These days automation plays a role in nearly every field. Some automated machines drive mass transit, some perform simple and repetitive tasks, and some throw away resumes. In large companies it is not uncommon to use an applicant tracking system (or ATS), a program that scans resumes and decides whether or not they deserve be seen by human eyes. Hiring managers for large firms love these, as it saves them a lot of time and hassle to be able to skip all the incomplete, inconsistent, and inane resumes. As a candidate, however, these ATS can be terrifying. Today we are going to look at some ways to keep the ATS on your side, so you will at least be seen by human eyes.
Simplicity- If a computer is going to be the first thing to read your resume the last thing you want is to get too creative. Computers have no sense of taste, no language for aesthetic appeal. So if you send it a gorgeous but uncommon resume you will get sent straight into the recycling bin. Don’t put logos, symbols, or pictures and don’t use non-standard fonts. Also make sure to keep your sections standard. Talk about past experience, education, skills, etc. but steer away from sections like “publications” as the ATS may have no idea what to do with that.
Know your Jargon. One of the things the ATS does is run a list of keywords against your resume. It has a list of industry or job specific words that it wants to see in resumes, and it checks yours to see how many of them you use. This means that you need to figure out what these keywords will be. Read and re-read the initial job posting- how did the company describe this position? What words did they emphasize? Make sure that you use these words that they use. That being said, you should be careful of overloading your resume with keywords. Remember that if it gets past the robot it still needs to be reviewed by human hands, and no one is impressed by a resume that just repeats buzzwords over and over again.
Be Clear- If you use an acronym, spell it out first. Before you can write VP you need to write Vice President. The clearer your information is, the more likely it is that the computer will understand what you mean. This also means that you cannot afford to make any spelling errors. The heartless machine is not so much unforgiving of spelling mistakes, as it is confused. The standard ATS cannot begin to comprehend a misspelled word, so it will think that your resume is nonsense if you aren’t careful. Proofread, proofread, proofread- then have someone else proofread for you.
The downside of the ATS is that you have one more hoop to jump through, the upside is it weeds out some of your competition. If you follow this advice, keep your resume simple, use your keywords, and emphasize clarity, your resume will do just fine!