By Rachel Feddema
Today, it’s highly important that you design your resume for an applicant tracking system (ATS) software than it is to make it visually appealing for human readers. An inanimate robot (algorithm) could likely be the first one to eliminate you from consideration for a role before a human ever sees your resume.
ATS software is widely used in human resources departments for “the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs.”. In 2019, 99% of Fortune 500 companies used ATS systems. From a sheer volume perspective, this makes sense. These programs simplify the hiring process for large companies with tools to organize and manage job applicants.
Most ATS programs also offer functionality to screen and rank incoming resumes. This helps match candidates to the job based on their resume content. Not s
urprisingly, 94% of recruiters and talent managers who use ATS programs said it has improved their hiring process. These tools can eliminate hours of work for a hiring team by removing non-qualified applicants.
ATS programs are not perfect and technical errors can cause a good candidate to be ranked low and be overlooked unless the hiring team personally audits the entire list of applicants. Considering that teams who are going through a hiring process are often understaffed, there is a good chance that a hiring manager would take advantage of the software and rely on ATS rankings.
So what is the best way to make it through the ATS scanner?
Utilize keywords from the job posting
Every resume you submit should be tailored to the position you are applying for, but the next step is to actually utilize phrases from the job posting in your resume so it’s catered to the ATS scanner and (hopefully) it recognizes that you’re a good fit for the job. You should also do the following for an ATS-friendly resume:
- Rephrase hard skills and past job titles in your resume to match the job posting.
This will ensure your application isn’t overlooked simply for using different wording. When mentioning any commonly abbreviated skills or software, including both the abbreviation and the long-form version of the terms for example, “CRM” and “Customer Relationship Management.”
- Submit a copy of your resume in a Word document .docx format.
While exporting your resume to a PDF is often aesthetically pleasing, it’s typically easiest for the ATS scanners to parse through the resume when it’s in .docx format.
- Submit your resume in the format specified by the job posting.
If there is an option to submit in Word format, it can increase your chances for making it through the ATS scanner. Converting your graphically designed resume to a simpler format might seem disappointing, but it’s better to have a plain resume make it onto someone’s desk than be eliminated from the start.
Keep it simple
Stick to the basics when it comes to formatting your document. Avoid using preformatted headers and footers, paragraph columns, and tables which will often cause formatting errors when the ATS scanner processes the resume. Stay away from resume templates that have a right or left-hand column that breaks out your content from the main body.
Ensure phrases are consistent with industry norms
Your resume is not the time to get creative with naming. Using clear section titles to create a visual hierarchy on your resume like “education,” “work history” or “experience,” make it easier for a human to read too. Consider rephrasing any job titles that have a trendy twist that might not be viewed as relevant experience. For example, “happiness manager” is a fun job title, but an ATS scanner might not recognize that this was actually a “customer experience manager” role and rank your application lower.
Test your resume
Once you’ve reviewed and tweaked your resume, try running it through an online ATS scanner to see how your resume performs. There are several free online scanners available if you search for “ATS Resume Scanner”. Keep in mind – many of these sites offer a free scanner as a way to sell further resume services. If you’re curious, it can be a worthwhile exercise to get more familiar with how ATS scanners work and how many hiring managers will actually review your resume within these programs.