If you’ve ever applied to a job by submitting your résumé online, there is a good chance that it passed through an applicant tracking system (ATS). Recruiters use ATS to help quickly evaluate candidates for jobs. The ATS will scan your résumé for completeness and give a score based on frequency and relevancy of keywords and additional data. Approximately 65% of medium to large companies use ATS and it’s estimated they disqualify about 75% of applicants immediately after they submit an application.
Companies don’t typically publicize how they score résumés. However, there are some strategies that can make your résumé more likely to pass and get moved on to a human reader.
1) Include Keywords From The Job Ad
Keywords are industry jargon, usually made up of one to three words. These are the most important element of ATS and you need to make sure that you use relevant ones in your résumés and applications. The best way find relevant keywords is to closely read the job posting and look at how the skills and qualifications are described. Try to include 20-25 keywords.
2) Keep It Simple
ATS can’t always understand unusual titles and formatting this means keeping your résumé plain will help ensure that no information is missed. Tables, charts, images, text boxes or fancy bullets may not be read. Stick to standard and easy to read fonts such as Arial, Georgia, or Courier in black and avoid underlining words. Stick to common headings such as objective, summary, work experience, etc. to help the ATS understand the different sections of your résumé. Lastly, save your résumé in Word (.doc or .docx) or .txt files only. Résumés saved in .pdf may have the formatting messed up with ATS.
3) Format is extremely important.
Your résumé’s format can impact the information the ATS finds. Avoid using a header or footer to list your name and contact information; instead, include your details in the body of the résumé at the start of the page. Make sure to introduce your phone number and email with headings: ‘Phone Number’ and ‘Email’ to help the ATS recognize them. Lastly, when listing your experience, the employer name must appear on the first line, before the job title and the date should always appear to the right of the company name.
4) Maximize your match.
Consider submitting a longer résumé and cover letter to provide more room for keywords. When you’re applying online, fill out every field including the ‘optional’ fields. Leaving out information could cause your application to be rejected. Some ATS will scan social media sites in addition to your résumé/application so take the time to include important keywords on your social profiles.
5) Don’t cheat!
Don’t stuff your application with random keywords in hopes of maximizing a match. Tracking systems are sophisticated enough to know the difference between relevancy and randomness. Attempting to game the system by throwing in loads of keywords or copying and pasting sections of the job ad into your résumé in white text is visible to an ATS and your application may be rejected.
Using these five strategies will improve your chances of passing through application tracking systems.