Applying for jobs is much easier these days, thanks to online applications, job boards, and the ‘Apply Now’ button on LinkedIn. However, as a result of these developments, recruiters and hiring managers now receive a large amount of digital resumes for each job vacancy. They use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to cut through this clutter and shortlist the right applicants.
75% of All Applications are Discarded by the ATS software
For majority of online applications, once you hit the ‘send’ button, an ATS will shortlist thousands of applications on a recruiter’s database. If the ATS doesn’t understand your resume, it won’t pick you. Subsequently, a human recruiter won’t even set eyes on your resume.
Whether you are a college graduate or senior executive, you need to prepare your resume for the ATS or risk missing potentially ideal opportunities. If you’re missing certain keywords, have mismatched job titles, or formatting that is difficult for ATS to understand, then it’s unlikely your resume will ever be seen by a person and you won’t get job interviews.
Fortunately, there are simple tricks you can do to get past the ATS and increase the chances it gets into the hands of the recruiter or hiring manager.
Check out the tips below for writing a resume that an ATS will approve:
It’s always frustrating not to get an interview for the perfect job. Now think about how you’d feel knowing it was just because the ATS rejected your resume’s formatting. This is a simple problem to prevent. You just have to keep in mind that most ATS software won’t read your resume if it includes:
- Graphics, icons, logos or symbols of any kind, except for simple bullet points (like this one).
- Different fonts, styles, sizes or colours. Try to stick to a maximum of 3 styles and save CAPITALISATION for section headers like ‘PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE,’ ‘PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS,’ and so on.
- Information placed inside tables and text boxes. Using multiple columns will also put words on different lines so you have to avoid this as well. Try using tabs instead.
- Photos also confuse the ATS. Most companies now delete photos to ensure they won’t discriminate based on age, race, sex or skin colour.
- Fancy, script or funky fonts. Stick to standard resume formatting in normal font like the resume fonts found here.
- Contact information placed in the header of your resume. The filtering software can be set to ignore headers and footers so there’s a risk this info will not be capture or will be automatically deleted.
- Non-traditional section headlines or titles (for example: Who I am, What I do, What I’ve done). Keep it classic with headers like ‘Professional Summary,’ ‘Key Skills,’ ‘Professional Experience,’ ‘Professional Qualifications.’
Also, send your resume in MS Word or rich text format instead of a PDF. Though ATS is becoming better at reading PDFs, it can still miss important things when trying to process them.
Recruiters and hiring managers use keywords to shortlist candidates with desired skill sets and qualifications. The ATS scans these keywords on a candidate’s resume, looking for phrases and contextual information related to those qualifications. For this reason, the keywords you use can make or break your job application.
The first step is to get your keywords right but this isn’t as simple as you think because they’re constantly evolving. This is one of the main reasons why jobseekers are increasingly using professional resume writers.
However, you can make a good start by reviewing the job descriptions of your target roles. When writing or updating you resume, pull the most important keywords from the job description and use them on your resume. Include phrases and skills written in the job description on your own resume. These are very likely to be the same keywords the hiring manager has programmed the ATS to pick up.
Make sure your qualifications, computer skills and titles are written in both full-length and acronym formats to ensure your resume covers all types of keyword searches. Spell out the words and then use the popular industry acronym in parenthesis to make sure your information gets pulled. For instance:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Personal Assistant (PA)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
Always use standard job titles in your keywords, especially if your current job title or former roles were a little offbeat.
‘Customer Advocate’ may sound intriguing but ATS is unlikely to pick it up and even a human reader might struggle to translate it as ‘Customer Service Officer.’
As mentioned in this post, it’s generally fine to tweak your job title for as along as you’re not lying by giving yourself a demotion or promotion, and if doing so is an honest representation of the work you performed.
Try to include the actual title in a parenthesis. Before the parenthesis, write out the instantly recognisable, more typical job title. For example:
- Customer Service Officer (Customer Advocate).
Leave the unique job titles like ‘Marketing Guru,’ ‘Social Butterfly,’ and ‘Coding Ninja’ on your LinkedIn Profile to show your personality.
Proofread, Re-read and Review
This last suggestion should be obvious. If you spell a resume keyword incorrectly, that keyword will get overlooked by the ATS, and could mean your application isn’t considered.
Resume spelling and grammatical errors also speak volumes to your attention to detail and professionalism, and will raise an immediate red flag with a hiring manager or recruiter.
To improve your resume grammar and spelling (and thus its overall quality)…
- Avoid trusting a word processor’s spell check. It won’t do you any good if you happen to misspell a word in way that matches another word in the dictionary (for instance, if you mean to say ‘counsel’ but use ‘council’ instead). Human proofreading is always the best when it comes to resume.
- Find a detail-oriented friend and have them give it a close read. The more eyes on the resume, the better.
- Read your resume backward to catch more typos. This interrupts the flow of reading and helps you focus on individual words.
We prepared this post to put your best foot forward with technology, in hopes of having your resume read by human eyes in the end, so write for that person too! Read your resume out loud to see if it reads naturally, or if it sounds overly formal. Your tone of voice will be dependent on the tone of the organisation you’re looking to hire you as well.
Click here to download our free resume template that is both pleasing to the eye and scannable for ATS. Or you may send your current resume to us to receive a free, confidential and objective assessment.
Click here for more job search tips and advice.