I reviewed an Engineer’s resume today, and it reminded me how little most job hunters understand the Applicant Tracking System or ATS, that employers use. 99% of the Fortune 500 companies use an Applicant Tracking System to accept a job candidate’s resume when you apply for a position online. CNBC reported that over 75% of resumes never get seen by human eyes. 75%! So getting through the employer’s ATS is your first obstacle to overcome.
The first thing to understand is that the ATS is not very sophisticated software. These systems automatically rate applicants and allow the recruiter or hiring manager to search for specific terms called keywords. The matching and search capabilities of most ATS are rather poor. If a recruiter searches the word “analyst” but only uses “analyze” on your resume, they probably will not find you.
The all-important keyword optimization
ATS will analyze the content of your resume and allow recruiters to search for keywords. ATS can automatically rate your resume by reviewing your content to see how well it matches the job description. So how do you predict the words the recruiter is likely to select and use to narrow the applicant pool? Having worked alongside programmers who created hiring and employment software, I have uncovered that the keywords often align to the job duties and essential work tasks needed to perform that particular job.
This technique has been extremely successful for my career counseling clients.
1. Search online for job listings that match your background and experience. Highlight the important skills advertised in the job postings and incorporate them into your resume.
2. Write out your major work tasks and duties.
3. Use a clear, accurate job title.
In conversations with many recruiters and hiring managers, they have revealed that they search for specific “work tasks” to narrow the applicant pool. When writing a client’s resume or teaching students in my Resume Writing class, I rely on using work tasks performed on the job as the very first bullet in the resume’s experience section.
Work tasks are typically hard skills like designing, authoring, project management, process improvement, data analysis. Technical skills are often looked for, such as Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop, Salesforce, or programming languages like Python, Java, or C#.
Ensure that you capture the major tasks and double-check the job description, so you didn’t miss anything important. Here is an example of what an Operations Manager’s opening bullet looked like to give you an idea of what you need to create.
· Led the daily business operations for $50M company with 200 employees. Responsibilities included: P&L, HR, accounting, inventory, purchasing, project management, process improvements, policies, forecasting, vendor relations, strategic planning, job costing, contract negotiations, employee training, hiring, terminations, plus supervised 80 employees.
Job titles are search criteria too
You have your official job title, but that does not always work well in the ATS if it is vague or company-specific, like Tech 3. You can tweak your title so it works more effectively. Use the most ACCURATE title for performing the job. Do not lie. Clear titles work best. You can alter your job title to fit the actual duties you did, even if it was not the official title. Example: official title Marketing Manager but the job was really a Product Marketing role, so you use Product Marketing Manager as your job’s title. If Tech 3 was a Project Manager role, then use Project Manager as the job title.
Have a Career Objective
This comes at the top of the resume. It is the Job Title for the position you want to apply for. No lengthy descriptions or flowing words about using specific skills. A simple job title used alone is the most effective.
Avoid these mistakes
Creative resumes look terrific on paper. Yet, fancy formatted resumes fail miserably in an ATS system. (Read the Forbes article: How To Hire A Resume Writer And Not Get Duped). Unfortunately, many Millennials GenZs, and creative people, wrongly believe that a fancy or smart design for a resume is an awesome thing. In reality, resumes with graphic design won’t be “seen” by the unsophisticated ATS software.
Content is more important than design. Use the traditional, plain standard format. That means:
· No graphics
· No tables, columns, and text boxes
· No colored ink
· No reversed-out shading
· No lines across the page
· No headers or footers
Take the time to improve your resume as it is essential so that recruiters can “SEE” you in their Applicant Tracking System.
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