Even executive job seekers do not escape the reality that applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by companies and recruiters for all levels of potential candidates. Because of their efficiency to track keywords and phrases, these ATS systems have an influence in the hiring process that is not likely to go away in the near future.
Resume format is very important – ATS systems tend to grab information in predictable locations of the resume.
To maximize your chances that the resume will be imported into the ATS properly use a reverse chronological resume format. This is preferred by ATS systems and makes it easy for the recruiter to find your information.
Keywords from job description – These keywords are what the systems search for to find the perfect candidate match.
Distribute keywords throughout your resume from the job description. For instance, the job description may ask for an executive with a strong “global” background. In your resume, you may have used the word “international” instead. If you want to match keywords in an ATS system, you have to be exact. So consider swapping the word “international” for “global” in the resume you are submitting for that specific job.
Readability on mobile devices – Many recruiters and hiring managers are opening resumes on mobile devices, and people using ATS systems are no exception.
ATS systems are being adapted to integrate into the mobile device world. While most systems accept a Word file, you’ll want to have a .txt format of your resume to submit when asked for a text file.
We all know the purpose of the resume to get the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager for an opportunity to interview.
If you optimize your resume to get through the ATS system, you have a chance to interact with the hiring authorities and ultimately a job offer.
Could you benefit from a few best practices when working with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?
Here’s a quick checklist to help you:
When applying for a specific position, include that job title on the resume.? Use the descriptors “phone:” and “email:” in front of the phone number and email address so the ATS can identify this information.
When listing dates, put to the right of the information for employment or education ? or on a separate line.
Include section headers to make it easy for the applicant tracking system to categorize the information.
If you are working towards a degree or certification that is a requirement for the position, include it on the resume — but make sure you include a phrase such as “Pursuing (name of credential)” or “Degree anticipated (date).”
Do not include skills you don’t possess on the resume as an attempt to “trick” the applicant tracking system into selecting you. (Remember, the resume will eventually be reviewed by a human.)
Check email after applying for a position online. Some applicant tracking systems acknowledge submissions, but because these are automated responses, it may be diverted to your spam folder.
Be mindful of special characters and accents you use on your resume. Some words and phrases can be misinterpreted by an applicant tracking system — for example, accented words. The word “resume” itself is not ATS-friendly. The ATS does not recognize the accented letters.
Do not list your credentials (MBA, CPA, etc.) next to your name. Include that information on a separate line.
Do not mix different fonts and sizes in your resume.
Do not submit multiple resumes to the same company. Applicant tracking systems have a memory — all those previous submissions remain in the system. You can apply to multiple, related positions, but make sure the resume information is consistent (i.e., the number of years in a particular job, for example), because the hiring manager will have access to the other versions too.
Is saved in an approved format — resume is submitted as a DOC, DOCX, or TXT (PDF, RTF, and JPG formats are not ATS-friendly).
Does not use templates, borders, or shading.
Is in a single column format (no tables, multiple columns, or text boxes).
Uses simply formatted text of a reasonable size (10 point size or above).
Includes standard fonts (Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, and Verdana are all “safe” choices).
Does not contain complex formatting (condensed or expanded text) — that is, don’t use extra spaces between letters, because the ATS can’t “read” it.
Includes a few, clearly defined sections: Summary, Work Experience, Education, Training, Certifications, Skills, etc.
Does not contain images or graphics — or, if they do appear, they do not affect the single-column formatting (Be warned, however, that the simple inclusion of any graphics may be enough to “choke” some applicant tracking system software.)
Does not include any information in the headers or footers of the document (if saved in Microsoft Word format).
Has been thoroughly edited and spellchecked and there are no errors. (The ATS will not recognize misspelled words).
Contains proper capitalization and punctuation. Both of these can affect how information is parsed and assigned within the ATS database.
Uses the full, spelled-out version of a term in addition to abbreviations and acronyms [i.e., Certified Public Accountant (CPA)].
Incorporates relevant, specific, targeted keywords and phrases for the type of position being sought (i.e., “Photoshop” instead of “image-editing software”).
Has been customized for the position being sought. “One-size-fits-all” does not work with applicant tracking systems.