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5 Tips for ATS Success

“For every position, a corporate job posting receives 250 applications. Only 4-6 of those will be interviewed. 75% of all submitted resumes will be rejected without ever being seen by a human recruiter.”

Source: https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/what-is-an-ats-resume

How to Get to the Interview Phase

By now, you know that here at AskAway, we are all about the job interview. We support organizations by providing a truly helpful tool, that cuts through inefficiencies, helps find the perfect candidates and makes the total process more effective. Hashtag “shameless plug” – get a free 30-day trial of our product here, and see for yourself how much better the interviewing process can be. And yes, no credit card required.

So, that is clear. The interview process has been disrupted. But how do you make sure that you, a qualified, motivated and eager applicant, make it to the interview?

A whopping 95% of the Fortune 500 companies use an Applicant Tracking System or ATS, which is an automated process to collect, and in many cases, scan, rank and reject applications for job at these companies. And you see ATS systems at more and more non-Fortune 500 companies. It is more important than ever to ensure your resume is ATS proof.

The air velocity of an unladen swallow

You may know the story of the Bridge of Death, an important part of the Quest of the Holy Grail, told by Monty Python. As an automated gatekeeper, a good ATS acts as the Keeper of the Bridge of Death. If you answer the questions either wrong or not clearly enough, and you are cast away, never to be seen again. This happens to the best of us. But answer in a smart and a concise way, and the Bridgekeeper will let you through. I know I butchered that story a bit, but we are not here to defeat the ATS and have it thrown in the gorge.

5 Tips to Make it Across

Back to the story – how do you ensure you maximize your changes of getting through?

1. Build a good resume.

In a previous post, we talked about the importance of having a good resume, and how to work on that. Now, we take that to the next level. With the contents in order, it is important to look at the way you create the layout of your resume. Even though the bots are smart, they are not smart enough yet. You have to help them along.

We will dive into simplifying the layout and use of SEO-like keywords in the next bullets, but when you change and optimize your resume to make it ATS-proof, make sure you don’t “dumb it down”. After you pass the ATS test, a recruiter, and likely, hiring manager will also read your resume. It still needs to stand out. Use and choice of words, building of sentences and the appeal of the resume all need to be intact.

2. Simple is Better

A simple, clean design is better. Not only for the human reading it (frills and design-y details distract, is my opinion), but the ATS as well. A simple approach will mean that your ATS will pick up on your text, because it is easier to read for the system. Difficult bullet styles, images and graphs may not be read by the ATS, especially the simpler ones. If you’re lucky, the ATS will ask to explain items it didn’t find, but the risk is there you won’t even know it is not picked up. Remember: in many cases, the ATS kicks off a workflow in which what is listed in the ATS is leading, not your resume!

The header is pretty and handy for your standard information, but don’t use it in a resume that will be read by an ATS. If you place addresses and contact details there, they will likely not be picked up by the system as it focuses on the body text.

Although a .pdf version is easier and ensures your layout is kept throughout, a word file is still best for use in an ATS. A flat text file will work as well, but remember the human that read the resume after it passes the ATS. It is virtually impossible to make a .txt file look attractive.

3. SEO is not just for the internet marketeers

In many cases, the ATS is instructed to search for specific skills, experience and accomplishments in the resume, and in that case, you can find hints of that in the job posting.

Ensure you mention the requested hard- and soft skills in your resume a couple of times, in a natural way: don’t list them below, like you sometimes see webpages do that think google likes that.

Use job postings and job descriptions of comparable roles you find online, to ensure your resume captures the most important elements of the position. This also means that you will have more than one resume, as it is important to focus your resume on the job you’re applying for. Cookie-cutter just doesn’t hack it anymore. You have to stand out, and that you do, in part, by customizing.

4. Check your Resume

We’re not talking about spell-checking. We already mentioned that you do that at least 5 times, and with help of others. We’re talking about checking your resume is ATS proof. You can check out companies that do reviews of your resume. They often do that for free, but expect a (paid) expert follow-up as a logical next step.

5. Have a cover letter

With the ATS pretty much driving what your resume looks like, a cover letter is a good idea. It appears to be less popular, but many recruiters will still read it. And that makes it a powerful addition to your resume. We will follow up with a deep dive into the cover letter soon. For now: make sure your cover letter talks about your motivation to apply, and why you’d be a good functional and cultural fit. Your resume talks about what you’ve done, so make sure not to repeat it.

It is only one page, and will likely be read only once, but it does help tell your story, and set the tone. In the search for your ideal next job, that is totally worth the time.

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