Technology is fabulous, except when you feel like it is working against you.
Welcome to the world of Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Hate it and all that it stands for, but it is here and it is not going away anytime soon.
Before you suit up for battle it is important to know the rules, your opponent and how to create a good offense. Here is a breakdown of automated tracking systems: what they are, their flaws, why they are used and how to play nice with them to help increase your odds of getting your resume into the hands of a recruiter or hiring manager.
Your Opponent – The What of ATS
An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a recruiting software system used to organize, contain and evaluate resumes. It contains database field and assigns data within your resume to the fields within the software.
Original ATS software utilized a semantic search technology that basically counted keywords; however the software is evolving. Many systems now run contextualization searches that weigh the use of keywords in the context of the information.
This means that older systems may have given higher rating for having “Logistics” appear all over a resume, but newer systems are looking for demonstrated experience. They can incorporate and interpret depth of experience and time frames.
These systems can also differentiate between someone who has five years demonstrated experience as a Logistics Manager versus someone who took a class in logistics a decade ago.
The more advanced systems are not just recognizing a title or company name, they are analyzing your content to match your skills and value compatible to that role.
In 2010, it was believed that half of all mid-sized companies were using some form of an ATS; current studies estimate that between 75-90% of large companies use ATS, including 70% of Fortune 100 companies.
Their Trick Plays- The Flaws of ATS
This is not going to come as a surprise – the systems are flawed. One company performed a test by submitting the resumes of their top five existing employees and two were screened out. Another director of a company tested their system by submitting his resume for his own organization and it was rejected.
As many as 75% of qualified applicants’ resumes are discarded by ATS systems according to Forbes.
Why? Often the system is misreading the resume or the resume is missing key information.
Flawed as they may be, ATS make recruiters lives easier by automating the initial review of resumes. They help organizations remain compliant with required equal opportunity reporting and prevent charges of discrimination.
Creating a Good Offense
Now that we have gotten the bad news out of the way we can start to prepare a good offense. Here are 15 factors that can help keep your resume in the system and get to a real person.
1. Tracking systems do not know how to process images, fancy fonts or characters which makes it difficult for the system to assign the information to relevant categories therefore eliminate graphics, tables and images.
As most ATS reads text only you will need to reformat tables, graphs or charts, which will increase the length of your resume. It is acceptable to be longer and hit the relevant requirements rather than be pretty and be dismissed. Bring the pretty version to the interview.
2. Use common fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Calibri, Georgia or Tahoma. Again, a content translation thing.
3. Use simple bullets and formatting, getting too creative will prevent a system from analyzing information and apply it to critical areas.
4. Systems are evolving to begin to read PDF files; however, many organizations still have versions that do not; therefore, upload a Word document, not PDF.
5. Use section headers for each area of your resume: Professional Experience, Education, Professional Development and Community Involvement. The system will determine what to do with the information on your resume based upon the heading it is found under.
1. Use the keywords, industry jargon and phrases as listed in the job description; the system is looking for these. Use relevant keywords in the skills section, summary and bullet points.
Need help identifying core keywords from a description? Copy and paste the job posting into Tagcrowd.com and it will create a word cloud of the most frequently used words for you. Make sure these keywords are in your resume.
2. Use keywords appropriately and in context, do not sprinkle them throughout your resume or hide them by using white text.
3. If the posting mentions “programmer with XYZ experience” do not assume that the system will understand “XYZ programmer”. Use both phrases within your resume to make sure it is picked up.
4. Focus on relevancy of your qualifications to the position eliminating any descriptions of past duties that do not support you in this role. Eliminate fluff – it confuses the system and wastes valuable space on your resume.
5. Create a skills section and include strengths, competencies, specialized and technical skills. Spell out and use abbreviations for industry specific acronyms.
1. Check your spelling. Misspelled keywords will be missed by an applicant tracking system.
2. Put your contact information in the body of the resume on the top of the first page and include name, email address and phone number. Tracking systems do not always read headers and footers.
3. Customize your resume for each submission tweaking your skills, experiences and qualifications to match the keywords and phrases within the specific job description. One job description may use leader, another uses manager – make sure your resume is a match to the description.
4. Use consistency in formatting pertinent employment information for all positions.
5. Save your resume with your name and the position title as a word document or text file: i.e. John Doe Logistics Manager Resume
At the end of the day these tips can help avoid having your resume kicked out of the system, but there is no magic bullet to beat a system and it is not a system only approach, there is still a human element. If your resume makes it through the screening, it will then be viewed by a person. It is important that it is written in a way that a software system and individual can identify and evaluate your value.