[Editors note: This blog post is brought to you from the Expert Panel, Forbes HR Council]
While an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is an efficient tool for managing new job applicants, for job seekers, the process can be opaque and confusing.
Applicants intending to get past an ATS and past the initial culling of unsuitable résumés need first to understand what an ATS looks for. Additionally, being confident in one’s presentation, job experience and professionalism is an excellent mindset to keep when submitting to a company that utilizes an ATS.
To help, eight members of Forbes Human Resources Council explore various ways for candidates to get their applications through the automated system and into the second round of the application process—in front of a real human being. Here’s what they recommend:
1. Emphasize Your Experience
Spell out acronyms and use the industry terms relayed in the job description to emphasize how your experience aligns with the role you are applying for. Ensure that your skills and experience are communicated on your resume in a way that resonates with how the organization describes the work. – Alina Shaffer, LivingHR, Inc.
2. Customize Your Resume To The Job
Applicants should modify each resume they submit to tailor it to the specific job description or posting. Using the job description as a guide for customization ensures that candidates are peppering the resume with the same keywords used for the role they are applying for, which the ATS is likely trying to screen for. Make your resume speak the same language as the company you’re applying to. – Gwyn Purdue, Wafra Inc.
3. Take Your Resume For A Test Run
A technique I’ve found success with is converting your resume into a plain text file to compare the results with the original document. If significant differences exist between the two, then you’ll know which areas require editing. You can leverage free online ATS review technology for ATS compatibility and to rank your resume against job postings to get a better idea of how your resume will fare. – Dr. Timothy J. Giardino, Cantata Health & Meta Healthcare IT Solutions
4. Use Company Keywords
Do your homework and research the job description/posting and the company’s website and make sure that your resume includes keywords that are clearly important to them and that they use frequently. So for example, on a job posting, if you notice that leadership skills are mentioned five times, you might want to make sure that you emphasize your leadership skills on your resume. – Lotus Buckner, NCH
5. Fill Out The Entire Application
Most importantly, follow the process and fill out the entire application. The resume is not sufficient. If potential candidates fail to follow the instructions for submitting an application, they may miss an opportunity entirely. The pre-screening questions are important—answer them. These questions help recruiters to determine whether or not the applicant is even qualified for the position. – Frank Molinario, Security First Insurance Company Inc
6. Consider Your Application Timing
For the applicant, fully read the job description, follow the directions perfectly and use keywords. People usually don’t speak about “timing,” but we should. If a position is open for a long time, it may mean the selection criteria are faulty and HR will audit the applications. Submit your application during the business hours, as it is more likely to be questioned by an actual person. Good luck! – Patricia Sharkey, Sharkey HR Advisors
7. Keep It Clean
Applicants should always submit their resumes in a plain text format. People don’t realize that the ATS cannot read certain formats, and it doesn’t take much for it to reject an application. At this point in your job search, you’re just trying to get an interview. Make sure the ATS resume is a clean, plain text document. You can always give the interviewer a formatted file later on in the process. – Cameron Bishop, SkillPath
8. Eliminate Colors And Graphics
The quickest way to have a resume rejected by an ATS is to include colors, tables and graphics. Those who prefer flashy, eye-catching resumes should save them for face-to-face interviews, and initially submit a standard resume in a Word or PDF format that an ATS can scan. Also, an ATS will rank resumes by matching keywords, so candidates should customize resumes for each role to which they apply. – John Feldmann, Insperity
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