Waiting to hear back after submitting a job application isn’t a pleasant feeling. What’s even less pleasant is the feeling that your resume got overlooked. In fact, 75 percent of job applications are rejected before a recruiter or hiring manager even sees them. This is because many companies use software known as an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS identifies applicants who don’t appear to be qualified for the open position and eliminates them from the pool of candidates. Today, approximately 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software.
The bad news is if your resume doesn’t pass the robot’s test, you’re out of the running before a human even lays eyes on your masterpiece. The good news is there are several techniques you can apply to your resume to appeal to these bots. And to that end, TopResume recently analyzed 1,000 resumes from professionals in various industries with at least eight years of experience. Its analysis revealed what works and what doesn’t when it comes to beating the resume bots.
1. Consider the file type
Although experts might advise you to submit your resume as a PDF file (PDFs help maintain the integrity of your formatting), it’s not always bot-friendly. If the application explicitly states PDF files are acceptable, then go for it. Otherwise, play it safe and submit your resume as a Word document. This will allow you to hang onto your creative formatting freedom while also appealing to the ATS.
2. Avoid tucking important information in the header or footer
Using a header or footer might be visually appealing, but some ATS software doesn’t take the time to scan those sections, which could contain important personal information. To be safe, include that information in the body of your document. It might consume more space, but you can adjust the margins if needed.
3. Utilize specific keywords
Keywords are, well, key when it comes to beating the resume bots. These aren’t fluffy buzzwords; rather, they’re words that’ll let an ATS know you’ve got the skills and experience required for a certain position. How do you know which keywords you need to include? First, find three to five job descriptions that are similar to the type of position you’re applying for. Take these descriptions and paste them into a word-cloud generator, like Wordle, and the terms most frequently used will pop up in big letters. Those are the keywords you’ll want to integrate into your resume.
Second, consider where and how often you mention these keywords. Some ATSs will determine the strength of your skills based on the number of times the keyword shows up in your resume, while others calculate your amount of experience based on its placement within the resume.
An easy way to include more keywords naturally is to add an “Areas of Expertise” section that lists your hard and soft skills. Then, you can more gracefully sprinkle these keywords once or twice more throughout your work experience and education sections. Of course, only use these keywords if they’re accurate. If you don’t have experience in leadership, for example, then don’t lie about it.
4. Design is key
Although you’ve basically got a robot putting eyes on your resume, the design still matters. An ATS usually has a hard time translating images, charts, and graphics when they scan a resume. If you include a nice logo at the top of your document, the ATS could mark it as mumbo-jumbo. The same goes for headshots, charts, and tables.
Instead, rely on simple formatting elements to help outline your experiences, showcase those keywords, and highlight your career story. Also, don’t get too fancy with the style of bullet points you use. Applicant tracking systems prefer the simple solid circle, open circle, or square. Anything else might turn into hieroglyphics.
In all, less is more. Keep your design simple and your formatting straightforward. This will help the ATS systems focus in on what’s important—your skills and experience.
TopResume offers a range of services including expertly written and keyword-optimized resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. Request a free resume review today to receive feedback on your resume’s content and ATS compatibility.
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