Applicant Tracking Systems: An Overview
One of the most difficult aspects of the job search is simply getting your resume into the hands of a decision-maker. This has actually gotten a bit harder over recent years with one of the reasons being the rise in prominence of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which make having the right resume format and perfect keywords more important than ever. What is an ATS? Many people have not even heard the term ATS, but this is a modern solution that many companies use to streamline the hiring process. The reality is that most companies receive hundreds if not more applications each week. It is to the point where it is impossible and inefficient for people to screen all of them. ATS is a solution to this problem. This software uses algorithms to scan and score each resume. Ultimately, the goal of an ATS is to identify the top candidates for review by an actual hiring manager. 98% of large organizations use an ATS. On average, 75% of resumes will be screened out by the ATS, never to be reviewed by an actual person. What Does an ATS Look For? The most common question from applicants is how you get past an ATS and land your resume on the desk of an actual recruiter? There are many tips and strategies out there. In fact, the popularity of the ATS is one of the reasons that increasing numbers of people are deciding to work with a professional resume writer like Nxt Level Consulting LLC. However, there are a number of things people can employ to increase their chances. Here are the top five strategies. Use the Right File Type If a job posting requests that a resume be submitted in a particular type of file, there is a very valid reason. Typically, it is because their ATS works best with that file type. In fact, a recent study found that 43% of applicants send resumes in an incompatible file type, meaning the resume couldn’t even be reviewed. If an ATS can’t read your resume, your keywords won’t even matter. What’s the best file type? The only options you should really consider are .doc and .pdf. PDF’s are often a choice because they preserve the formatting of resumes; however, Word docs are actually better read by most ATS applications. Online resume building tools are generally frowned upon because they often generate a resume as an image, which an ATS won’t read. Structure Your Resume for an ATS
In addition to the correct file type, you should also format the design of your resume in a way that makes it better for scanning through an ATS. This involves a number of things. First, be sure that your name and contact information is included at the top because this is where an ATS looks for that. Additionally, be sure that you are listing your education and work history with the most recent first because this is the assumption that ATS will make. Finally, you’ll want to avoid using a functional resume type. This type is often least preferred by recruiters and is definitely not ideal for an ATS as the lack of clear work history makes it difficult for the software to sort. Being Creative is Good With your resume, it is time to be creative. Clever aspects such as the use of color or graphics as well as non-standard layouts hoping to get someone’s attention may not be read well by an ATS. The good news is that it can still pass the test and make your resume stand out above the rest. You’ll want to stick with a normal font such as Arial or Times New Roman and stick with solid colors. Think of it this way, if the person reviewing my resume does not have a colored printer, will it still look good printed out in black and white? Additionally, be sure to use standard headings like “Education,” “Work History,” or “Experience.” Remember, the key to an ATS-optimized resume is ensuring it can effectively read all your keywords.
Keyword Optimization is a Must Keyword optimization means using keywords that the software will look for. This is the most critical aspect for getting a high score and moving to the recruiter’s desk. This is also why you always want to edit your resume for each individual job you apply for. ATS looks for specific keywords that will increase how it scores your resume. How do you know what keywords an ATS looks for? It’s a bit of a guessing game, but you can start by looking through the job description for required skills and major tasks as these things align well with common keywords employee select to screen for. You’ll want to use each keyword two or three times in the resume with at least one mention in work experience. Don’t Forget About Humans You may be tempted to focus on getting your resume through the ATS, which is obviously an integral task. However, don’t become so focused on this that you forget that a successful resume will ultimately be read by a human. Having the right keywords on your resume is great, but only if it reads poorly, the recruiter won’t be impressed.
Only 3-5 people are typically interviewed for a job that attracts a few hundred resumes. Read through your resume and make sure it flows well without grammatical errors. Ultimately, once you get through the ATS, you need to be able to impress the recruiter as well. Final Thoughts As you can see, ATS software makes getting your resume noticed even more difficult than in the past. Many things such as keyword optimization are actually quite difficult. This is why many people turn to professional resume services. Nxt Level Consulting LLC has over 20 years of experience and can ensure that you have a strong resume that is well optimized for both an ATS and recruiters.