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Beyond the Resume (Part 2): 7 Things Every Job Seeker Should Know About ATS

ATS_NavigateAs competition in the job market heats up, the frustration level rises for job candidates trying to get their resumes in front of recruiters. Many are bemoaning the fact that applicant tracking systems (ATS) have taken the human out of human resources. They perceive that they are being treated as commodities, and to them this perception is real. HR professionals, on the other hand, would counter this by saying they are swamped with too many resumes, and need a cost-effective tool to manage their recruiting process.

Jon Ciampi, former CEO of Preptel, now VP of Marketing at CRC Health Group, knows quite a bit about ATSs. “Applicant tracking systems contain different database fields for information on a resume, such as the candidate’s name, contact details, work experience, job titles, education, employer names and periods of employment. These systems try to identify this information on a job seeker’s resume, but if a resume isn’t formatted according to the applicant tracking system, it won’t pull this information into the proper fields.”

One of my clients wanted to know how she could make sure her resume was selected by an applicant tracking system on a government website. She had all the qualifications for the job. We discussed the pros and cons of the ATS, and I told her she should ensure that her resume mirrors the job posting as much as possible. I encouraged her to do a practice run of the application process right up to the ‘Submit’ button then cancel it. This allowed her to get a behind-the-scenes look at the system. After that exercise she completed the formal application.

A few days later she logged into her account and was shocked to see that over 4,000 people had applied for the position. She was equally shocked last week when she was called for an interview. We concluded that her resume was selected by the system because she had used the right keywords, and aligned her experience with the requirements of the position.

Having written about applicant tracking systems and listened to experts discuss them, I believe that every job seeker should know the following seven things to better navigate the ATS:

  1. Approximately 80% of large and small employers use some form of an ATS. Since employers are flooded with hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes for very few positions, they turn to ATSs to help them deal with the onslaught, and save time and money.
  2. Applicant tracking systems operate on a level playing field. Many job seekers view these systems as just another unnecessary barrier to their job search. On the contrary, they actually level the playing field. Each resume is treated fairly because ATSs are programmed to recognize and select keywords that are specific to the job description. They also gather information based on specific headings and titles. If a resume does not conform to these specific requirements, it will not be read by the ATS.
  3. The length of a resume is not an issue. No need to worry if a two- or three-page resume will be accepted. A longer resume created in plain text and crammed with relevant keywords is preferable to one that is beautifully designed.
  4. Tables, graphics and special characters are difficult to read. Most applicant tracking systems cannot read tables, special characters or images. That’s the reason for the plain text version. The nicely formatted, graphic-rich resume is more suitable for networking purposes, in-person interviews or as an email attachment. They are also useful if the system offers an option to upload a Word or PDF document.
  5. About 75% of qualified candidates are eliminated by the system. This may appear to be in contrast to the point mentioned earlier, but one of the main reasons qualified candidates are rejected is that they do not understand how to configure their resumes to fit the ATS.
  6. Sandbagging the system is a test of your integrity. Do not manipulate the system by using needless repetitions of words and phrases or by using white fonts to hide keywords. This is known as ‘sandbagging’, and recruiters view any attempt to game the system as dishonest.
  7. All applicant tracking systems are not created equal. ATSs are becoming more sophisticated as developers put new versions on the market at rapid speed. These different versions do different things. The onus is on you, the job seeker, to do the research to find out what system your prospective employer uses and adapt your resume accordingly.

While there are no guarantees with the ATS, your resume will stand a better chance of being selected by the system if you take the time to understand how it works. In the meantime, keep networking. It is the best way to land that job.

Related links:

10 Resume Tips to Beat the ATS

Robots Are Reading Your Resume

How to Leverage Applicant Tracking Systems to Land a Job

 

About 

I am Daisy Wright, an award winning certified career management and interview coach, author, and certified resume strategist. I collaborate with executives, managers, and mid-career professionals in all aspects of their career and job search to help them get hired FASTER! I am the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of The Wright Career Solution and quite passionate about diversity and inclusion and women's issues.

Website: www.thewrightcareer.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/daisywright
Twitter: @CareerTips2Go

About Daisy

I am Daisy Wright, an award winning certified career management and interview coach, author, and certified resume strategist. I collaborate with executives, managers, and mid-career professionals in all aspects of their career and job search to help them get hired FASTER! I am the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of The Wright Career Solution and quite passionate about diversity and inclusion and women's issues.

Website: www.thewrightcareer.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/daisywright
Twitter: @CareerTips2Go

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