An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is an online database used to filter, read and store application documents. As there will be this software reading your resume first, the document should be easy for computers to read. Additionally, there are some bigger companies which use an ATS exclusively to control the first part of the hiring process – so if the software can not process your application you might be out in the first round.
But most of the time in the end it is still us, the HR pros (a.k.a. humans) who will read and evaluate your application – in the ATS itself though.
What changes this double filter may mean regarding the way you write your application? Here are some tips how to make your resume easy to read, not just for the human eye, but the ATS software as well.
Check your digital footprint before you start
Studies show that about 50% of recruiters check your digital footprint somewhere before the job offer. While this number might vary recruiter to recruiter (or country to country based on regional laws), it’s important to note that there is a chance that your social profiles or websites will speak for your before you open your mouth.
Nowadays recruiters don’t even have to conduct time consuming Google searches, as some ATS do this scanning automatically by retrieving your social profiles from the email listed on your resume. Check each of your social profiles. Those that are professional enough and make a good impression should be tied to the email you provide on your resume. Those that are not, should have increased security levels or attached to an alternative email address.
Use the system and fill out the form
Some applicants send their resumes through email since they consider it more personal. For companies that have an ATS, it is not personal but actually painful as these resumes have to be first downloaded or scanned (sometimes converted) and then uploaded to the ATS. While this only takes two minutes to do, that amount of time adds up when a recruiter gets dozens or hundreds of resumes a day.
If you feel that filling out an online application is just tossing your information into the proverbial cosmos, remember that on the other side of the computer there is a human being reading through your information. If you want to be more personal, write something funny to whomever reads your resume, such as “If you are reading this message that means my resume was clever enough to find it’s way to you on the tricky roads of the ATS”.
Make your resume readable by the system
Using simple, basic fonts in your resume (Arial or Helvetica) is not only beneficial for the recruiters sight, but for the ATS as well. Using a fun and quirky font can cause a recruiter to question your professionalism (Will they use the same font in company presentations as well?) and the ATS simply won’t be able to recognize the words written in your document.
The latter is not important when you first send in your resume but come three months later when the recruiter is searching the ATS for someone with your skills, you won’t be listed as a result because your resume was unreadable.
Use standard structure
It is insanely heartwarming to see some creative, colorful and funny resumes in the ocean of usual applications. Using a funny (and professional) photo of yourself or putting some colors or shapes here and there won’t ruin how the ATS processes your resume. However, unusual structures like this or this might not work effectively in the software.
If you feel you will die without a creative structure, just be sure to highlight your basic data (name, phone and email address) as usual: on the top of the page, in strict rows with basic fonts. See above with regards to your resume being unreadable by the system if you do choose to add flair to your resume.
Keep it short and don’t miss a thing
Keep your resume short and make sure your reader will capture the essence of you in ten seconds. If you have a long work history, you must be concise and summarize it in say one page – or one page per every ten years. It is not helpful to make the recruiter scroll for days to get to the end of your resume, even if they doesn’t use an ATS. But if they do, there is even a higher chance that they will go crazy and give up reading your novel.
If you have more than one page of information, (like a portfolio, diplomas, articles, work done or even a creative, extravagant resume) provide links for the recruiter to click if they are interested in more. This way your resume won’t be seen as boring, long or redundant but rather interactive or clickable. Sounds good, right?
You can be sure that most ATS’s accept files in many formats, such as pdf, doc and docx. That is easy because the supported file types are indicated on the field where you enter your information. While a doc might look pretty in the ATS as well, you can not make a mistake with a pdf, so I suggest the latter format to use.
What will you do if your resume is an unsupported file type? Send it in email? I hope not! Fear not, since your resume is only one page, (hopefully) you can quickly convert it into an simple pdf.
Now, knowing this six simple techniques why not check your resume and transform it into an ATS compatible one?