From the perspective of job seekers, turning in a resume online can feel a lot like slinging an application into a black hole. Candidates may never know what happened to their resume, including whether it ever ends up in front of a hiring manager at all.
Many professionals know that companies often rely on applicant tracking system (ATS) software to screen resumes. Additionally, they understand that an ATS can reject an application, all without it being seen by a single human being.
While it may seem like there is nothing you can do to beat an ATS, that isn’t the case. There are ways to get your resume through the system. Here’s how.
Only Apply If You Are Genuinely Qualified
First and foremost, you need to focus your job search efforts on positions that align with your skills and experience. If you’re shooting at roles that you can’t reasonably do, you’d get screened out even if there weren’t an ATS involved.
While you don’t need to have every must-have or nice-to-have skill on the list, you should have the majority. Additionally, it’s okay if your background isn’t traditional, as long as you can showcase that what you bring to the table qualifies you for the job.
Use the Right Keywords
An ATS isn’t the most intelligent system. It can’t make assumptions or connections on its own. It only looks for what it’s programmed to find.
Essentially, an ATS scans a resume for specific keywords that the hiring manager defines. Then, it scores the application based on how well it matches what the hiring manager said they wanted to find.
Thankfully, you can usually figure out exactly what the hiring manager outlined. By reviewing the job description, you can spot keywords that relate to the needed skills, experience, and traits.
When you find a keyword (and have that experience or capability), place it in your resume just as it is written in the job ad. Make sure to use the exact language, wording, or phrasing. An ATS can’t infer that two terms mean the same thing, so it’s best to take the precise keyword and use it specifically.
Select the Right File Type
In many cases, an ATS is better at scanning .docx files than PDFs, and may not be able to read image files (like .jpg or .png) at all. If you have a choice between using the file types, then you’re usually better off using a .docx.
However, if the directions specific a particular file type, use it. There may be a reason that only one kind is requested. Plus, deviating means you didn’t follow the instructions, and that won’t reflect well on you.
Keep the Formatting Simple
Before you submit your resume, you want to make sure the formatting is relatively simple. An ATS converts your document into a text-file, so any images and fancy formatting are going to disappear. In some cases, it could even scramble or alter portions of your resume.
While you can use different font sizes, bold, italics, underlining, and bullet points, stay away from tables, images, and text boxes as an ATS can’t read them properly. You also want to skip columns and avoid putting anything in the header or footer, as an ATS will struggle with those, too.
Ultimately, all of the tips above can help you get your resume through the system. If you’d like to find out more, the staff at The Squires Group can help. Contact us today and see how our job application expertise can benefit you.