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ATS.  What it is, and how to beat it.

Are you tired of sending out resume after resume, and hearing nothing back?

Do you wonder why it feels like every recruiter out there has a personal grudge against you?  Why you can’t get more interviews, even though you have the right education and experience?

Allow me to suggest a likely reason: The applicant tracking system.

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

An ATS is a software program designed to sort through resumes before passing the best on to a recruiter.  Because companies receive such many applications for each open position, the ATS handles initial screening.

Those resumes that pass the screen are then forwarded to a recruiter for further review.   This is great for employers.  It provides an efficient system for finding qualified candidates to interview.

So what’s the problem?

ATS isn’t so great for applicants.

You may be perfectly well qualified for the job you’re applying to – and still, get screened out by the ATS. The reason for this lies in how the ATS functions.

Most ATS scan a resume for certain keywords.  If your resume has the right keywords, odds are it gets past the ATS and into the recruiter’s inbox.  If your resume doesn’t have the right keywords…  Into the trash, it goes.

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How do you know which keywords to use?

Sadly, you can never be certain.  But you can get a very good idea by looking at the job description.  See how the job duties and functions are worded – and then adjust your skills and work experience sections to match those terms exactly.

Your resume may talk about ‘staff management’.  If the ATS is looking for ‘supervision’ experience, chances are good you’ll be out of luck.

Ridiculous, right?

I certainly think so.  But my feelings on it don’t matter.  The job search is balanced 100% in the employer’s favor.  They use ATS to make things more efficient on their end.

You need to get past the ATS.

To get past the ATS, your best bet is to change the words you use in your resume to match exactly the words used in the job description.  That means making those edits every time you apply for a job.

Is that time-consuming?  Yes.  But you’d edit your resume before submitting it anyway, right?  Having to get past ATS just means you’re editing your resume in a very specific way each time you apply.

If the job description says ‘writing and editing skills’ then you use that instead of ‘strong written communication skills.’

If the job description asks for software knowledge, you need to list that exact software on your resume.  The ATS will certainly be looking for it.

If the required education is a degree in Marketing or related field, understand that people with the marketing degree are going to score better than those from ‘related’ fields.

A word on formatting: 

ATS will sometimes screen out a resume because it doesn’t know how to process the resume format correctly.  Things like fancy fonts and graphics can throw off the ATS, and ruin your chances at an interview.  Keep it simple, and as standardized as you can.  Zipjob.com has an excellent guide to help you.

The real trouble with ATS is for people who aren’t aware it’s there.

Once you know your resume is going to be screened by automated software, it becomes much less of an obstacle.  In fact, ATS can be beneficial to your job search. 

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How you ask?

You know to pull the keywords from the job description, and get your resume ranked highly by ATS.  Many of your competitors don’t.

And that gives you an edge.

Author Bio: Andy Duchow is a freelance writer/resume writer.  Find him at http://resumesbyandy.weebly.com/