You know that “black hole” everyone is always talking about in your job search? This phenomenon often occurs because employers use applicant tracking system (ATS) software to manage the large volume of resumes and job applications they receive for their open positions. Most of these have special pre-screening technology to help hiring managers and recruiters find the best fit through keywords and phrases—and might even rank candidates based on how they measure up within the system.
How can you “beat” an employer’s ATS in order to get noticed? Here are a few ways:
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Look at the job description. Compare your resume with the job description. Use keywords and phrases from within the job description (within reason—they need to actually apply to you!) in order to appear as a more relevant candidate. You don’t want to overload your resume with keywords, but using language similar to the description can certainly make you stand out.
Focus your resume. Don’t include anything that isn’t directly related to the job at hand. You don’t need to include an objective statement or information on your job from 10 years ago.
Follow all directions listed in the job ad. Some ATS software takes certain document formats, so even though your PDF version looks awesome, it may come out looking differently on the other end. If it asks for a specific Word format, save your resume in that format before you submit it.
Check your spelling. Keywords don’t matter if they’re misspelled! You must check your spelling and grammar thoroughly before submitting your resume. Send it to a friend for a once-over, put it in Word and run a spell check, or print it and read it aloud to catch any errors.
Fill out everything. Don’t leave blanks in the application, even if they’re not required. Some ATS only accept candidates who complete the entire application, so you’re improving your chances at getting noticed if you do.
Uncomplicate your resume. Don’t include pictures, graphics, or other fancy formatting that’s unnecessary. While it might make your resume look pretty, the ATS might not like it—and you’ll lower your chances at landing an interview in the process.
Include abbreviations. However, it’s also important you include the non-abbreviated terms. Although you might know what the abbreviation stands for, the person reading your resume might not know—just like I did when opening this article explaining about applicant tracking systems (ATS).
What other ways can job seekers beat applicant tracking systems?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.