Learning how to write a resume that will get past an applicant tracking system (ATS) is a critical skill for today's jobseeker. Surveys show that up to 64 percent of companies use an ATS to screen job applications and eliminate unqualified candidates. This means that you must master this resume-writing skill if you want a recruiter to see your resume.
Here's how it works: The ATS uses software to scan resumes for keywords chosen by recruiters and hiring managers. These targeted keyword searches rank resumes, helping recruiters identify which applicants are the best match for the role. Resumes that don't contain the proper keywords drop to the bottom of the list.
As a result, the ATS must rank your resume highly for you to be invited to interview for a role. So how can you improve your odds and help your resume reach the hands of a human reader?
We've created a list of 10 tips to get your resume through an ATS.
Use standard formatting
Keep your subheadings (summary, education, work experience, skills, etc) properly formatted and arranged in a standard, recognizable order. Don't go off the script or you may confuse the Applicant Tracking System and slip through the cracks.
Check the post before you write
Review the job post carefully and look for clues and cues that can help you identify the keywords that might be used in a search. Look for specific skill sets, industry terms, or other markers that you might use to find candidate matches if you stood in the employer's shoes. List everything you notice.
Use keywords correctly
Now, refer to that list that you made. It's time to incorporate those words to beat the Applicant Tracking System. If your employers are looking for "active CPR certification," use that term exactly. Don't say you're "certified in CPR." Remember, these are the terms the system will use to separate your resume from hundreds of others.
State the job title correctly
Repeat the exact wording used to describe the job in the post. Don't miss your opportunity because you use the term "Special Account Manager" instead of "Special Accounts Manager."
Don't try to trick it
You're trying to get noticed, but getting noticed is just the first step. You'll undermine your success if you attempt to game the system by including the keywords only an irrelevant context. For example, using clever wording like "I do not have active CPR certification, but …"won't impress employers.
Seriously, no tricks
Some candidates take trickery to the next level by inserting keywords and qualifications into their document in white text, so the Applicant Tracking System can read the words but human readers can't. This kind of behavior can land you on a permanent "do not hire" list.
Don't repeat yourself
Once you identify a set of likely keywords, use all of them, and don't repeat them too often. Using the phrase "active CPR certification" once will be enough. If you force in 10 repetitions, you won't increase your odds of ATS success and you may confuse your human readers when you finally grab their attention.
State your industry, title, and geographic area
Most employers and recruiters search for these three terms at least once. Be sure to include an address section that names your town or city, and be sure to state your industry (manufacturing, education, media, hospitality) at least once in your text. And of course, state your target job title.
Spell everything perfectly
Of course you'll need to work hard to avoid typos in your resume, but going the extra mile with your editing process can help you beat aspects of the Applicant Tracking System that don't recognize misspelled words.
Keep both human and robot readers in mind as you write
It's easy to get caught up in the technical aspects, but don't forget your human readers! Even if your resume sails through the Applicant Tracking System without a hitch, you still need to impress the human readers waiting on the other side. So make sure your text flows beautifully and don't cut corners on clarity and relevance.
For more on how to navigate the job search and increase your odds of landing an interview, explore the tools and tips on MyPerfectResume.