15 Resume Tips to Hate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) a Little Less

Computer FlowersJust when you thought you could not get any more frustrated with job searching, along comes software that may hold your fate in its bytes.

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.

The Look
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.

The Content
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.

The Basics
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.

Lisa

Are You Expecting Too Much From Your LinkedIn Profile?

confidenceAs a resume writer, career and business coach I am one of the first people that will tell you how important a LinkedIn profile is – a good LinkedIn profile – for you and your career/business.

 

I will also tell you that it will be a very good tool to use in combination with other factors of your job search/business building.

 

However, it is not the miracle worker and should not stand alone.

Give it a break, it is a piece of your overall communication, not the be-all, end-all everything in one problem solver!

 

Too often individuals will craft a LinkedIn profile and expect that once they upload it the phone sill start ringing off the hook, offers will pour in the door and the sky will open to let a light and chorus of angels sing “hallelujah” as all the rights will be wronged and business will pick up or the right job will be offered.

 

That’s a lot to expect out of one piece of the puzzle, don’t you think?

 

Let’s review what your LinkedIn profile is or should be:

 

  • An inviting personal narrative where you are speaking directly to your targeted audience.
  • An opportunity for you to add your personality into communicating your value.
  • A brief narrative written in first person to build a connection.
  • An invitation for further communication.

 

In other words, this is either step one or step two in a multi-step process.  Often recruiters or hiring managers are reviewing LinkedIn profiles after they read a candidates resume.  Prospective clients will also check out your LinkedIn profile after hearing about you, your company or reviewing any prior company information (like a website).

 

In that case it is step two.  It could be the first encounter that someone has had with you so that would be step one.

 

If it is step two it needs to add further dimension and depth.  Let them see you.  Express in your own personal way how you add more value than the other guy, are an expert in your field or the contractor of choice.  Give them another take away as a second touch.

 

If it is step one you are setting the stage for the above.

 

In either case the point is to engage and invite further communication – without demands or outrageous expectations.

 

Do not think that just by reading your LinkedIn profile that is enough to sign the deal.  They are still going to want to talk to you, find out more and make a decision on their own that you are the right person.

 

Use LinkedIn to set the stage for that next level of communication.  If you are job searching are their certain skills, value or ability that are important for your next position?  Then these should be highlighted and given enough leeway for further communication.

 

In other words: you don’t need to tell them every single aspect – just enough to demonstrate your value and create the desire to find out more.

 

If you are utilizing LinkedIn to build your business speak directly to your client’s needs and follow the same principle: demonstrate your value and create the desire to find out more.

 

Invite them to connect with you and why they should.  As a general rule we make decisions when they are easy to make.  Give me the information I am looking for, an easy way to contact you and a reason to do so and I am more likely to reach out.

 

But make sure you are ready for that next communication.  Are you following up, are you available to respond, are you presenting the same context and tone that you established in your LinkedIn profile?

 

If I am impressed with your profile and the tone of your message but then speak to a person who is disinterested or worse – do not get a response at all, I will quickly dismiss you as a candidate or prospect.

 

I want to make sure the person I read about and felt connected to is the same person I speak with either by phone, email or in person.  If there is any difference it will create confusion and that will end any prospective deal.  I don’t like being confused or dealt with the responsibility of figuring out which person you really are – it is exhausting.

 

Do you have a resume or business communication that mirrors your LinkedIn?  They should not be the same, but similar.  If a recruiter has already read your resume and sees that your LinkedIn is simply a copy and paste of that they are going to think you are a one trick pony.

 

Remember – a resume and business communication are more of an arm’s length communication.  You are not sure who all will be reading it so you have to make sure it is professional, yet comprehensive for the potential audience.  LinkedIn profiles are to be written more as speaking directly to that one person reading it.  A personal connection written in first person where it is expected to use words like “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”.

