5 Secrets to Optimize your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

Posted by Andy Borden on Mar 22, 2021 5:01:39 PM

During a job search, you’re probably sending out dozens of resumes and applications with the hopes of landing your dream position.

The reality is however, all of those resumes and applications you’ve just sent out aren’t actually going to a real person. They’re being scanned, analyzed, and filtered through by an artificial intelligence program known as ATS (applicant tracking system).

ATS can be highly beneficial to major companies that receive thousands of applications on a weekly basis because the AI is able to dismiss certain candidates solely based on the content of their resume. In fact, 98% of companies use ATS to assist in their hiring process. With this in mind, it is crucial for job seeking individuals to grasp an understanding of how they can optimize their resumes in order to bypass ATS, and reach the desk of someone that wants to offer you an interview. With that being said, here are the five tips you can use to ensure that your resume is ATS compatible.

Use keywords to cater your resume to the specific job you are applying for

In the description for the job, there are likely several desired skills and experiences the employer is looking for in a job candidate. These are special keywords that lie on a hierarchy of what the employer deems as the most necessary traits that an employee should have.

By incorporating these keywords into your own resume, the ATS allows employers to easily search for them so they can find candidates that are capable of providing exactly what they’re looking for.

Just be careful not to go overboard with the keywords, unless that word or phrase is used several times throughout the description, it probably does not need to be used more than a couple of times in your resume. If that keyword or phrase doesn’t apply to you, leave it out. You shouldn’t lie about a skill you don’t have just to get past the ATS.

Be clear and direct with your words

You only have one page to tell the employer every piece of relevant information about yourself in regard to why they should hire you. Because you are limited to such a small space, it is important to tell the employer exactly what you have to offer to the company.

The best way to do this is by being as clear and direct as possible. There is no need or available space for any unnecessary wordiness or fluff in your resume. ATS will spot this easily and send your resume to a trash file. Use clear labels like “work experience” instead of “professional activity”.

Don’t try and beat around the bush or upsell your accomplishments. Be sure that the accomplishments you’re listing are directly relevant and will display value for the company.

Keep it simple

Although certain formatting tools can be useful for organizing the contents of your resume, it can also be an easy way for the ATS to bypass the content itself. Formatting in non-traditional ways can scramble the wording and get lost when ATS is attempting to translate it. A chronological structure is likely your best option here.

Try to avoid graphics such as charts, branding, or imagery. These may appear aesthetically pleasing, but they mean nothing to ATS as it is only able to decipher text.

Sometimes, job-seeking individuals will take advantage of headers and footers as they seem like a way to enter additional text into the document. Unfortunately, these words often get lost in translation as well and it is best just to avoid using them.

Don’t forget the basics

Writing a resume that is designed to surpass an ATS may seem daunting and challenging, but it’s important to remember basic resume etiquette when creating one. It is important to use readable, classic fonts such as Times New Roman and Calibri. Not only will this make it easier for an ATS to decipher, but it will be easier to read when it hopefully reaches a hiring executive.

This may seem obvious, but be sure that your resume is submitted as a Word Document or PDF file. These are the most used electronic documents and I’m not sure why someone would submit anything else, but just be sure to use these as it will make your resume more clear for the ATS to sort through.

This seems like another no brainer, but just be sure that every detail lands in the right section and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your resume. You want your accomplishments to be in the right place for the ATS to read, and you don’t want anything getting missed or overlooked because it was spelled incorrectly.

ATS is smarter than you think, don’t try and cheat the system

Some people might think that ATS is a silly tool that can be outsmarted but that is not the case. ATS are highly intelligent and will pick up on any nonsense almost immediately.

One trick that has been attempted to no avail is writing additional keywords or the entire job description in white so the ATS will detect and prioritize those keywords. However, when the resume actually makes it into the hands of an actual person they will notice all the extra verbiage that was slyly placed in the white space and will swiftly discard your application.

Don’t add a section in your resume called “keywords”. The keywords by themselves have no value, and the employer will know that you placed them there simply to get noticed.

Like it or not, your resume is almost guaranteed to go through an ATS before it ever reaches an actual person. It can be frustrating that the application is not as direct or timely, but that is something we must adjust and adapt to.

Going back into your resume and editing it to match the keywords in job descriptions and making the formatting minimal may seem like a tedious process, but it will be worth it once you start getting past the ATS and receive interviews and offers from real-life company executives. Heeding these guidelines will give you a better chance of not being part of the 75% of applicants that don’t make it past the ATS.

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Topics/Tags/Categories: Job Application, Job Exploration, Job Search

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