Understanding ATS is important to make sure your resume is seen, and in addition, using ATS intelligently can help you easily bypass your competition. Falling victim to ATS ignorance can cause even the most qualified candidate to miss a perfect job opportunity, but with an ATS-optimized resume, landing that interview just became easier.
So what is ATS? Employers often face hundreds or thousands of applications when searching for new employees, and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) provide tracking and searching functions that help employers meet the best candidates. In order to filter out the unqualified candidates and focus only on the best, many employers use ATS technology to save time and money. For a qualified candidate, it is important to understand ATS in order to ensure your resume reaches the hiring manager or recruiter.
ATS will likely read your resume before any human will, but if an ATS cannot read your resume, the chances of it falling into human hands are slim. Unless you are applying for a graphic design job or a creative position, avoid graphics or logos, and do not submit a PDF. Some ATS cannot read PDF formats, causing your resume to immediately be disregarded. Ideal resumes will be in .doc or .rtf format and use only web-standard fonts like Arial or Tahoma with a font size between 10 and 12 points. Simple formatting is best, and clearly organized sections are ideal.
Once the ATS begins reading your resume, it will assign meaning to your resume’s content. Skills, experience, education, and contact information will need to match the employer’s search keywords, and the best way to match them is to hone in on keywords that are important to your industry. However, stay tactful, as an overload of keywords can tip off the ATS and likely weed out even the most qualified candidate.
Lastly, it is important to follow all directions during the application process. This includes filling out all fields, whether it is required or not. Always attach a cover letter, and always review your application before submitting. Misspelled words can cause the ATS to disregard you, and an incomplete application can put you into the “no” pile immediately. However, a complete application with a readable resume and appropriate keywords will give you a high score, make your resume seen, and give you a good shot at that ideal interview opportunity.