When you send off your resume, it can feel like you’re tossing it into a black hole. Many job seekers aren’t sure if their application is actually being seen by a person, especially if you don’t receive any communication back regarding the submission.
In fact, when you apply for a job at a large company, it is possible that it never ends up in front of the eyes of a decision maker. Why is that? Because many of these organizations rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to prescreen resumes, and those that don’t appear to fit are immediately discarded without being sent to the hiring manager or anyone in HR.
An ATS works by scanning applications for specific content, like designated keywords and phrases. Each resume is scored for relevance, and only those that are deemed to be the most qualified get forwarded to a decision maker.
While this approach is understandably a time saver for hiring managers, as it ensures they won’t be bombarded with ill-fitting resumes, it also means that some qualified applicants can fall through the cracks. And, if that does happen, no one is aware of it.
To help ensure your resume makes it past the ATS, here’s what you need to do.
Use Simple Formatting
While a stylized resume might look great to a person, it can spell doom for your application if an ATS is involved. These systems can’t read images, and creative formatting or fancy fonts can also cause trouble. So, applications that contain a bit of flare may be discarded because the system can’t decipher what is actually on the page.
If you want to make sure the ATS can review your resume, you need to keep it simple. Use classic fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman, and remove any pictures, logos, or other images. You also want to use traditional section headers, like Professional Experience and Education, and avoid those that the system might not recognize, like Affiliations and Memberships.
Once your resume is complete, save it as a Word document or in the rich text format for readability, as some ATS systems can’t read PDFs effectively.
Add the Right Keywords
When an ATS scans an application, it is typically programmed to look for specific keywords or phrases and certain contextual information. If you want to be scored well by the system, you need to make sure you include the correct language based on what it has likely been told to find.
One easy way to start is to use some of the exact verbiage that is listed in the vacancy announcement. This can include anything from required or preferred skills, desired education, and even job titles. Use the same words used to describe the applicable point that is in the posting, as these were most likely added to the ATS.
When describing job titles, certifications, or organizations that have a spelled-out version of their name as well as an acronym, use both in your resume to ensure you include the verbiage that ATS is programmed to find. For example, a quality control inspector should use the long-form description as well as the phrase “QC inspector” in another spot to make sure both are covered, while a certified public accountant can simply list acronym in parenthesis after the job credential, so it reads “Certified Public Accountant (CPA).”
However, you do want to avoid keyword stuffing, as many ATS systems can detect this and may lower your score.
While a person may be able to determine what you meant to say when they see a typo, an ATS can’t. If they don’t see the right keywords based on proper spelling, the system will assume they aren’t there and could discard your resume.
Before you submit your application, double and triple check it for spelling errors. Ideally, you should have someone else review your resume too, as fresh eyes can sometimes catch things you might overlook.
By following the tips above, you have a stronger chance of making it through the ATS and actually having your resume seen by a decision maker. If you are looking for more information or are seeking a new position, the professionals at The Advance Group can help. Contact us today.