How To Outsmart An Applicant Tracking System

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Considering that for every position there is an average of a hundred of candidates fighting over the same job, you need to make sure that you will stand out from the competition. While this is something most career experts will tell you, no one ever warns you about the other – less known, obstacles that are standing in your way. Of course, I am talking about the robots, also known as the ATS – Applicant Tracking System that make your job hunt even harder.

Many organisations – over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies – use ATS to screen out job applicants and as such reduce the number of candidates that get chosen to participate in job interviews. While these robots may be seen as cruel guards, they help employers make the recruitment process quicker cutting out jobseekers whose resumes don’t entirely match up to requirements of the position.

See Also: Top 5 Tips to Beat Applicant Tracking Systems

The way ATS work is unique. As soon as your resume is submitted, the system runs the documents through a parser, which is a computer program that removes styling and breaks down the text of the document for further analysis. Then the parser looks at the content of each resume and breaks down words into categories such as education, skills, contact info and work experience. This is done so that employers can easily find what they are looking for when searching for candidates. If your resume scores high on relevancy which depends on the employers’ search terms and the applicant’s years of experience, it means that you have managed to beat the smart machines.

So, how you can get past the ATS trill? By creating a robot-friendly resume that is more likely to get you a job interview:


1. Use the Right Keywords

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The more complex words your resume uses, the higher chances it will get beaten by the ATS. Avoid using complicated or difficult words as these will get you nowhere near that job. Using keywords from the job description though will. Since ATS reads through search terms and phrases that employers use to find candidates, these are more likely to be the same buzzwords that are used in the job advert. This means that you need to read the job description carefully before sending out your resume.

2. Write a Career Summary

A career summary allows you to create a more targeted resume. When the ATS works its magic, your career summary will help you score higher than other candidates in terms of relevancy through the use of keywords that describe your skills and key areas of expertise. If there are any technical terms or acronyms that are commonly used to describe a practice in your field, write them down.

3. Include Your Address

Your postal address needs to be included on your resume. Not just because employers want to know where you live but also because the ATS will reject your resume if you don’t write it down. This happens if employers are using locations as keywords when they are searching for a candidate. However, if you want to get past the trial, your contact info shouldn’t be included in the header or footer, as algorithms will ignore it completely.

4. Choose the Right Font

You may think that the fonts you are using have nothing to do with the fact that you didn’t get the job, but you may be wrong. Apparently, some screening software rejects script and serif fonts like Times New Roman or Cambria. Perhaps it is better to stick to fonts like Arial, Verdana or Tahoma. Also, you should avoid using anything smaller than 11 point font.

5. Check Your Spelling

For all you know, a small spelling mistake could be the reason your resume never found its way to the employers’ hands. While a human being can figure out what you are trying to say despite the obvious errors, a machine won’t understand what you are talking about. This is why it is important to double-check your resume before sending it out and be as thorough as possible with what you are writing.

See Also: Advantages and Disadvantages of Applicant Tracking Systems

Once you manage to outsmart the ATS, you are half way to landing yourself a job. Upon writing your resume, you should make sure that you remember these tips to get all the help you need and maximise your chances of success.

Are you aware of any other ways you can beat up the ATS? Let me know in the comments section below…