The dreaded Applicant Tracking System, sometimes better known as the ATS has become well known to job seekers as a potential barrier keeping their resumes from ever landing in front of an actual hiring manager. Fortunately - there are a few ways to ensure your resume makes it through the other side!
#1 - Are You Using the Correct Keywords?
This is one of the simplest fixes to make with your resume, yet many don't think of this. Typically, you have a position in mind when you are preparing your new resume or editing an old one. The first step you need to take is to decide on the most relevant keywords from the *Job Posting* you are interested in. This source will include certain phrases and keywords repeated throughout the posting and these will be first words an ATS will be searching for.
Tip #2 - Avoid Generic Phrases
Generic phrases won't only look lame to a hiring manager, they will most assuredly not even get your resume through the automated system and in front of a hiring manager or recruiter to begin with! Obviously, resumes are going to have some similar phrasing, but avoid certain verbiage such as "Team Player" or "Consistently Organized." If you want to show your ability to be a team player, grab a keyword from the job posting (Tip #1) and demonstrate how you operate as a team player, maybe you are effective at collaborating across different departments? Something like this will push you towards the front of any automated system over a generic phrase that doesn't really say much of anything.
Tip #3 - Formatting - Less Is More
I know the urge to create something colorful or filled with tables to make your resume stand out, but realistically the only result from a table-ladened resume will be a resume that never sees the light of day. An automated system filtering out resumes is not going to be able to pull any information from tabled information. Keep the formatting simple, use bullets for organizing, and avoid tables when you can. Absolutely no photos should be included either, or wild page borders. You can make the headers stand out, but anything past these will create a document that automated systems won't work through.
Tip #4 - No PDFs!
Speaking of formatting...PDFs are another no-go. I have fallen victim to utilizing the PDF format as it ensures the way I put the resume together keeps its original format no matter who opens it on what time of operating system. However - a Word Document file is the winner when it comes to ATS. These automated systems, similar to tables and confusing formatting, cannot pull correct information from a PDF file. If you're printing your resume for a hard copy, certainly save as a PDF. As far as submitting an online application, Word Documents all the way.
If you can ensure your resume has followed these 4 tips, you are increasing the likelihood of your resume surviving the ATS and landing in front of an actual human.