What happens to your résumé when you submit it online? Are you afraid it goes into the Black Hole?
Beware the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)! Some ATSs screen out many well-qualified candidates since most candidates submit résumés that are not optimized for ATS. Let’s be sure your résumé is written and formatted to pass ATS criteria.
First of all, there are about 200 different ATSs today. Some more sophisticated than others. Unless you know what system you are working with and its capabilities, you must write to the common denominator.
Most ATSs use parsing software to place words and information in fields; many ATSs use section headers to categorize information; and many ATSs match résumé keywords or phrases from users entering them in, analyzing announcements, and/or mathematically evaluating many announcements and/or from the same career field.
Some ATSs ask questions to qualify and/or eliminate candidates; some ATSs use Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to assign context to keywords and phrases; and some ATSs score résumés based on algorithms on how well they match keywords and phrases ─ an ATS selects résumés which score high enough and/or meet other criteria.
Now, let’s make YOUR resume pass. Use standard header names for each section.
- Contact Information: Do not use a formal header. Include Name, Address, City, State, ZIP, Phone Number, Email Address at the top of the résumé. (Some ATSs select candidates ONLY from the local area, and will eliminate candidates without ZIP codes at least).
- Summary: Include the headings Professional Profile or Summary. Include the title of the job from the announcement with keywords. Can include a skill list with keywords. No tables!
- Experience: Use Professional Work Experience heading – many ATSs look for these words. Use Reverse Chronological format. Consider entering Company after each company name. Enter dates, including month and year. Enter in each company’s city and state. Write duties and accomplishments with keywords and phrases from the announcement. Repeat keywords and phrases from position to position to score higher and show depth of experience. Spell out acronyms at least the first time and put the acronym in parenthesis after full words.
- Education: Use Education heading. Type full name and abbreviation for the degree, major, school name, and location. Optional information may include degree date, GPA and course work. Enter any honors.
- Training: Use Training heading. Type in names for all related training courses.
- Certifications: Use Certification heading. Type in all certification information.
This is all basic information; there can be more items to consider. No one rule fits all for all ATSs.
Modify your résumé for each job to enhance your chances.
Ensure that the résumé is readable by humans and computers – you never know when a résumé will be read by an ATS even when you apply in person.
- Most ATSs can read Word Files without tables, graphs, and boxes.
- Avoid key information in headers or footers.
- Avoid PDFs (they are not read correctly).
- You can have one format that is both ATS and human readable.
- You want a nicely formatted résumé uploaded since recruiters / managers may download the original.