The company you’ve been eyeing finally has a dream opening and you are convinced you’re the perfect fit. You upload your resume, hit send, and the waiting game begins.
Your resume can decide your fate in seconds. With applicant tracking systems (ATS)—the software recruiters rely on to manage the hiring process—your resume has to pass a software prescreen first before making it in front of a recruiter’s eyes. And if it does, some recruiters might only spend a few seconds to evaluate your resume.
But don’t worry, there are easy to follow steps to turn your traditional resume into a modern ATS compliant masterpiece. Here are the three things you should do to make sure your resume gets noticed.
1. Write your resume for quick evaluation
Modern resumes should focus on content and brevity. Recruiters don’t have the time to figure out every candidate in depth, so make sure to lay out your strengths for them. Make your resume skimmable and limit it to one page, or two pages if you are applying for an executive position.
Switch out your objective for a career summary instead. Your objective—to find a job—should be pretty obvious to any recruiter. What they really want to know is how you can add value to their company. Offer them a track record of your past accomplishments. Only list the last five to 15 years of relevant experience. Use a reverse chronological order, listing the most recent experience first. Think quantifiable results! Nothing speaks for a candidate more than seeing their achievements rather than their duties.
There is no need to include references on your resume. While references are important to provide at a later stage, they take up important space which you should use to really highlight your skills. Finalize the resume with education, certificates, awards, or training. However, there is one exception: if you are recently graduated and have limited work experience, list your education at the top.
2. Use keywords in your resume wisely
To narrow down candidates, applicant tracking systems (ATS) and recruiters are looking for specific keywords and phrases that match the job description.
If you are applying for a Web Developer position but you fail to mention any relevant software, certificates, or programming languages, you will get eliminated for lack of keyword matches. Use keywords that are job specific to each position you apply for. This makes your resume more relevant to the ATS and also offer more visibility on online resume hosting sites like LinkedIn and Indeed.
Study the job description and company website to get a good idea of what phrases and keywords are commonly used. But beware, don’t just stuff your resume with keywords. While it might seem tempting to trick the ATS, keyword stuffing is an absolute resume deal breaker that recruiters will detect immediately.
3. Make your resume machine readable
Don’t let the applicant tracking system (ATS) be a roadblock in your job search! Optimize your resume to make it machine-readable with these simple steps.
- Skip headers and footers. They are hard to decipher for some applicant tracking systems and important information might get lost.
- Choose fonts carefully. To ensure the ATS recognizes your text, use a sans serif font (e.g. Arial, Calibri, and Helvetica) instead of a serif font (e.g. Times New Roman and Cambria).
- Keep your format simple. Avoid complicated formatting, design, or graphics. Use round bullet points rather than arrows.
- Tailor your resume. If you fail to tailor your resume to the job and don’t incorporate important keywords that match the job description, you will not make it past the ATS system.
- Spellcheck. ATS software won’t be able to interpret misspelled words. While recruiters might excuse an error, the applicant tracking system often won’t.
- Choose the right file type. Unless stated otherwise, upload a Word document instead of a PDF file to career sites that use applicant tracking systems. The software can decipher Word documents more accurately than PDFs.
Now that you know how to modernize your resume and beat the applicant tracking system, check out our job search checklist for more easy to follow tips on how to land your dream job.
Job hunting can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Our recruiters at ALTRES Staffing match thousands of applicants with part-time, full-time, and temporary positions every year.