If you’re in the middle of your job search right now, you know how time-consuming and demanding this process is. And probably, you’ll agree that the most daunting part of this process is sending your resume in response to a job posting and not hearing back from anyone. It is especially frustrating if you’ve taken time to tailor that resume to the employer’s requirements only to receive zero result.
Then, you should know that most likely the hiring manager hasn’t even seen your resume. Today, most companies use applicant tracking systems to ease their recruitment process and this software weeds out most of the incoming resumes as non-matching the job requirements. In this case, the quality writing and excellent design of your modern resume mean nothing if it’s not optimized for ATS selection. What is ATS, how it affects today’s hiring process and how to create a resume that passes the machine selection with ease? Read the first-hand information from writers of our creative professional resumes.
What is an applicant tracking system?
Applicant tracking systems, or ATS, is used by companies to scan the incoming resumes and rank them based on the set of criteria. With hundreds or even thousands of resumes that corporative job openings attract, it’s hardly ever possible to get all of them scanned by people. Therefore, ATS is used to weed out the irrelevant resumes and rate the best fitting ones, making the hiring manager’s job easier. The system chooses resumes that match the job criteria best and only then the resumes with highest rating are read by a human.
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As most companies use such software now, there are two facts that you should know. Even if you are perfectly qualified but ATS resume optimization is all Greek to you, you’ll probably struggle getting an interview invitation. However, if you master the rules of the game with ATS, you’ll easily beat the robots and get an exposure to great professional opportunities. Below, we’ll share some insights on making your resume ATS-optimized.
For more hands-on tips on keywords and ATS, read here: https://resumeperk.com/blog/why-keywords-are-so-important-for-successful-resume.
Applicant tracking software: 7 curious facts
- 75% of large companies use ATS
Years ago, ATS were only used by large corporations as they helped handling thousands of inbound resumes. Today ATS are commonly used by mid-sized companies as well. Automated selection helps not only to pick the most relevant resumes based on keyword search, but also allows store, manage and group applicant data. Therefore, it makes the hiring process a whole lot easier. So, when you apply for jobs in 2018, keep in mind that in most cases you are dealing with ATS.
Software is often used not only to scan candidates’ applications, but also for spying on employees. Check out if your boss is tracking your actions in the office.
- ATS eliminates nearly 70% of resumes
As mentioned above, ATS are used to ease the hiring managers’ job by weeding out the resumes which don’t qualify for the job. But here’s the fact: when weeding out the inbound applications, the software eliminates whopping 70% out of the competition. Only the resumes that received high ranking from the ATS will be read by a real person. To avoid getting into that ‘resume black hole’, you need to tailor a resume for the specific job.
Making your resume ATS-optimized is just one piece of career advice that will save you time on job search. Here are more career tips from accomplished and successful women in business: https://resumeperk.com/blog/women-in-business-lady-bosses-share-their-career-advice.
- ATS can scan your social media profiles, too
In addition to analyzing your resume and cover letter, some types of ATS also scan the web for your online presence. This software crawls the web for specific keywords and details about your education, work history and accomplishments.
Everybody knows that cleaning up social media pages from any inappropriate or unprofessional information are a must. However, the sole fact of removing the outdated posts or drunken pictures won’t make you any closer to the target job. In its turn, completing your LinkedIn profile or setting up a personal website with plenty of details from your professional life, if found by ATS, will help you get the higher rating within the system.
- Formatting and file type matter
ATS can’t read all file formats. To make sure that your resume is displayed correctly in the system, apply with the file type specified in a job posting (if there are no guidelines, .doc is your best bet as it’s read by all ATS). Excessive formatting is your enemy, as the graphic elements might not open correctly in the ATS. That’s why it’s better not to use images, charts, graphs or tables in your resume – if the software fails to read the text, it will likely just toss out your resume and you’ll lose the chance for an interview.
For more tips on ATS-friendly resume formatting, read the resume writers’ guide here: https://resumeperk.com/blog/significant-tips-how-to-format-your-resume.
