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How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

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How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) 

When you get a rejection letter or email from a job you applied for, you may feel crushed. You think that the hiring manager read through your resume and concluded that you simply weren’t qualified for the work, but here’s the twist – it’s much more likely that no human has even laid eyes on your application yet. 

The truth? You were probably rejected by recruiting software known as Applicant Tracking System (ATS). 

Welcome to the 21st century. In 2020, large and even medium-sized firms are using ATS to review the hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for a position. This resume-reading software allows companies to automate, streamline, and manage the hiring process. 

Why are companies allowing robots to form human resource decisions? It’s all about speed. Going through resumes to screen applicants is tedious, and the ATS accelerates this process. It works by identifying candidates whose resumes contain key experiences and skill sets that match the qualifications employers are seeking. 

What does this mean for you?

Here’s the takeaway for living within the age of resume-reading robots – a well-crafted, ATS-friendly resume is critical to a successful job hunt. Qualified candidates that fail to form an ATS-friendly resume are going to be rejected, period. 

With only 25% of applications passing the test, it’s crucial that you follow our pointers below. They show you how easy it is to optimise your resume for ATS. Don’t fall victim to these common issues that cause otherwise qualified candidates to be rejected. They’re easy to fix and will help you beat the ATS.

Common reasons your resume is failing ATS screening, and how to fix them

Reason #1: The ATS can’t actually process your resume

The ATS won’t be able to read any of your artistic additions to your resume. Although a hiring manager might appreciate a touch of flair, the ATS will simply reject your resume without a second thought.

It would be a shame for your resume to be screened out because the ATS is unable to read it, so keep in mind this basic rule: keep your fonts and formatting simple. Scrap inventive layouts, graphics, fonts, spacing, and anything else that may affect the readability of your resume. 

File format is also important to consider, as sometimes an ATS uses special optical software to process your resume. The ATS needs to be able to convert your file into a text format, so that it can accurately read it and extract the information. While the ATS can usually read PDFs, it’s still safer to save your resume in .doc format.

Reason #2: The ATS doesn’t recognise the headings you used 

Applicant Tracking System software is made to sort through your experience, qualifications, skills, etc., by scanning the section headings on your resume. If you’ve written a different heading than what is usually recommended, such as “Major Abilities” instead of “Skills”, the ATS will just skip that section as it doesn’t understand the heading.. 

People might want to get creative with the headings, thinking that it’ll help their resume stand out. Unfortunately, unconventional headings can actually hurt your chances. Help the software do its job by using the traditional headings, such as “Work Experience”, “Skills”, “Qualifications”, etc. Don’t put yourself in danger of the ATS placing your qualifications under the incorrect categories, or misreading your headings altogether. 

Reason #3: Your resume lacks targeted keywords 

Now that you’ve got your resume formatted properly, including using the usual headings, it’s time to look at your keywords. 

An ATS actually reads your resume by looking for targeted keywords. The hiring manager will input certain keywords and key phrases into the ATS software, each relevant to the role they have filled. 

The ATS software will read through each resume, and determine whether there are enough of the keywords and key phrases present to undergo further screening. If the share is high enough, your resume will be reviewed by an actual human. 

Your ability to use the proper keywords depends on one thing: do you even have the relevant skills, abilities, education, and work experience? If you have all or some, then doing good research will help you find relevant keywords to include. 

The best place to start is to read the position description. You’ll see what keywords and key phrases they emphasise as what a possible applicant should have. If they include them within the description, it’s highly likely that they’ve also input them into the ATS.

It’s also helpful to include both specific and general keywords within the mix. The ATS searches for these keywords in relation to certain job functions, such as team leaders. For example, as a team leader you would use specific keywords like coordinate and manage, but having the overall keyword of “project coordinator” or “project manager” will help to strengthen your resume. 

Reason #4: Your resume has too many nonspecific keywords 

Some may suggest “hacking” the ATS by submitting two or three-page resumes that contain all the keywords that are relevant to the work. This is dishonest; and even if it did work (which it doesn’t), it certainly won’t impress the hiring manager when it gets to them for review.

You can’t keyword-stuff your resume with an exhaustive list of terms in the hope of gaming the system. The ATS software also ranks your candidacy by analysing how specifically your resume matches keywords and phrases. Stuffing in too many off-target keywords can bring your resume’s score down based on relevancy.

Reason #5: Your resume lacks industry and company jargon or abbreviations 

Experts suggest that adopting industry jargon or including a company’s corporate lingo within your resume may be a smart choice. If you think about it, it’s only logical for the hiring manager to input industry jargon and abbreviations into their ATS. 

Therefore, you’ve got to optimise your resume to incorporate these terms wherever possible. Fortunately, this is often very simple to do.

If you’re unacquainted with a particular industry’s lingo, you’ll have to research jargon and abbreviations specific to the sector or industry in which you’re seeking employment. Weave the relevant jargon and terminology into your resume wherever it fits in naturally, and spell out the abbreviations and acronyms, following them with their abbreviated or acronym form. 

Beating the ATS is easy with our tips

To sum it up: a resume with clean formatting and clear, targeted language is key to getting you through the initial ATS screening. Once you land that interview, however, you could then bring in a more eye-catching version of your resume, ready to grab the attention of the human recruiters.

If you need help tailoring your resume to beat the ATS, please reach out to the friendly team here at Resumes To You. We’re here to help you get noticed!

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