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December 1, 2017

3 Ways to Tailor Resumes to Applicant Tracking Systems

When 95% of large companies and 50% of midsize companies use a filtering software to select applicants before a human even sees the resume, it becomes important to learn how to write resumes that get selected by these filtering software programs, called Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS. 

Recently, I attended a very useful seminar on tips to make it through the ATS at the Career Conference hosted by the University of Utah Career and Professional Development Center. I'd like to share a few of highlights that can also help you to ready your resume to make it through the ATS to the recruiter so you can get the call for that much anticipated job interview.   

Before sharing the tips, I think sharing a screen shot of an example ATS system can enlighten us on how keywords impact recruitment. In the image below, focus in on the third column, entitled 'Score.' This screen seems to have been sorted based on keyword compatibility from lowest to highest score. Do click on the image to see a larger size to study the screenshot and see all the different criteria a recruiter or interviewer may collect on applicants. 

Tip #1 to beat ATS: Scan Resume and Job Description to Check for Keyword Compatibility
Copy paste the job description and resume into a site such as to see how well your resume is tailored to the job description and the keyword match rate. (Note: When I used this site, the first use was free, then it was asking me to buy a subscription.)

You can see how it works in the video below or by clicking here.

Tip #2 to beat ATS: Always tailor the resume for the keywords in a job description. 
We can copy and paste the job description into a word cloud generator to see the frequently used words. The larger the words appear in a word cloud, the more relevant it is to the job and must appear in the resume. This is narrated in the video below.

While writing this blog, I realized we can use this method to also do a keyword search somewhat similar to Jobscan (mentioned above). The word clouds below were created with The one on the left is the word cloud for the job description, and the other is for the resume used to apply for this job.

Word cloud for job description.

Word cloud for resume for the
same job description.
Click on the image to see a larger size.

Tip #3 to beat ATS: Rewrite Resume to Keywords Used in the Industry/ Job Description/ Company
Not all industries use the same terms or words to describe the same thing. While it is important to change terms like "classes" to "corporate training programs," we may want to avoid the use of corporate jargon or buzzwords

For instance, if the job is for corporate training, but you were teaching, it may be possible to adapt your bullet point terminology for the industry. (Say, “Trained over 3,000 professionals in a year.” Instead of, “Taught over 3,000 students in one year.) Note that I am grossly oversimplifying what would need to be done on an actual resume.

BONUS Tip #4 to beat ATS: Use Simple Resume Formatting
Forget fancy formatting as ATS can’t scan this as easily as plain[er] text resumes. Some things to keep in mind include: 

1. No tables or charts 

2. No graphics or logos 

3. Avoid creative layouts 

4. No fancy fonts: Use Times New Roman or Arial. 

5. Do not use acronyms 

6. Black and white only, no color 

7. Do not put any information in the header or footer, adjust the margins so that all text goes into the body. 

8. Do not send PDFs (unless you know the PDF has been saved in a way that can be ready by ATS). Instead, do send it as a .doc file format. (Read more about dos and don'ts for resume attachments.)

9. Do not overuse keywords or stick them in strange places in your resume (as pictured, right). The resume should still read like proper English.

Utilizing these tips should help you avoid getting turned down by recruiters in the initial screening stages using the Application Tracking Systems. Learning how to tailor your resume may not only help you get past Human Resources to the interviewer, but it may help train your mind to talk in the language the interviewer wants to hear when you get into the actual interview (as you know all the lingo already!). Good luck with your resume writing and interviewing! May you find a job soon! 

Read More About the Career Conference: 

General Overview 
Tips to Negotiate Salary for your First Job
How to Counter Objections for Employment as an International Student in the U.S.

Related Posts: 
How to make a good first impression 
Business Dress Code Dilemmas

Image credits:
ATS screenshot:
Word clouds:
Resume with keywords: unknown

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.