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Few things frustrated job seekers as much as having the skills and experience required for a position but not landing any interviews with their resume. It leads to a lot of self-doubt, leaving candidates wondering what they’re doing wrong. Fortunately, the answer is sometimes simple; you’re not making it past the automated screening.

When a company uses applicant tracking software (ATS) to screen candidates, the program reviews all resumes before any are forwarded to the hiring manager. As a result, if your application doesn’t align with what the ATS is designed to find, the hiring manager never sees your resume.

Fortunately, it’s possible to update your application to ensure automated screening doesn’t remove you from contention. Here’s how.

Include Keywords from the Job Description

An ATS is programmed to search for specific keywords when it’s screening resumes. In most cases, the keywords chosen are terms and phrases featured in the job description presented in the listing. Since that’s the case, you can use the must-have skills list and similar sections as a guide for keyword selection.

Reviewing the company’s mission and values is another excellent way to identify keywords to include. Some companies will have an ATS search for soft skill keywords present in those statements. By ensuring those are present in your resume, you increase your odds of looking like a fit to the automated screener.

When you put a keyword in your resume, you need to make sure it’s an exact match. The ATS doesn’t know if an alternative term, acronym, or another way to describe the capability means the same thing as the keyword it’s programmed to find. By using the same spelling and phrasing, you ensure it’s a match.

Integrate Keywords Throughout Your Resume

More sophisticated ATSs don’t just consider whether a keyword is present; they also factor in how they’re used. As a result, an ATS may view resumes that simply present them in a list less favorably than keywords presented in context.

Instead of merely creating a bulleted list that touches on all of the required skills, integrate those keywords into your work history. Use those terms and phrases to describe your achievements, as an ATS may score your resume higher if you do.

Keep Your Resume Format Simple

Certain formatting choices are difficult for an ATS to read. For example, most can’t read words that are present as part of images, including if they’re in inserted JPGs or PNGs. Additionally, some ATS programs struggle with columns and tables, and others don’t understand non-traditional section headers.

If you want to make your resume ATS-friendly, keep the formatting simple. Use tabs instead of columns to separate entries in your skills section. Use traditional headings like “Skills,” “Work History,” and “Education.” Keep your contact section at the top of the main document, ensuring it’s not in the header section or a side column. Don’t include any pictures, and stick with classic fonts, colors, and bullet points.

Use the Right File Type When Saving Your Resume

Just as an ATS can have issues reading JPGs or PNGs, many have trouble reading specific file types. For instance, some may treat a PDF document as an image, so they may gather data from your application accurately.

Since that’s the case, make sure you’re submitting your resume in an appropriate file type. Review the submission guidelines in the job listing and choose a file type that’s listed as acceptable. If you don’t see file types mentioned, stick with a traditional document format, such as .docx.

Connect With a Recruiter To Advance Your Career

By using the tips above, you can leverage your resume for automated screening. If you’d like to find out more or are seeking out new opportunities, Alpha Consulting wants to hear from you. Contact us today.

 

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