Applying for jobs is now faster than ever, thanks to technology, but this doesn't necessarily make job hunting easier. Most employers use automated systems to filter out incoming resumes. An ATS, or application tracking system, selects the most promising resumes for review, in effect rejecting all the other applications. It can be frustrating to know that this could be stopping your applications from being seen by hiring managers. You don't have to be a victim of this system though. If you understand how these filters work, you can use them to your advantage. There are just a few things to watch out for.
As the process of submitting job applications has become increasingly fast and easy for candidates, the process of selecting and vetting candidates has become increasingly difficult for employers. This is because companies get so many online applications that they don't have the time to manually review all of them. This is especially challenging for recruiters, who are trying to fill multiple positions at a time.
To manage this problem, recruiters often use tracking systems to organize and filter applications. An ATS organizes applications to ensure that all are accounted for, but it also analyze the resumes and tags the most qualified ones for manual review. The resumes that are not tagged will not be reviewed. According to GetFive, that's 70% that don't make it.
ATS technology is not going away anytime soon. According to Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use it, and a Capterra survey found that 75% of recruiters use it, and 94% of those recruiters say that the software has had a positive effect on their hiring process.
It doesn't have to be only the employers who benefit from ATS. You also can benefit from this technology if you know how to work with it. Because the ATS dramatically reduces the number of resumes the recruiter looks at, they can spend more time with each one that they do consider. So if you make it past the filter, you have a fairly good chance of getting an interview.
The question is, how do you do that?
Here are four tips for increasing your chances of getting through application tracking system filters.
When an applicant tracking system scans a resume, it looks for keywords that show that you're a good match for the position. The recruiter will decide which keywords the system will prioritize for each opening. They may look for certain academic degrees, certifications, and skills.
Include the skills and other qualifications listed at the beginning of the job posting. You should use the same phrasing that was used in the job description. The ATS may not be smart enough to "understand" a that a keyword you list is similar; to be safe it should be identical. For the same reason, include a fully spelled out version of any acronyms.
Of course, you should only apply to jobs for which you meet the requirements, so it should be easy to add those keywords to your resume while remaining honest about your qualifications.
Sometimes, a resume that's visually appealing to humans can be confusing for an automated filter. Although it may be tempting to style your resume in a way that stands out from the competition, it's better to keep it simple when application tracking systems are involved.
Start with your name and contact information at the top of the page. Don't embed this text in a header or footer, as the system may overlook it. Use standard font and margin sizes, and avoid tables, graphics, italicized text, and other unconventional visuals. Also, use basic headings for each section of your resume. For example, you can simply label your work history as "Experience" to make that section obvious to the system.
The file type you select could be the difference between your resume being discarded or making it through the filter. Unless the job posting specifies which file types you can use, stick with a Word document format. Some systems struggle to read PDFs, but Word documents are usually much more ATS-friendly.
You should customize your resume for each application so that it matches the job posting closely. However, this doesn't mean that you should lie or misrepresent your qualifications in an attempt to trick the filter. Save time and effort by focusing on the jobs that are the right fit based on your experience and education.
Understanding the screening technology will definitely help your resume get seen. But there's one other way of getting seen that simply works, year in and year out: talking with people at your target company. This is why networking continues to be a critical ingredient in any successful job search. Through informational interviews with humans, you'll not only get a better sense of what the ATS is looking for, you may even make a direct connection to a hiring manager and bypass the ATS entirely.