The Modern Resume

Scan the internet and you’ll find no shortage of information about how searching for a job has changed. The infusion of social media, the “electronic” resume, and technology improvements aimed at helping employers to be more efficient in screening, tracking, and hiring applicants, have all had profound impacts on the process.

We’ve talked in this blog about some of those, and we routinely post articles about it on Today we’re going to talk about how job seekers can make their resumes, including those developed in, more attractive to employer Applicant Tracking Systems.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are fancy databases that many employers use to keep track of applicants. On average, each posted vacancy garners 118 applicants, a lot for any one person to sift through, thus ATS software becoming the norm. And because an ATS is meant to pre-screen applicants, weeding out those who don’t meet job requirements, it’s easy for job seekers to fall between the proverbial cracks. The key then becomes knowing how to play the game.

ATS software thrives on keywords and phrases – While you should never overload your resume with job-specific keywords, being cognizant of these keywords and phrases can help ATS software flag your resume. The best way to do this is to customize your resume to every job description, making your resume more relevant. Whether you’re a marketing specialist, web developer, or software engineer, there are skills and titles relevant to your industry that will commonly show up in searches. Hone in on these keywords.

Follow all of the directions in the application, large and small – I know, these applications can get pretty lengthy. But think of this as one of the ways the ATS is trying to weed out job candidates. With that in mind, be sure to fill out everything in the job application, whether it’s “required” or not, so the ATS has more ammo to flag your application as a match. Didn’t attach a cover letter? Well, for all you know, a cover letter was an unofficial job requirement (meaning, they didn’t list it in the description but are using the lack of a cover letter as a way to weed out applicants) and not attaching one automatically puts you in the “no” pile, regardless of how well you fit the position.

Simplify your resume – Make sure you’re submitting materials in the appropriate, requested format. For example, you may have an awesome PDF version of your resume, but make sure you have a simplified Word version available, too. Many ATS’s allow you to upload your resume and automatically pull information into the appropriate application fields. But if your resume is laced with fancy layouts, images, and fonts, it often botches that upload and makes it difficult for the ATS to read your resume details.

Good luck!

– Thanks to Heather Huhman and our friends at Doostang for these tips.

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