An Applicant Tracking System is defined as the following:
Applicant Tracking System (acronym ATS) noun - 1. Trickster robot designed to thwart job application efforts and deflect resumes into the recruitment black hole.
Alright. I may have made that definition up. But if you’ve been a job seeker applying online to advertised positions with no luck, chances are an Applicant Tracking System is what you’re coming up against.
Unfortunately, in the modern job search world, the ATS has become a necessary evil. Recruiters use an ATS for narrowing the influx of applications to only those that are relevant to the job. An ATS scans your document and only highlights those who match a predefined list of keywords. This way the recruiter can find applicants with very specific skills for a very specific job.
1. Spot when your resume will go through an ATS
If you are required to make a login ID, upload your resume, or fill out an online application, you can assume your resume will go through initial screening by a robot. With approximately 60% of medium and 75% of large companies using ATS, in order to eliminate up to 98% of applicants at the initial screen, it’s important you understand how to optimise your formatting and content to increase the chances of it being read by a pair of human eyes.
2. Remember formatting fundamentals
- When listing your employment experiences, lead with the company name, followed by your job title, then a description and bullet point your key achievements.
- The date should always appear to the right of the company name for optimum reading by the ATS.
- Don’t put your contact details in headers or footers. ATS doesn’t like ‘em. The information can disappear and you can become destined for application exile.
- Keep typeface simple. Stick with Arial, Calibri or Cambria and use the same throughout. Forget Times New Roman font. It is super outdated!
- The file naming convention should be your name and a keyword or two. (ex: Bec OConnor_Civil Engineer_Resume)
3. Provide content clues
“Mirror” the job posting language on your resume. Copy and paste the job advertisement and description into a Word document. Next, physically highlight industry terms, buzzwords, skills, and jargon the hiring manager uses most frequently in the description. Then, ‘pepper’ your summary, skills section and experience with the same, as long as it’s in the context of your actual skills and experience, as they apply to the role.
4. Spellcheck and spellcheck again!
Reading your resume backward is a weird and wonderful way to pick up on errors you may otherwise miss. You should also be using an amazing app called Grammarly which will catch the majority of your errors for you and offer corrections.
5. Tailor every single resume whether it’s going through an ATS or not.
With all that said, my final piece of advice, which might render everything I just told you useless is this:
- Do not invest your time and energy into responding to advertised vacancies online.
Job postings can be a useful research tool in your job hunt but if you rely on them as your sole strategy, you will be sorely disappointed.
Why did you need to know all of the above then?
Because knowledge is power. If you’re not getting any bites, then I want you to know why and how to adapt. To truly take control of your search, you will need to define and narrow your target. Ask yourself these questions:
- What does your ideal role look like?
- What are your coveted companies?
Once that’s clear, you can tailor and create a powerful professional brand through your resume and LinkedIn while redirecting your time and energy into engaging your network.