10 August 2016

It takes time to create a great resume. You have to sit and think about each and every word or achievement. You have to figure out what the hiring manager wants to hear. You have to take the time to review each and every line in order to make sure it presents yourself in the best light possible.

By the time you send in the resume, you will likely have spent hours writing, researching, and analyzing each and every detail. So it may be a bit disheartening to learn that, even after all that time spent crafting the best resume you can possibly make, most hiring managers will never see it.

Thousands of Resumes, So Little Time

These days, employers are frequently overwhelmed with job applications. The internet has made applying for jobs so easy, that a job opening in a big city can receive as many as 1,000 applications or more within 24 hours, and the average job in almost any city receives at least 118 resumes by the time the job is closed.

For the average hiring manager – many of whom have other tasks to perform – that number is absurd. So to make life easier, many use an applicant tracking system, or “ATS.”

What is An Applicant Tracking System?

An ATS is a database of resumes. As soon as a resume is received, someone cuts and pastes the details of the resume into a form, which adds it to the database. When an employer is ready to start hiring people, they’ll search that database for a key term, and the database will filter through all of the applications and bring up the resumes that have that term in it.

Some applicant tracking systems using an automated scoring mechanism, but the process is largely the same.

For the company, there are many different benefits for using this type of system:

  • It makes reviewing resumes much faster.

  • It allows you to keep a database of applicants for future jobs.

  • It is less likely to introduce biases.

But for the applicant, it can also be problematic. You can create an amazing resume that meets all of the required criteria, but if you are missing just one key detail or keyword, your resume may not ever see the hiring manager’s eyes.

How to Beat the ATS

The idea that you may spend so much time on a resume only to have it ignored may be disheartening. Luckily, there ways that you can ensure that you show up for any searches, and tricks that you can use to make sure you put yourself in the best position to get a call. These include:

  • Use Every Key Term in a Job Posting – Many of the key terms will already be in the job posting. For example, if the company wants someone with “Salesforce CRM Experience” then you should make sure that “Salesforce CRM” is in your resume.

  • Review Competitor Job Ads – Do your research as well. Find out what other job descriptions from competitors and those in other states ask for. Not every company puts every qualification on their job advertisements. But if you look at what other job ads for other companies list, you can often find additional information that should be placed on your resume.

  • Use Both Acronyms and Full Titles – Always remember that the people that search these databases are human beings. They may search for an acronym, like “ATS” or “CRM” or “BYOB,” or they may search for the full phrase, like “applicant tracking system.” Since you don’t know what they’re searching for, it helps to have both versions in the resume.

  • Use a Professional Summary – You have limited space to put information that helps in an applicant tracking system. Skip the space clogging “objective statement” and instead use a professional summary – a 5 to 6 sentence paragraph where you can highlight some of your best features, and plug in valuable key terms.

  • Add Numbers – Automated ATS can read numbers to determine important information, such as the number of years worked for a company. Make sure you’re using the numerical version of numbers, rather than the typed out version of the number (ie, 5 vs five).

  • Keep it Simple – The average ATS is designed to look for specific information. For example, a “Work Experience” section with the job title above each bulleted list. If you do anything fancy, such as changing the title of the Work Experience section to something unique, like “Sarah’s Job History,” or if you add special formatting that isn’t normal for resumes, you may confuse the applicant tracking system and have your resume discarded.

  • Tweak Often – Finally, don’t be afraid to make little changes. Consider different keywords and phrases that may be important. Use synonyms whenever possible. Alter your job title to be more in line with what the title would be at the job. Avoid any filler text and unnecessary information. Tweaking often can make sure that even if one ATS doesn’t like your resume, others will.

Technology may have made applying for jobs easier, but it also means that job seekers need to take the time to perfect their resume for the positions to which they’re applying. Often that means making sure that your resume is ATS ready.

Consider the above tips and strategies to maximize your chance at landing the job, and remember that the time you spend to build the perfect resume is always worth it.

This is a guest post from Sia Mohajer. He a senior resume specialist at Online Resume Builders where he helps new grads and young professionals craft beautiful resumes.