Simple Steps To Being Noticed By Applicant Tracking Systems
The overwhelming number of job applications which the average company receives is becoming increasingly difficult for human resource officers or hiring managers to work through on their own. Consequently, a growing portion of companies – including more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies – rely on applicant tracking system (ATS) solutions. The purpose of the ATS is to enable hiring managers to scan, categorize, and sift through potential employees with much greater efficiency than ever before. The analyses of these software are somewhat restricted, but they allow HR professionals to rank resumés according to how well they match the job requirements, and allow one to search resumés according to keywords.
However, despite these seeming advances, ATS solutions are often rather “dumb” in that they cannot read, interpret, or judge resumés in the same way a human can. As a result, qualified candidates can lose out on a position by not having a resumé which is tailored for an ATS solution. It is with this in mind that we would like to help you craft a resumé which will gain the most traction on ATS systems as well as improve your searchability and employability via sites like LinkedIn.
With a combined 50 years of global coaching experience, with a focus on career transition and coaching, we believe there are two categories of changes you can consider when it comes to your resumé. Firstly, there is the technical category which refers to the formatting, layout, keywords, and other visual or content-related aspects of your resumé. Secondly, there is the strategic category which is less about how your resumé looks or what’s in it, and more about how you use it.
The most important technical tips to pay attention to are:
Keywords: Since ATS solutions operate by scanning a document for words and phrases which are relevant to the job description, it’s important to tailor the keywords within your resumé to the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a sales position, pepper your resumé with words that indicate this: selling, sales, negotiate, communication, and so forth. If you plan on using acronyms, ensure that you have defined the acronym when you first introduce it to your document. Acronyms are an untapped market for useful keywords. We will include a case study at the end of this article, detailing how one candidate utilized keywords effectively in order to multiple interviews in a relatively short period of time.
Formatting: ATS programs work off data, not visual cues. Resumés that have been formatted to please the human eye often confuse the electronic eye. As such, we recommend avoiding headers, footers, graphics, tables, charts, figures, images, or any other visual elements. If you wish to provide a summary of important information, use keyword-laden bullet points instead of full, wordy sentence. As we will discuss in the upcoming section, it is likely that you will need to adapt your resumé for each position you wish to apply for. By creating a simplified template, you will significantly reduce the time you spend adjusting your resumé. Select a simple, legible font such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri – the more exotic fonts are also known to confuse the ATS. Lastly, save your resumé in a format which is easily readable by a machine: .doc, .docx, or PDF are commonly used – however, always double-check with the application requirements.
Of course, once you have your resume in a good place format-wise, their other strategic points to bear in mind which will help you stand out:
Apply Selectively: We advise only applying to roles that you are qualified for. Both the ATS and a human reader will reject your application if your qualifications are not suited to the job specifications. Similarly, we advise against applying to every open job within a company. It is reasonable to apply for similar positions at a company but applying for positions with vastly different requirements or at different rungs of the corporate hierarchy may give the impression that you are unaware of your own skills or desires, or that you haven’t given enough thought to how you might complement the needs of the company. Remember to adjust your resumé and cover letter to the needs of the company or job requirements whenever you apply – tailor-made resumés are more likely to generate interest than generic ones.
Get Noticed by a Human: Online applications are wonderful and plentiful. However, the ‘hidden’ job market has up to half – if not more – of all available positions available so don’t forget to send your resumé to recruiters or engage with them via LinkedIn. We recently read an article that reported that over 80% of jobseekers rely on networking to land jobs, so be assured that good connections and networking skills can lead to employment. On a side note: we spoke a lot about making documents machine-readable, but it is also worth writing in a manner which is pleasant and persuasive for a human reader. People are convinced by stories, not just a string of SEO favorable terms.
Take Advantage of Social Media: Certain forms of ATS can scan social media accounts such as LinkedIn to determine which keywords and attitudes a user most-often engages with. With that in mind, you want to ensure that your professional profiles remain current with regards to the keywords, interests, and skills with which you define yourself as a potential employee. You might also consider tweaking your profile to suit a company’s most desired skills or most used keywords to boost your chances of becoming hired.
A Case Study of a Successful Job Search
Amir is a 27-year-old business professional from Abu Dhabi who had accumulated five years of experience in marketing research in the international luxury retail sector before embarking on an MBA program in London.
The program opened his eyes to possible career pivots. He narrowed down his post-MBA job search targets to the below:
1. A strategic management consulting role with either a mid-size or large consulting house
2. A project management role in the digital marketing agency space.
3. Roles in London, Dubai, or Abu Dhabi.
With these variables in mind, Amir created various versions of his resume to position himself for each of these targets and sprinkled his resume with relevant keywords including:
Management Consulting Target: consulting, strategy, teamwork, leadership, presentations, problem solving, relationships development, analysis, quantitative skills, Excel.
Project Management: Budgeting, change management, current state assessment, due diligence, Excel, gap analysis, Kanban, process improvement, risk assessment, digital marketing.
For each version he also included geographic keywords such as: London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, international, global, Europe, Middle East.
Amir took both a traditional approach, applying to openings on job boards for which he was qualified, and also implemented a proactive networking plan to get his resume seen by real human beings.
The keywords included on his resumes were part of what helped him be noticed by a Big 4 consulting firm in London, two smaller consulting houses (one in London and one in Abu Dhabi), and several digital marketing consultancies. He found himself securing employment interviews within 2 months of beginning to distribute his resume, while many of his MBA peers struggled to gain traction.
That’s it folks – we hope you found these tips and case study useful! With these strategies in hand, I know you can navigate your way towards a successful resumé and eventual employment!
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