison of resume formats.
The functional resume format is to an ATS in 2018 what Flash was to Google in 2005. It hides all the goodies from the bots.
Tortured comparison, sure, but the bottom line is: the functional resume format is dysfunctional.
The combination resume format might work for some; for most, it’s best to forget about fancy formatting.
Go with the most intuitive resume layout: chronological (well, technically it’s reverse-chronological.)
The classic chronological resume format is readable, scannable, and makes for the perfect reader’s journey. It’s intuitive because it starts with your most recent and relevant job.
It the perfect storytelling device. It lets the reader understand how this hero went from zero.
What’s more, it provides the reader with a hierarchical overview of your candidacy. According to the Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report 2016, employers value job experience above all else and with this format, you’ll serve it on a silver platter.
3. Boost your resume readability.
Use power words and action verbs. No more responsible for this, managed that. That’s weak copy. Start each bullet with a different verb: created, oversaw, introduced.
Know what will get recruiters really excited? Reduced, increased, saved, won.
According to another study, typos are a greater turn-off than college prestige is a turn-on.
Pro Tip: Easy with buzzwords and obscure job titles! No more social media ninjas, marketing gurus or thought leaders. If you truly were a “results-driven best of breed go-to go-getter with a proven track-record who proactively thinks outside the box about synergy,” you wouldn’t have to put it in writing. The experience section would deliver (and drop the mic.)
4. Do solid on-resume ATS optimization.
You need to sprinkle resume keywords throughout your resume: two or three main keywords you’re optimizing for should show up in your resume summary, and all of the most important ones should show up in the experience section and be repeated in the skills section.
You can include a few extra skills in the skills section, but bear in mind that if you list too many, it will make the reader roll their eyes in disbelief or sigh at your lack of specificity.
And no, the skill section is not “so 1999.” A third of all employers get annoyed when it’s missing. It doubles as a convenient checklist, after all.
Sure, ATS scanners aren’t that smart yet, but some can tell when you over-optimize or do blackhat resume optimization (no white text on a white background and separate pages with keywords.)
Finally, use Jobscan’s ATS testing tool to make sure ATS crawlers will index your resume and give it a high rank.
5. Talk about benefits, not features.
When you list relevant jobs, make sure you talk about benefits, not features. And when I say benefits I mean it. Literally—
The Problem, Action, Result method works wonders. The basic scheme is Reduced X by 50% by implementing Y.
Here’s an example of the PAR method in action:
Reduced advertising costs 68% by targeting long-tail keyword variants and optimizing audience targeting on Facebook.
In other words: don’t list responsibilities, talk about achievements. Employers know what you did, they want to know how well you did it.
Also, quantify whenever possible. Numbers speak louder than words (louder even than words in ALL CAPS.)
Test: Focus Group, Feedback, and Rewrites.
You’re almost there. Your marketing resume is already better than 200 other resumes. Time to beat the remaining 49, and rank number one.
Ask a few friends and industry insiders to read your resume. If they’re honest, they’ll tell you if it’s confusing, boring, too long, too short, not enough, too much…You know how it goes.
Get feedback, revisit your resume every now and again, and soon you’ll have a resume that would make Ogilvy want to intern with you.
The Finishing Touch.
Cover letters aren’t dead. And if they are, they’re still walking.
You need to write a cover letter even if there is no guarantee anyone will read it.
It’s hard to tell if you’re contacting a company that doesn’t care for cover letters. Plus, even if recruiters are unlikely to read it, hiring managers might just do it. This is especially true for employers in smaller businesses.
Why the hate? Because most cover letters are terrible. No one wants to waste time on generic Dear Hiring Manager letters. They all read like really long “plz hire” notes.
Do you want to play employment Russian roulette with two or three bullets in your six shooter?
That’s what I thought.
Plus, you’re a marketer. You do copy for a living. Surely you can write a cover letter that lands you in that brand-new ergonomic chair at Dream Company, Inc.!
Well, here you are: a marketer with a resume so good Moz could do a Whiteboard Friday about it:
- You figured out what the prospective employer wants.
- Learned how to speak their language.
- Made sure you’re not unintentionally watering down your 190 proof resume.
- And, finally, you’re marketing resume is user- and bot-friendly.
When can we expect some new-hire swag from you?
Want to learn a few more resume-related hacks? Give us a shout out in the comments!
About the author
Bart Turczynski. Career expert. Content editor. Proper noun. His career advice has been published by Workopolis, HuffPost, CareerBuilder, and the Financial Times. Bart enjoys binging on podcasts, audio books, Netflix, and ramen. Pun always intended.