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Get Your Resume Past the Applicant Tracking System Robots

toy tin robot

Get Your Resume Past the ATS Robots

Ever had the experience of submitting your resume to jobs you thought were a good fit and getting zero response? Don’t assume that the hiring decision maker read your resume and rejected you (the good news). There’s a good chance your resume may not have even made it past the resume screening robots (the bad news).

Rise of the Bots

About 80% of the resume submissions I see today are submitted through software. The exceptions tend to be

(1) really senior opportunities fielded by search firms and boards

(2) very small companies who do it the old-fashioned way or

(3) personal relationships.

In case you didn’t know, the generic term for this kind of software is Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and there are hundreds (if not more) solutions on the market. The function of ATS among other things is to help manage and automate the workflow of hiring, and help prioritize and sort resumes through search terms and filtering.

The New Digital “Resume Pile”

Why is this information important to you if you’re looking to make a career move? Well, that “pile” of resumes we like to envision exists now as digital entries in a system. Your carefully crafted resume (I hope it was carefully crafted) needs to pass through the digital guardians before you even have a chance of it getting seen by a human.

First, something like 40% of resumes don’t even get accepted by ATS because of formats and structure that aren’t readable. In order to even be in the consideration set, you need to ensure that your resume is readable by the software. Each ATS is different and they are evolving, however, here’s two good pieces of advice on how to make your resume ATS ready:

  • The ATS is looking for predictable information in predictable places. For example, it needs to understand that the information that follows the professional experience section, is actually experience. If you title that section Samples of My Job History, the ATS probably won’t know what it is.

  • Be careful about design elements. The information in tables and text boxes might not be readable. And many of the fancy templates you find online might not be compliant.

Second, because the software (and increasingly artificial intelligence) is sifting and ranking the resumes, your resume needs to please the ATS - filters, both for the posting and for the search terms recruiters might use. And that means closely matching your resume to the advertised job posting. Yes, resume customization.

  • Among the important elements are having the same job title on your resume, keyword usage for hard and soft skills and experience, and keyword density.

  • Another key aspect is how the company has written the keywords. If the posting asks for “strategy” and your resume uses “strategic”, the ATS may not recognize it.

Part of the work we do with clients is not only to develop a strong core resume, but for some clients, to help them with unique opportunity customization. It is frankly shocking how much variance there can be in resume scoring between the core, but a non-customized resume, and the customized version when it comes to matching with the posting.

Third, assuming you made it through gate 1 and 2, your resume also needs to please the eyes of the hiring decision-makers. They’re looking for people who, based on the resume, can do the job. What impression do you need to make? This is where a strong strategy makes sense.

Play the Game Well

Personally, I think there are major problems with an over-reliance on software for important hiring decisions. However, making a career move is serious business and in order to be successful, you need to play the game well - how to make your resume ATS ready. Rather than casting your net wide, you are much better off focusing on fewer opportunities that truly match and ensuring your resume has a higher “match score”. There’s a lot of technical detail involved in addition to developing a strong strategy.

Leveraging a career consultant / resume writer is a good investment if you want to make a strategic career move.

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