If you are in job search mode, you have probably uploaded your resume via a company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS is simply a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs and houses applications and resumes.
These systems are designed to aid in corporate compliance and to help recruiters sort swiftly through resumes. They also highlight candidates who are the best match for the position. The downsize is that candidates feel their experience is minimized, and feel as though they have been sucked into the infamous black hole of recruiting.
It is frustrating uploading resume after resume and not hearing back, so here are six tips to maximize the chance that your resume makes it through an ATS and ends up in the hiring manager’s hands.
The ATS algorithm scans for keywords that are based on the position description. It can also scan for information related to your work experience, expertise, and education. If the ATS determines that your resume is a good match for the position, it gives you a higher ranking. This ranking improves your chances of being seen by a recruiter and ultimately landing an interview. Another way that keywords come into play is if a recruiter is searching the ATS database for resumes, they will search using specific keywords.
If you are wondering how to demystify keywords, it’s not that hard. Turn to the description. Before you submit any resume, review the description, making special note of the requirements. Keywords are nothing more than those short phrases or words that are instrumental to the requirements of a job.
For example, let’s say that you see requirements such as:
- Managing employee engagement surveys from concept to close and drive initiatives for improvement based on the results.
- Managing exit interview process by evaluating trends and reporting data to CEO.
- Leading the development and delivery of manager training activities.
- Working with payroll and benefits within ADP Workforce Now.
The keywords would be employee engagement surveys, exit interviewing, evaluating and analyzing trends, manager training initiatives, payroll and benefits within ADP Workforce Now. If you have any exposure or expertise to those keywords that you have identified, they need to be written into your resume. If not, the ATS may not see you for a match for the requirements of the role.
But, please don’t try to trick it. That won’t go over well. Some applicants have tried to insert keywords and qualifications into their document via “white text” because the ATS can read the words but human readers are unable to read them. This behavior won’t work.
Keep the formatting simple.
I have lost count of the number of resumes I have laid eyes upon so I can say that I appreciate seeing something new and unique. However, while applicant tracking systems have advanced and many can keep the same formatting and font, not all are advanced to do that. It’s best to keep a simple format to be on the safe side.
Watch your acronyms.
It is a good practice to spell out acronyms on your resume as least once while adding the acronym in parentheses. For example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Registered Nurse (RN), or Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM). You get the point. This way, you use the acronym later and the ATS will still be able to pick up on your specific certifications.
Consider your job title.
You may fancy yourself as the Chief People Officer or Chief Heart Officer, but if you are applying to position with Human Resources in the title, you many want to use the more common term. If the ATS is looking specifically for “Human Resources,” in the title, they won’t find you if you are listed as the Chief Happiness Officer.
Have your cover letter on hand but…
Statistically, about half the hiring managers read a cover letter and the other 50% do not. Some research shows even less than 50% bother reading a cover letter. Go figure! No wonder it’s maddening for a job seeker. The rule of thumb is that if one is specifically requested, upload it. Otherwise, don’t stress about whether you should put one together if not required. Spend your time creating a stellar resume.
Be mindful of the hard requirements.
I would never tell people to stop applying to positions where you don’t meet 100% of the qualifications, however, be aware that many companies will review your resume based on the hard requirements of the role. This also includes the number of years of experience required. The ATS is designed to weed out applicants who do not have such things as a clearance, a certain clearance level, specific licenses, certifications or education. So, if you do not meet these requirements, you may be in for an uphill battle. We can debate the merits of this all day. In full disclosure, I have seen resumes make it to the hiring manager when all requirements are not met. However, the odds may not be in your favor. I’m not saying this to dampen anyone’s spirit, but rather to explain why you may not be contacted for interviews.
On a final note, the most important tip here is about keywords. Make it a point to identify the keywords before applying. If you’ve done it and they ask for it, your resume should spell that out. Otherwise, nobody will ever know.