Written by Phil Graves (President of 1-Day Resume – 23+ years in business and 16,500+ resumes written providing Professional Resume, Cover Letter and LinkedIn Profile Writing Services – www.1dayresume.com)
So what exactly is an ATS (Applicant Tracking system) and how is it eliminating you from potential job opportunities? Everybody has been in this situation. You see a new job opportunity that is a perfect match for your background, submit your resume, and rarely if ever are contacted for an interview. If you are a perfect fit for this opportunity, then the problem usually is not you, it’s your resume.
Applicant Tracking Systems are simply specialized software screening applications used by most midsized and large corporations to screen resumes for keywords that match a specific job posting. If you don’t incorporate the correct keywords that match a specific job posting into your resume, then your resume will most likely remain buried in a company’s database with all of the other unqualified applicants. Most jobseekers never consider the impact of the ATS when it comes to developing the resumes. But understanding how to beat the ATS by using the appropriate keywords that are relevant to the position and your industry can make the difference in doubling your chances of generating interviews for the positions you are targeting.
Using keywords. There are two critical aspects to incorporating the most appropriate keywords into your resume. First, be sure to use as many of the relevant keywords from your industry as possible. If you are pursuing an opportunity in another industry, then look through several job postings and you will more than likely see many of the common industry keywords repeated in the “qualifications” section of these job postings. If you are targeting a specific job opportunity, then many times you will see the responsibilities and qualifications for the job mentioned in the online job posting, so be sure to use as much of that information as possible in your job descriptions or the summary section of your resume. When writing your ATS-optimized resume, you must use the exact keywords listed in the job posting for maximum results because ATS systems find what they’ve been programmed to identify by the hiring manager to eliminate the amount of time required to manually review thousands of resumes.
Keyword Placement. In the past, jobseekers were able to beat the ATS systems by using a strategy known as “keyword stuffing” by changing the font to white and burying keywords towards the very end of their resumes, or overusing the same keywords throughout the job descriptions, skills section, or summary. But through the years, the ATS software has become more advanced with the capability of not only identifying keywords, but also how the keywords are being used in the context of the resume. Make no mistake about it, this concept will take you out of the game so don’t think you are tricking the system. The winning strategy is to try and work your keywords into the sentence structure of your resume as well as the skills section.
Formatting: Creative formatting looks fantastic visually, but it will get you into trouble with Applicant Tracking Systems, so keep it conservative. When most of us think about creating a professional resume, we assume someone will be viewing it in the original format. When the resume goes into the ATS, only the text is pulled so adding pictures or graphics could cause scanning errors, resulting in your resume being knocked out of the screening process. Use popular sans serif fonts (Calibri, Helvetica, Avant Garde, Arial, etc) and try to stick with a 10-12 point font size.
Job Titles: Be sure and use a similar job title that matches the type of position you are pursuing. If you are applying to a Software Sales Representative job and your current title is Strategic Software Consultant, then often times you can put the Software Sales Representative job title in parentheses next year formal job title. Another trick is to use the job title for the position you are pursuing as your objective. We encourage jobseekers not to write the “old school” objectives, but to simply state the job title for the position you are pursuing as your objective like this, Objective: Software Sales Representative. Using this strategy will guarantee that you can incorporate the job title into your resume, giving you a competitive advantage with the ATS systems.
Always consider modifying your resume for each opportunity you are pursuing. Use these tips every time you apply to a job and you will have an ATS-optimized resume that will help you beat the computer system, outshine other jobseekers, and start getting a higher rate of callbacks for better opportunities. Always remember, it’s never the most qualified candidate that gets the job, it is the one who is best at the job search. And customizing your resume will help you get your resume past the ATS software and into the hands of the hiring managers.