Beat the Applicant Tracking System and Get Your Resume in Front of a Human

An Applicant Tracking System doesn’t “read” resumes the way that a human being would.

When you apply for a position you are qualified for, you may take for granted that you will get a fair shake from the human resources staff when they read it.

However, you may be surprised to hear how few of the resumes that are submitted actually find their way to the desk of a human resources professional, much less a hiring manager, and that even companies admit that qualified applicants may be falling through the cracks.

This is because before it ever finds its way to a human who can make a decision, virtually every resume submitted is filtered through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which may reject your resume outright even if you are fully qualified simply based on how your resume is written or structured.

Knowing The System

An Applicant Tracking System doesn’t “read” resumes the way that a human being would.

It is programmed to perform a binary function of either accepting or rejecting a resume and may have a very tight quota to meet so that HR is not overwhelmed by the number of applicants to consider.

This may mean that it will automatically discount a resume based on any number of criteria, including but not restricted to resume length, time in the previous position, percentage of designated keywords, and the number of keywords met.

Its goal is to save time, not necessarily to find the best possible candidate. Basically, once your resume is filtered through the system, you are at the mercy of whatever search algorithm the employer has chosen to use to determine which applications are disqualified from further consideration.

Best Practices To Beat The System

Your goal in getting past the ATS is to meet its preprogrammed criteria, but this cannot be accomplished by merely stuffing your resume with the keywords that it is looking for.

Eventually, if you clear that hurdle, it will be reviewed by a person who will find themselves reading a bunch of nonsense. Instead, your goal should be to optimize your resume to include the keywords that are likely to be utilized by the ATS while still producing a resume that sounds professional and competent.

It is a delicate balance, but it is possible. What you should do is start off on the right foot and prepare to submit your resume in the right format. If the employer states that they prefer PDF files, for example, don’t send it as a Docx. Also, a functional resume may give you a better chance to include keywords than a chronological resume.

Application Tracking Systems are getting better at their functions, but they still are not likely to be able to process that you have been building your career with gradually increasing positions of responsibility. More likely than not, they are just looking to see if you mention coding experience, a required certification, or the exact name of the position that the application is intended to fill.

Focus On The Fundamentals

The methods that make for a good resume, in general, will also help you to clear the ATS gauntlet.

Simple things like misspelled words or misused grammar are always to be avoided, but in the case of an ATS, it may lead to the system not recognizing a keyword or necessary phrase that it is looking for.

The advice that you should customize your resume to the job posting is also very important. You may have a very impressive general resume, but if it contains too much information that is not relevant to the keyword search, the ATS may be programmed to discard it. Also, when possible, you should avoid abbreviations unless they are specifically used in the job posting because each of those abbreviations has a chance of turning the keyword the system is looking for into just another letter it is ignoring.

You should also create a good mix of both technical qualifications and so-called soft skills, as the search may include ancillary considerations to keywords such as “creative,” “passionate,” “dedicated,” etc., as a way to filter those who would contribute well to the culture of the company.

Not all keywords the system is looking for will necessarily be in the job posting, but if there is a phrase such as “We are looking for a creative 3D designer to join our team,” including that you are creative may be as important as denoting that you are a designer.

Quick and Helpful Tips

There are some things that you can do in order to generate a resume that the APS is likely to accept.

First off, review the posting for the position you are applying for closely. It will give you nearly all the information that the APS is looking for. Once you have this information in hand, use it to perform the following steps that will optimize your resume.

– Match keywords to your experience section using exact terminology
– Create a skills section to list the required skills gleaned from the posting
– Don’t write long sections describing your experiences
– Align your experiences to the job requirements and stated goals
– Focus on positive results that your past work has accomplished

Remember that you should be able to express these briefly. The importance of being able to digest the job posting cannot be overstated. It also should go without saying that you should not list experiences or skills that you do not have.

Overstating your competence is not only a terrible long-term strategy, but it is also likely that a quick review of your social media by an ATS that is programmed to do so will scuttle your resume just as quickly as a lack of keywords will.
Have you gotten the drift of what you will need to do to create a resume that will beat the Application Tracking System and give you a chance to get an interview for your desired position?

If you still have any doubts or further questions, we are here to help.

Please consider conferring with one of our resume writing experts at Ivy Exec to help you take the next steps in your career.

By Ben Duppler
Ben Duppler Career Mentor