Preparing Your Resume for Its Inevitable Journey Through Employers' Software Systems


Although Lauren Weber makes employers’ Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) sound a bit like a new phenomenon, her article, Your Résumé vs. Oblivion, is important for its comprehensive, detailed look at ATS, the perspective it offers from employers and recruiters, and its advice to job-seekers. These systems have been around for at least 15 years, and as Weber’s article points out, the proportion of large companies that use them is somewhere between 90 and 100 percent. A new stat for me was that these systems screen out about half of the resumes they receive. The other half are then screened by humans. Weber points out the necessity of employers using these systems, given the crushing volume of resumes these employers receive — 7.6 million a year at Starbucks, for example. Even at small companies, Weber notes, most hiring managers don’t look at the majority of resumes they receive. Nick Corcodilos of Ask the Headhunter fame excoriates Applicant Tracking Systems to the point of blaming them for the current jobs crisis. In Get Hired: No resume, no interview, no joke, he says, “[R]ecruiters and HR departments … spend all day scanning buzzwords, driven by a fantasy of the perfect ‘match.’ They’re not interested in people or in talent. Just in magic matches.” Corcodilos is probably right, but the ATS approach is firmly entrenched. Corcodilos advises going directly to hiring managers and telling them how you can solve their organizations’ problems. For those who would still prefer to try to make the best of the ATS reality, Weber’s article offers these and more practical tips:
  • Forget about being creative. Instead, mimic the keywords in the job description as closely as possible. If you’re applying to be a sales manager, make sure your résumé includes the words “sales” and “manage” (assuming you’ve done both!).
  • Visit the prospective employer’s website to get a sense of the corporate culture. Do they use certain words to describe their values? If a firm has a professed interest in environmental sustainability, include relevant volunteer work or memberships on your résumé. The company may have programmed related keywords into its resume screening software.
This article on Lifehacker also offers tips for gaming ATS, as well as an infographic about how ATS software works.