So you’ve sent off your resume or attached it to an online recruitment portal and it’s now gone into the black abyss known as the ‘Applicant Tracking System’? Well, not exactly! However, applicant tracking systems or ATS, as they are more commonly known as, have a reputation for being synonymous with hindering jobseekers’ chances of getting short listed and their applications seen by a real human being.
Yes, ATSs can create new challenges for job seekers. However, rather than dwell on the fact that this has created yet another hurdle for a keen as mustard job seeker, let’s review how we can get around these pesky ATS obstacles.
Firstly, let’s remember why companies use these systems to begin with. Contrary to popular belief, it is defintiley not to make the life of a job seeker unbearable. I assure you, big companies do not sit at a round table asking themselves questions like, “Now, how can we make potential employees really hate our application process and vow to never work for us ever…I know, let’s employ an ATS to manage our recruitment process!” However, they do sit at round tables asking themselves how they can streamline processes, automate HR and recruitment and increase productivity. This is where ATS come in. Now that we understand the reasoning behind employers using ATS, let’s appreciate what their purpose is and understand how you can tailor your resume to get ahead of the ATS game and, essentially, other job seekers.
One of the biggest issues with ATS is that they do have the potential to screen out ‘unsuitable’ applications that may otherwise be ‘suitable’. However, as mentioned above, companies are willing to take this risk due to the savings in cost and time alone. What does this mean for you as a job seeker? You must fool proof your resume and make it ATS user friendly and less likely to fall in the ‘unsuitable’ pile. How do you achieve this?
The below tips have been heralded among recruitment and career experts as some of the key tips to overcome the shortfalls of an ATS.
How to make your resume ‘ATS’ friendly 101:
- No graphs, tables or images – Avoid using graphs, tables, images of fancy logos when applying online or submitting a resume via an ATS (Hint: Most online recruitment portals will be managed by an ATS). The reason being is that most, if not all, ATS have difficulty ‘scanning and reading’ anything other than text. Resumes that have been visually beefed up by professional designers with fancy logos and images run the risk of getting screened out due to the unrecognisable data.
- No PDFs – Again, ATS scan text and rely on keywords to shortlist resumes. Attaching non-readable PDF documents can eliminate your chances to get shortlisted just the same as inserting logos and images. If the ATS can’t read it, the ATS can’t shortlist it.
- Use keywords – The ATS does its job by scanning text. Including keywords into your resume will increase your chances of getting shortlisted (Hint: Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog post on keywords.) Scanning the position description and job advertisement is a sure way to identify keywords that the ATS will be searching for. Review these documents, highlight the keywords and be sure to insert them into your resume. Keywords ascertaining ‘qualification type’, ‘number of years’ experience’ and specific ‘skills’ will be some of the common keywords used to shortlist a candidate.
- Format – It has been stated that ATS follow a format of their own. For example, when structuring your work experience information, ATS tend to identify employers first, then your role title and then your dates of employment last. Most commonly, people always put employment dates first. However, many ATS scan text before numerical values. Therefore, increase your chances of not getting ‘screened’ out by placing employer first.
- Standard titles – Candidates can get creative with their resume headings in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. Replacing ‘Work Experience’ with ‘Professional History’ may be okay for other resume formats or when you submit direct to an employer, however, for ATS, ensure you use traditional headings such as: work experience, education, references etc. The ATS is scanning sections in your resume to select key information and capture it for the ‘human’ to review. Again, if the ATS doesn’t recognise your fancy heading titles, it will confuse it with ‘non-relevant’ data.
- Follow instructions – This may seem like an obvious tip, however, you will be amazed how many candidates try to ‘cut corners’ in a bid to save time, only to be hindering their chances. If an application process gives you directions on how to apply, ensure you follow those directions. Again, companies aren’t thinking of ways to annoy you. 9 out of 10 times, their directions are to ensure you meet their ATS requirements and increase the chances that you don’t get screened out.
Again, ATS are becoming increasingly popular among companies, big and small. Software companies are creating affordable, innovative programs to support smaller businesses now and the use of ATS will only increase. There are many different kinds, with many different features that are used in many different ways. Some companies won’t rely solely on an ATS, whilst other companies will. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. The more you understand the processes of your preferred employer, that better your chances will have to conquer it!!
The logic of a candidate when applying via an ATS! 😉