- Not all keywords are equal
When scanning your resume ATS look for keywords in the first place. However, including any keywords which are somewhat relevant for the prospective role isn’t the best tactic since you don’t know which of them the program is set to look for. Keyword staffing (adding as many keywords as possible) isn’t the solution either – after all, your resume needs to make sense.
To get high-quality keywords, use the job posting. When writing about your skills and qualifications, use the same language that the prospective employer uses. For some ATS, placing keywords in the resume matters as well, so try concentrating the key skills and accomplishments at the top of the document.
ATS aren’t the only thing that the Internet has introduced into the world of work. Learn how to use the Internet to your career’s advantage: https://resumeperk.com/blog/how-internet-is-essential-for-career-building.
- Each ATS has its peculiarities
There’s more than one type of ATS out there. While they all work with the same purpose in mind – to sort out resumes based on the relevance – the methods they use might be slightly different. Due to this, the same resume can receive different ratings if passed through different ATS.
The major applicant tracking systems include iCIMS, Taleo, and Greenhouse. Each ATS pays more attention to certain parameters. For example, some software might value the number of keywords used, while the other checks in which section of your resume you use these keywords. If you manage to find out the name of software which is used by your target company, you can prepare your resume using the guidelines for that specific ATS. If you don’t, just follow the common ATS rules – they are enough to get your resume through the automated selection and make it seen by a person.
Don’t know which words are best to use in your resume? Check out our list: https://resumeperk.com/blog/must-have-words-for-winning-resume.
- ATS save companies lots of money on recruitment
The key motivator for the companies using ATS is significant savings. Imagine how much time it would take the hiring manager to review 800 resumes, sort them out and to keep account of the most important applications. For the company with 8 employees, savings from using an ATS can reach $10,000, and this amount grows if the company is bigger. The number of companies using ATS will only increase over time, and if you want to be effective and proactive in your job search, you need to take this fact into account.
Want to manage your money effectively, too? Read our advice on savings and financial planning: https://resumeperk.com/blog/money-money-money-how-to-make-ends-meet.
- One-sized-fits-all resumes go to a trashcan
Your success with passing an ATS selection depends heavily on the resume relevance and the keywords. Therefore, sending the same resume in response to all job postings will only lead to your application hitting the No pile. Non-optimized or poorly optimized resumes with little keywords won’t help you in finding the next job.
If the perspective of rewriting your resume in an ATS-friendly way seems discouraging, you can always ask for professional help. As a part of our resume writing service, we will also tailor your resume for a specific job opening, increasing your chances for passing an automated selection. We don’t have extra charges for resume keywording and our prices are affordable – check to make sure.
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Writing an ATS-optimized resume: 15 steps
Applicant tracking system is a gatekeeper that you need to pass to win the attention of a hiring manager. Unfortunately, at the automated screening stage, your understanding how to deal with ATS is the only thing that can ensure you the high rating and consideration.
Writing your resume for ATS takes planning and more effort than simply e-mailing the same version of your resume to apply for jobs. Still, it brings better results. To optimize your resume for ATS scanning, follow the tips below:
- Speak their language
Your journey towards the ATS-optimized, keyword enriched resume starts with reading into the job posting carefully and viewing company website. You need to identify critical competencies for the role – and these will be the keywords you’re looking for. Also, use industry terms, buzzwords and jargon to highlight your cultural fit. However, since you don’t know for sure which of the words in a job listing are keywords, it’s recommended that you use the same language in your resume that your prospective employer does. The trick here is that not all ATS understand synonyms, and using different word for the same experience can disqualify you from the competition.
Here’s the example: if the company is looking for a project manager, and you’re previously worked as a product manager but the responsibilities were quite similar, consider changing the title to ‘Project manager’. Do the same with skill names, degrees and other qualifications – if the ATS will find the words it is programmed to look for, it will rate your resume higher, increasing your chances for an interview.
Don’t apply for jobs with resume only – strengthen your application with an eye-catching cover letter.
