How to make your resume ATS friendly?

Have you ever found the perfect job online – you match the skills, you have the required experience and it’s the right location. Excitedly you hit apply and you are sent to the organization’s application process and ATS (applicant tracking system). How do you stack the deck in your favour?

What is an ATS?

Every advertised job receives several hundred applications from qualified and experienced job seekers. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is software that helps hiring managers and recruiters to manage a large pool of job applications efficiently, in a timely manner.

Did you know?

At least 98.2% of Fortune 500 use application tracking system - Research by Jobscan

What does an ATS do?

ATS does much more than just tracking applications. It acts as a filter, parsing every submitted resume. Once the resume passes through the ATS, only suitable resumes, based on qualifications and keywords appearing in them are forwarded to the hiring manager. This resume scanning technology helps hiring managers to narrow down the number of final resumes to only those who meet the basic qualifications or keyword criteria.

In order for your submitted resume to reach the hiring manager, it is essential that your resume contains the right keywords and qualifications that the job requires.

Thankfully, getting past the ATS is not as hard as you may think.

Tips to pass your resume through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Creating an ATS-friendly resume is the only solution to ensure that your resume reaches the hiring manager, especially so if you are finding a job through a job site and uploading your resume or applying through a job portal.

Formatting of your resume- Keep it simple

Formatting influences the way ATS parses your resume. ATS converts your resume to a simple text file. Thus heavily formatted resumes means that some information may be missed by the ATS as it may not be able to understand complicated formatting. This decreases the chances of your resume passing through. Make sure to use universally accepted font types like Helvetica, Times New Roman etc. so that your resume is easily read by the ATS system and no information is lost.

It is recommended to remove all borders around sections in the resumes as this blocks text from parser recognition. Also, it is recommended to not include pictures or gifs.

Label your resume sections using conventional wordings. ATS is much likely to read “Work Experience” accurately, as opposed to “My professional growth.” Avoid using tables, text boxes, logos, images or dividing your resume into columns as ATS are formatted to read information from left to right and some information may get lost if it is not in the right format. Formatting such as boldface type, bulleted lists, underline and colour does not affect the way ATS processes your resume.

According to “ATS screen out or reject an estimated 70 per cent or more of the resumes submitted either because the documents don't reflect the desired qualifications or are formatted in a way that the system can't digest the information.”

Choose the right file type

There is no doubt that PDF helps your resume to look presentable and keeps your formatting intact. But, experts believe that using .doc format i.e., using Microsoft Word documents for your resume helps ATS to parse your resume correctly, improving your chances of going through successfully.

Candidates also upload scanned resumes on job sites. These scanned resumes are delivered as PDF images to the ATS which do not parse correctly and require to be converted to a Microsoft Word document which may lose some data during the conversion process. Hence, experts recommend sending a Microsoft Word document.

Many applicants also consider online resume builders. These can be a great option provided they give you a document and not an image file.

 What makes your resume pass through the ATS once submitted?

As described earlier, ATS selects or passes a resume based detection of keywords in your resume. Usually hiring managers will decide qualifications and skills that are a ‘must-have’ for a particular role. When your resume is parsed by the ATS, it will be selected if it contains those keywords. Hence, it is important to include them.

Where can you find the keywords? Look for them in the job description of the role- technical and soft skills, certifications, degrees, languages, software technology are your best bets!

Applying for more than one role in an organization

It is not unusual for candidates to apply for more than one role in a single organization. ATS allow hiring managers to view all the roles that you may have applied to at their company. So, it is important to know that:

  • Hiring managers often cast a wide net of transferable skills so they can get a large pool of professionals with diverse skills. Make sure that your resume is targeted and clearly highlights the skills needed for a role.
  • Applying for two very similar positions in a company is a great idea, especially if you have transferable skills that can help you navigate both positions easily. Still, to pass through the ATS, submitting two targeted resumes makes sense.

Tricking the ATS

There are a series of blogs and advice on how to trick the ATS, including tricks like pasting keywords using white colour font, repeating keywords or even pasting the whole job description in white. Unfortunately, these tricks are not the best way to beat the ATS system.

All ATS systems will display the content of your resume in black colour at the hiring manager’s end. Thus they will eventually notice that you have copy-pasted the job description or mentioned the keywords all through your resume randomly, even if you use a white coloured font, making you seem like a deceptive candidate.

Instead, consider making a targeted job summary with keywords in the beginning of your resume- a better strategy to beat the ATS. Highlight your top skills and qualifications in this summary in 4-5 sentences. For better readability, you can also opt for bullet points instead of a paragraph. Keep the formatting extremely simple so ATS can read it.

As for your personal interview, you can opt to create another copy of your resume with a better layout and design. You can present this designed resume for your personal interview and keep the simpler version for the online submission. It may seem like a lot needs to be done to make your resume ATS friendly. However, experts believe designing an ATS friendly resume that reflects your skillset and experience is your best bet – whether it is being scanned or reviewed in person. Keep it genuine and targeted.

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