 

Bottom line: make sure your LinkedIn profile is written in congruence with your other business tools, utilized as a communication stepping stone and that you are prepared to continue the message during subsequent contacts.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Tools in Your Toolbox

My dad was a diesel mechanic, when he died he was head of the shop for CCX, a damn good mechanic. He could fix anything. I grew up around tools, the smell of oil, grease, tools, knowing the importance of keeping them clean, putting them away properly and taking care of them. I learned the importance of tools; you can do anything with the right tool. I was comfortable taking some tools and scraps of wood or whatever I could find and see what I could build. I knew how to use tools and what I did not know I liked to ask. (When I was 14 I asked him to show me how to hot-wire a car although much to my chagrin he did not). I have my own tool box, circular saw, jig saw and yes, I have used them well – a couple of years ago I built floor to ceiling bookcases with a bench seat in the middle thank you very much. But the point of this early rambling is that I learned the value of tools from my dad. I also learned the strength in the truth from my dad.

Now that I am much older I carry those same lessons from my dad to other tools. You will hear the message of tools in your toolbox. For a job seeker there are many tools – your resume, your elevator speech, your mentors, your fellow co-workers, employment agencies, recruiters, networking groups – just to name a few. Today I am going to focus on employment agencies and recruiters.

Let me clear up one thing right now – employment agency does not equate to Temp Agency, although there is a time and place for these companies as well. There might be negative connotations about agencies and recruiters and some of those thoughts might be well deserved; however, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I have met some wonderful people in both industries and they are very passionate about what they do and why. If you have not had a lot of experience with either it might be intimidating to try to figure out who to work with and why or even if you want to consider them in your toolbox.

First, go to the agency or recruiter’s website to check them out. There are many agencies that look to fill a need – a professional in a great industry and fantastic position. There are opportunities for office personnel, accounting, all level managers, to name just a few, for many different industries. These are top-notch positions. There are also recruiters who will not work with those seeking employment. This is a good thing to know, too. Any information is good information.

Companies work through an agency or recruiter because they trust them. A hiring company may not want the hassle of having to go through hundreds of resumes to find the right candidate. They utilize the agency/recruiter to filter out the cream of the crop, those that will meet their expectations and qualifications. A good agency/recruiter will have standards and rules that you must comply with so be sure to check this out. Think about it, if they have no standards how can you expect their clients to want the best? That would be you, by the way.

I know one agency that has a rule – if they offer you a set amount of positions within the parameters that you set and you refuse them all then you are no longer a candidate for them. I like this. It is a great standard and it makes you have a frank conversation –what do you really want? And honesty is important. I do not want to hire anyone that promises me the moon. I want someone who is going to be honest and tell me the positives and challenges and then helps me help myself.

A benefit of working with an agency/recruiter is you can be honest with them to tell them your skills and wants. It is not as though you would feel comfortable telling a potential employer “I have these great skills and want to pursue a new vein – how can I get there?” You can ask the agency/recruiter what you can do to improve your lot and have real conversations. They can help you determine a good course for you at this time. They might be able to see an opportunity for you right now that may lead to where you want to go in the future. These are professionals that help cut through the fluff to find the right candidate for their client and the right position for you. Agencies/recruiters have it on both ends so they are not going to waste your time – do not waste theirs.

Let me be very honest here, they are not on your payroll so do not expect them to

1. Drop everything just because you called
2. Perform miracles
3. Bend over backwards for you when you are not willing to put any work into this

Do your homework, just like you would if you had an interview with a company. Who are their clients (not specifically, but more in industry, size, strength etc); why do they chose to work with these companies; who are their candidates; who do they place most successfully; why do they do the work they do; how do they help place you?

In talking to recruiters, many have told me that your best opportunities come from networking, but there are instances that they can help. Find out what these instances are and how you can make yourself more appealing to potential employers.

Remember, you stock your own toolbox. You need to decide what is important to you, what works well for you and how much effort you are willing to give in maintaining your tools. Just keep in mind to look into alternative tools, you might be surprised at what you find.