To Get Past an Applicant Tracking System, Your Resume Needs These Elements
Seventh in an occasional series featuring a collaboration between Quint Careers and Jobscan, a service we support because of the wide knowledge gap among job-seekers regarding preparing resumes for employers' Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). The series aims to tell you exactly what you need to know – with the help of Jobscan – about resume content and formatting – to increase the chances your resume will be selected by the ATS software and then considered by human beings.
Whether you're applying for a job at a Fortune 500 company or a start-up, chances are that your resume will meet an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). With up to 90 percent of employers using an applicant tracking system, it's imperative for job-seekers to create resumes
that an ATS will notice. If you want to be sure your application is ATS compatible, check it for the following key traits: Keyword selection
Don't copy and paste chunks of text from the job description into your resume. An ATS might penalize you for that. But do echo the way the job description phrases specific terms. And if there is a term that is commonly abbreviated, include both the full version and the abbreviation (such as “registered nurse” and “RN,” or “physician assistant” and “PA”). Keyword placement
In addition to using keywords throughout your experience section, education section, and anywhere else they're appropriate, you can create a [caption id="attachment_952" align="alignright" width="439"]
Among the functions Jobscan performs ... Top: Shows skills listed in job posting that are matched in resume and which are missing. Bottom: Graphically compares skills found in job description to those in resume.[/caption] separate section to contain numerous keywords, which can function as your skills section. Many an ATS is tripped up by unconventional resume section headers, so do call this section “Skills” rather than “Keywords.” Categorizing the keywords here can help create a section that's easy to understand for both the ATS and the human who eventually sees your resume. Instead of just writing “Social Media,” try “Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat)” — remember, be specific. It's common for an ATS to take keyword frequency into account when ranking candidates. Thus, some people have tried to game the system and cram in extra keywords using tiny, white text, which makes the keywords ostensibly invisible to the human eye, but still noticeable to an ATS. This trick, and others like it, are now commonly flagged by ATS algorithms and penalized. Keyword prioritization
A job description might include one keyword six times, a handful three times, and others once or twice. It's important to take a job description's keyword frequency into account when identifying the keywords you choose, and their proportions. Try a tool such as Jobscan
, which will analyze your resume in comparison to a specific job description, and assess how well they match up plus provide suggestions for ways to improve your resume keyword usage. Keyword importance
Each ATS on the market is slightly different, but one thing they have in common is an emphasis on key resume sections and basic information. These include an applicant's skills, education, years of experience, and names of previous employers. Focus your efforts on including keywords relevant to each of these categories — and remember, if you use an unusual section header in an attempt to stand out, you run the risk of an ATS missing that section entirely. Cover letter
Resumes aren't the only item scanned by an ATS — cover letters count, too. The content of both items is taken into consideration by an ATS when determining how good a fit each applicant is. Writing a cover letter gives you the opportunity to include more and varied keywords, which can only benefit your application, so take advantage of that. Don't skip the cover letter, thinking it doesn't matter — it does. Final Thoughts
Crafting an application that will get you noticed by an applicant tracking system, and ultimately by the human actually doing the hiring, doesn't have to be a time-consuming and complicated task. By using your common sense, your familiarity with your field, and the assortment of tools available to job seekers online, you can easily make yourself into a candidate who gets ATS attention.