Use these tips to get your resume in the hands of a hiring manager or recruiter and past the tracking system! Many large organizations rely on what’s called applicant tracking systems (or ATS) to help pre-filter resumes. They simply have too many resumes to sort through and the ATS helps them speed up this process. However, MANY resumes fall through the cracks and are never even seen. Don't let yours be one of them!
1. Keep Formatting Simple Applicant tracking systems require simplicity. Make sure to delete any extra touches you’ve added to your resume such as logos, pictures, symbols, and shadings. Also, stick to standard resume formatting in a normal font like Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman. The ATS can’t read fancy fonts and will reject your resume out of confusion. Make sure to only include the usual sections of a resume: Qualifications, Professional Experience, Education, Skills, and the like. Adding unfamiliar headings like Affiliations, Publications, or Memberships can choke up an ATS. Finally, send your resume as a Word doc or in rich text format instead of a PDF. Though ATS software is becoming better at reading PDFs, it can still miss important things when trying to process them.
2. Nail the Correct Keywords ATS will be looking for key phrases and contextual information related to those qualifications. Include verb phrases and skills written in the job description on your resume. These are very likely to be the same keywords and phrases the hiring manager has programmed the ATS to pick up—“project manager,” or “social media marketing,” for example. Use both the acronym and the spelled-out form of any given title, certification, or organization, so you’re set regardless of which format the ATS is looking for. For example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA). An important thing is NOT to go overboard! In the past, people thought that they could exploit the system by overstuffing their resumes with keywords, thus ranking them higher in the eyes of the ATS. This is a very bad idea because the software is sophisticated enough to see this kind of keyword stuffing, but also if your resume does make it into human hands, no one will be impressed by a resume overly saturated in keywords. Aim for repeating important skill related keywords two or three times (and no more).
3. Remove the Career Objective Section Career objective sections are a bit of a space waster. Stating, “I am a hardworking person who wants to work in (blank) industry” can seem a bit obvious. Remember it’s not about how you want to apply your skills, it’s about how the company needs you to apply them. Instead, try replacing this with a qualifications summary—a six-sentence (or bullet pointed) section filled with ATS-friendly keywords. Even better, use those six sentences to concisely present the crème of the crop of your achievements, major skills, and important experiences.
4. Use Spell-check Spelling mistakes are bad, bad, BAD on your resume!! An ATS will disregard you immediately because it will simply have no idea what you’re talking about if something is misspelled. So double, triple, and quadruple check your resume before sending it in. Have someone else do the same and look over your resume carefully. Spelling mistakes can easily be avoided if you’re careful.