A Computer is Screening Your Resume - It's Not Human

By Victoria Johnson 1/2/2016

Most have the impression that a human is on the other side of the resume screening process when applying for an open position. Depending on the position demand and the size of the company, that notion is DEAD WRONG. There is a little something called ATS, an acronym for “Applicant Tracking System” which is a computer resume tracking system that reads your resume and ranks/scores your qualifications, then crosschecks your resume with the listed job description. ATS checks your grammar, scans for keywords, accesses your education, picks up job gaps and grades your resume format.

ATS filters resumes, then correlates, sorts, organizes and discards resumes based on given scores. A human then reviews applicants that make the top of the list to schedule an interview. Fortune 500 companies use ATS to manage the stream of resumes received, to save time and manpower.

Below are tips to ensure ATS will be in your favor.

1.     Do not use templates! Use a standard Word document, and save in .doc format: File/Save As/Word 97-2003. Not all ATS systems can read .docx, PDF, RTF, and JPG formats

2.     Use simple formatting. Do not use headers (including for contact information), footers, templates, borders, lines, symbols (bullet points are fine) or shading.

3.    Customize each resume for the specific position being sought using language from the job description. "One-size-fits-all" does not work with applicant tracking systems. Incorporate relevant, targeted keywords and phrases for the position being sought. Be specific -- i.e., "Adobe Photoshop" instead of "image-editing software")

4.     Use keywords and phrases in context. Incorporate them into descriptive achievement- oriented bullet points; do not just include them as a list of skills or competencies

5.     Edit carefully: The ATS will not recognize misspelled words. And, if your resume survives the ATS screen, it will next be reviewed by human beings so it must error-free

Make sure your optimized resume also:

·       Does not include any special characters or accented words

·       Includes no punctuation in your name, such as ( ) , / -

·       Is in a single column format (no tables, multiple columns, or text boxes)

·       Uses simply formatted text of a reasonable size (11 point font or above)

·    Contains only your name on the top line, with no degrees or certifications after it includes standard fonts (Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Calibri, Times New Roman and Verdana are safe choices)

·   Include months when listing dates (e.g., 06/2010 – 08/2012). Dates should be on the right

·    Do not contain complex formatting (condensed or expanded text) -- that is, don't use extra spaces between letters, because the ATS can't "read" it

·    Contain proper capitalization and punctuation. Both of these can affect how information is parsed and assigned within the ATS database the full, spelled-out version terms in addition to abbreviations and acronyms [i.e.,]

·     Do remember that even if you have a personal connection through your network, your resume will typically need to be submitted to the company’s ATS.

·       When applying for a specific position, do use that exact job title on the resume

·       When listing dates for employment or education, do list dates to the right of the information

·     If you wish to include a context statement describing the organization you worked with, do include that statement after the organization name, your title, and employment dates

·       Do consider including section headers in ALL CAPS to make it easy for the applicant tracking system to categorize the information

·       If you are working towards a certification that is a requirement for the position, do include it on the resume -- but make sure you include a phrase such as "Pursuing (name of credential)"

·    Do check your email after applying for a position online. Some applicant tracking systems acknowledge submissions, but these automated responses may be diverted to your spam folder

·       If given the choice, do upload your resume rather than cutting pasting sections into text boxes. When it is eventually forwarded to a human, it will look much more attractive

·       Do be mindful of special characters and accents you use on your resume. An applicant tracking system -- for example, accented words can misinterpret some words and phrases. The word "résumé" itself is not ATS-friendly. The ATS does not recognize the accented letters. Instead, it reads it as "r?sum?."

·     Do feel free to make your resume as long as you want to. The ATS won’t penalize you for length. However, since a person may also read it, keeping it to two pages is smart. However, if you have a 2-page resume, put your name and Page 2 in a header so the ATS can’t “see” it

·    Don't list your credentials (MBA, CPA, etc.) next to your name. Include that information on a separate line

·   Don't include skills you don't possess on the resume as an attempt to "trick" the applicant tracking system into selecting you. Anything on your resume needs to be substantiated in an interview, or increasingly in a skills-based test before you interview

·       Don't mix different fonts and sizes in your resume

Don’t feel the need to create an unoriginal document because a human being will eventually see review resume, keeping some simple formatting such as bold, caps and bullet points will help to keep your resume attractive. All the more reason to hire Resumes Today; we are experts with ATS and can save you time and energy so you can focus on nailing the interview.