In the digital world, your job application isn’t always going straight to the hiring manager. It might reach them eventually, but the first step in the hiring process today often tends to be impressing a thing, and not a person.
What am I talking about? Applicant tracking systems (ATS): the digital systems companies and organizations use to track, filter, and parse through all applications and find those that match initial criteria, before they hit the hiring manager’s desk. They not only allow hiring managers to search for keywords in applications, but rank applications based on how applicable they are to the role.
Today, your application is almost certainly going through an ATS if you apply for a job in an online job bank, like Indeed (note: job openings that advise applicants to send directly to the hiring manager’s email address is unlikely to use ATS).
So how do you work the ATS to your advantage? Resume tailoring that is ATS-friendly!
Take a look through the original job description. What words repeat? What are the keywords? Chances are, those are words that the ATS has been programmed to search for when it scans through applications, and are thus words you should be looking to incorporate in your application.
Your experience doesn’t need to match absolutely every piece of criteria on the list, but make sure you are applying for positions where you can confidently meet the majority of the core skills listed in the job posting — and ensure those keywords are replicated in your resume when applying.
Note: Ensure you are using the exact wording the posting uses. Though it might be tempting to use similar adjectives or words to create some variety in your resume, the system is likely programmed to find exactly that word.
BUT, PUT KEYWORDS INTO CONTEXT
Though the keyword itself might match you through the ATS, you will still have to impress the hiring manager once your application hits their desk. So use those keywords in context. Have valid examples in the bullet points of your work experience, and use numbers or stats to really highlight accomplishments unique to you.
THE RIGHT FILE TYPE
ATS can be finicky, and generally has a preference on what types of documents it can read. We suggested sticking to either a .docx or a .pdf, unless they are specifically listed as file types that specific organization doesn’t accept.
If you are applying through an online system, watch as you are going through the process and ensure you are submitting a file type that that organization have listed as acceptable.
KEEP YOUR RESUME SIMPLE AND LEGIBLE
You want to submit that it is legible and easy to follow.
Use bolds, underlines and italics to emphasize text, and colour or bullet points to create separation and visual order in your document. That said, ATS doesn’t generally process things like charts, images or graphics very well, so we advise steering clear of those.
Make sure that your section headers are clear. Use standard titles such as “Work Experience,” and, “Education.”
KEEP IMPORTANT INFORMATION IN THE DOCUMENT BODY
ATS doesn’t handle headers or footers well, and information in those places can easily be skipped over. With that in mind, try to keep all the important information in the body of your document, or in the body of at least a part of your document if you have multiple pages. This includes contact information!
PLAY TO BOTH AUDIENCES
When writing your application, consider not only that you are looking to get past the ATS, but also looking to leave a positive impact with a hiring manager. Your resume should be able to both pass through ATS, with the above-mentioned tips, but then be visually appealing, clean and easy to read for a human being.
As tempting as it might be to try some sneaky tricks (for example, hiding keywords in the document in white font), those techniques won’t work in your favor—the ATS will see all the text when it processes. Stick to using the keywords and such inappropriate places throughout your actual work experience.
~ written by Lucy Fox
A Note From Katie:
More and more, we’re seeing clients ask about ordering BOTH a “designed” resume (that is, one that features a graphic design as impressive as the actual text) and an ATS friendly document, with the plan to send designed resumes directly to hiring managers when direct emails are listed, and to upload ATS friendly resumes when applying through jobs banks. To meet this new need, The Resume Shop now offers the option to purchase the second document at a discounted price. Send us a message to learn more!