You find your dream job posting on an online job board. It uses all your skills, training and experience, is posted by one of your target companies and is within your tolerable commute. So, why can’t you get an interview?
Unfortunately for jobseekers these days, resumes are typically run through a computer database before any human ever has a chance to see them. This is especially true in bigger companies where receiving hundreds of applications for a single opening is normal. For those companies, using a computerized screening system is the only way to weed out the junk applications (yes, people do apply randomly every day and clog the system) and hopefully find the best, most qualified applicants.
So, what are those database systems and what are they looking for? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) scan a submitted resume looking for keywords and phrases. The more keywords, the higher the score that is assigned and the closer to the top of the pile the resume is placed. The challenge is that it’s a computer – there is no human interpretation involved so the odds of great candidates being missed are unfortunately high because jobseekers don’t know how to “beat the system”.
Here are 5 tips to help you get your resume past the computer and into the hands of a real live person.
1. Stick to simple formatting with left alignment and standard fonts.
2. Study the job posting carefully to find the most important keywords. Make sure those are in your resume. Important keywords should be appropriately sprinkled throughout your resume so they are seen by the computer more often (but don’t over do it). If acronyms are common in your field, make sure you use them but remember to define them the first time, too, e.g., “CPA (Certified Professional Accountant)” because you don’t know which version the computer is looking for.
3. Don’t use tables or graphics. ATSs read tables up and down instead of left to right like a person would, so the information gets completely jumbled.
4. Don’t get fancy with section titles. Call your work experience “Work Experience”. When you get too creative with the information, the computer could skip right over it because it doesn’t recognize it. And be sure to list each position starting with your employer’s name, then your title, then the dates you held that position. Each of these items should be on its own line. If your title was unusual and there’s a similar title that is more commonly used, then use that title.
5. Never put your contact information in a header or footer. It will be completely missed by the computer so no matter how high you score, the interviewer won’t be able to contact you to schedule an interview for that dream job.
You may feel like this is going to make your resume very boring, but the computer doesn’t care. Remember, once you use these tips and get that interview, you will take your resume to the interview and this is your chance to highlight your key skills and previous roles in a more eye-catching format.
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