If you’ve been through a job search in recent years, you’ve probably heard of applicant tracking system (ATS) software that a growing number of companies are using to help streamline the recruitment process.
Even though they're a commonly used hiring tool, ATSs continue to be a mystery to many job seekers and hopeful candidates.
So what can you do? Take the following steps to familiarize yourself with ATSs and take steps to tailor your resume to clear ATS filters.
What’s an ATS and how does it help companies recruit employees?
An ATS helps employers save time and stay organized by collecting and storing data on job applicants. Employers implement ATS software because doing so facilitates the management of the high volume of resumes they receive from online job postings. An ATS also helps streamline communication with job candidates.
How does an ATS read a resume, and what does it look for?
The way an ATS processes resumes isn’t all that different from the way recruiters go about the process, at least in the initial “scanning” stage, as both look for certain criteria.
Recruiters often look for grounds for automatic rejection, such as spelling errors or lack of experience. While an ATS doesn’t necessarily “look for” anything in particular, the software parses resume content, extracts keywords and phrases, and saves a profile of each applicant in a company’s recruitment database. It may also assess a “score” to rank your qualifications.
From there, a hiring manager or recruiter can search the ATS database in order to narrow the pool of applicants.
What can applicants do to get a resume into the hands of a human being?
There are many ways to format resumes so they’re ATS-ready and they'll be more likely to wind up in an HR manager's in-box. Here are some basic strategies:
- Complete all the fields in an online application. If you leave a question blank, an ATS may discard your resume.
- Use ATS-friendly formatting.
- Upload your resume as a Microsoft Word or PDF document (unless another file format is requested).
- Title your resume with your name and the name of the position for which you’re applying (such as Jane Doe – Paralegal).
- Stick to common resume section headings like Summary, Work Experience, Education, and Skills.
- Bullets are fine, but avoid images, columns, tables, fields, text boxes, and graphics.
- Place your mailing address at the top of your resume, but not in the header.
- Present the information for each position you've held, in reverse chronological order, as follows: company name, title, city, state, and dates employed.
- Focus on tailored content.
- Include a professional summary with bulleted achievements and skills that relate to a specific job description. Then, find a natural way to include keywords and phrases from the summary throughout your resume.
- Optimize headers and titles based on job descriptions. For example, if the term “communication skills” is used multiple times throughout a job description, mention the phrase in your resume.
Ready to create an ATS-friendly resume? Check out these free ATS-compatible resume examples — all you need to do is customize them with your own information.
Get more resume advice from our experts.
What are recruiters and hiring managers looking for in a resume? Take a look at these Kuder Coach articles:
How to Ensure Your Resume Will Land You the Interview
Using Your Resume to Show HR You're the Best Candidate