- Keyword spelling matters
Using the same words and phrases that the employer does in their job postings helps you to be on the same page with the ATS. However, simply repeating the words is not enough – it’s important to copy their spelling as well. For instance, some ATS will see backend developer and back end developer as different phrases. If the system is set to look for MBA, it can skip Masters of business administration if this option wasn’t programmed. So, how do you go about it?
For the crucial keywords, use the same spelling that the employer does in the job posting. Sometimes a slight difference in spelling might lead to a huge confusion which will result in rejecting your resume. Remove jargon and always write out words in full if you use abbreviations.
Moreover, proofreading the entire resume before applying will do you any harm – perfect grammar and spelling is one of the best ways to help your resume get noticed.
- Never miss the dates of employment
In addition to keywords, the system might also screen the amount of experience required for the job. And this is typically done based on the dates of start and end of employment. If you omit the employment dates intentionally or include them down in an incorrect format, the system might see it as lack of relevant experience. Moreover, not being honest about dates of employment can turn away the hiring manager even if the document makes it through the ATS. If you had had a huge gap in your career or changed jobs more often than once a year, address this fact in a resume or cover letter.
Tip: the most ATS-friendly way to write dates is by using numbers, for example, 04/2017. No need to write the dates in full – month and year are more than enough.
- Concentrate the keywords at the top of your resume
For some ATS, concentrating the keywords in the certain place of your resume matters. As a rule, certain keywords at the top of the resume have higher value for the system than the same keywords placed in the end of the second page. Therefore, once you’ve identified the critical keywords for the role, be sure to mention them at least once in your career summary, list of skills or the most recent job description.
This trick is important not only for keyword optimization, but also for human who will be reviewing your resume. Concentrating the most relevant skills and experiences at the top of the page makes your resume eye-catching as you come across as a good fitting candidate for the opening. So, they will likely read it through and you’ll have more chances to impress them.
- Don’t hide important details in headers and footers
When writing their resumes in MS Word, job-seekers often put their name and contact information in headers. In this case, the information is displayed on each page of the document and formatting is never destroyed. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Not for the ATS.
Some types of ATS can’t read headers and footers of the document. Therefore, if your resume gets high score in the system, they won’t be able to locate your contact details and even your name. It’s absolutely nonsense to lose your chance for an interview due to a minor formatting issue, so, never put the important information in header.
- Use standard section headings
ATS scan your resume based on the algorithms and is programmed to search for specific information in particular sections of your resume. However, if you use non-standard section headings instead of commonly used ones (for instance, “Major abilities” instead of “Skills”), it can hurt the rating of your resume. In fact, the ATS might think the section is missing.
So, don’t get overly creative when writing section headings. Use the standard ones (such as “Career summary”, “Professional experience”, “Education” etc.) to make sure your resume is read by ATS correctly.
Can’t decide whether to use an online or traditional paper resume when applying for jobs? Check out online resume pros and cons.
- Don’t list credentials (such as PhD) after your name
For a human reviewer, it is convenient if you mention the credentials right after your name (for example, Jeff Smith, MBA), as it lets the reader know at a glance that you possess the required educational background or professional certification. However, an ATS cannot recognize these characters and can read it as a part of your name. So, to avoid confusion with spelling of your name, only mention your credentials in the relevant sections of your resume.
Obtaining professional certifications and advanced degrees is one of the keys to your career success and higher salary. Check out why personal development in the workplace is important.
- Use the Skills section for keywording
A vast majority of job-seekers include the Skills section above the Experience, but often underestimate its potential. As a rule, they repeat the most in-demand or relevant skills from their career history or list the traits of the ideal candidate, and stick with it. Meanwhile, this section is perfect for leading your resume through the ATS.
When reading the job posting, highlight required skills, qualifications and personal attributes which are the most important for the role. Then, identify the most critical ones and list them under the Skills subheading (provided that you have these attributes, of course). You can list the competencies for the role without the need to think of the context for them as if you were writing the Experience section. Again, some ATS will rank those keywords higher simply because they are placed at the top of your resume. You don’t have to limit the Skills section to hard skills only. Soft skills which are crucial for the role can also be included in the list.
One of the most important skills in the modern workplace is ability to handle criticism. If this isn’t something you’re good at, read how to face criticism effectively in the office.
- Avoid keyword stuffing
As you are aware that keywords matter for passing the automated screening successfully, it might be tempting to use those keywords as frequently as possible. Some job-seekers literally stuff their resumes with keywords hoping to get higher ATS rating. There’s a common trick of writing the keywords in white font so that they aren’t visible for a person but the ATS can see them.
Firs of all, remember that ATS values rare keywords. In other words, mentioning the same keyword for seven times won’t increase your chances for a human review. Secondly, if you intend to write some of the keywords in white to ‘fool’ ATS, remember that the program will display them in black font and the hiring manager will see that you’ve cheated to get your application a higher rating. The best tactic is using each keyword for 2-3 times naturally throughout the document.
Using the right keywords is especially important if you intend to change career after the middle age crisis since you need to adapt your resume for the new field. Be sure to rewrite your old resume with the job position in mind.
- Choose the file type wisely
Incompatible file type is the common problem for applicants. When you apply with the file which ATS cannot read, your resume writing efforts come to nothing as such resumes are simply trashed. The best guideline as per the file type is to follow the employer’s requirements: the job posting often contains the supported file formats (the most common are .docx, .pdf, .txt or .ascii). If the employer hasn’t specified which file format to attach, the safe bet is to use .docx file as they are most ATS-friendly.
If you have to convert your written resume into a compatible file format, be sure to check the formatting before sending the file. The formatting can change as you change the file type, so you’ll likely have to edit the document if you want to keep it readable.
- Be careful with resume builders
Resume builders are a sound solution for busy people or those who aren’t good with word processors. All you need to do is to paste your skills, achievements and responsibilities into an online form and receive a submission-ready resume with great design. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, not for ATS.
The problem with resume builders is that little of them are compatible with ATS. Resumes created via online builders either have incompatible file format or are rich in graphic elements which ATS can’t read either. As a result, instead of impressing a hiring manager with design your resume is likely to hit the trashcan.
To make sure your resume passes an ATS selection, use only text and simple formatting tricks, such as bullet points, boldface and italic font. Resumes created via online builders can be helpful, but keep them for human eyes only. For instance, you can use such a resume when applying to a small company where no ATS is used or e-mail it to a hiring manager directly for their review.
If, despite all your ATS optimization efforts, your resume still brings you little interview calls, it’s time to seek professional help. Our team of expert resume writers staffs professionals for all industries and career levels. Moreover, the prices for resume writing will pleasantly surprise you.
Write with a human reader in mind
Although ATS selection is critical for your resume to make it to the next stage of the recruitment process, don’t write your resume for machines only. Trying to make your resume ATS-friendly it’s easy to get carried away and make it difficult to read due to the excess of keywords. And, when it passes the software selection and the real recruiter will get their hands on it, if they see a text that makes little sense, your resume will be tossed anyway.
So, don’t sacrifice readability, meaning and quality writing when optimizing your resume for ATS. Try finding the balance between the good writing and keywording. One way or another, it will be a human hiring manager that will be inviting you for an interview, so the content of your resume should be engaging for them.
If you get an interview call, check out how to make your interview a success. Some companies prefer conducting phone screening before a real interview – here’s how to prepare for a phone interview.
Having troubles with ATS optimization?
Creating an ATS-friendly resume takes time and requires thorough strategy and planning. If you fail to create a resume that generates results or simply don’t have time to tailor your resume for a dream job posting, our writers are here to assist.
Contact us anytime for free resume evaluation – our expert will review your resume absolutely free of charge, highlight your mistakes and weak points and help you choose the type of service that fits your career needs. We are open 24/7 – ask your questions via live chat or click to learn more about our writers.