How to Optimize Your Resume for ATS

Nancy Anderson
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Networking is the best way to land a great job in 2018, but you may not have those kinds of connections when it comes finding a position at a large corporation. That's when your resume comes into play as you demonstrate your dynamic skill set and experience ahead of landing a job interview. First, however, you have to get past the applicant tracking system.

Why Companies Use Automated Systems

The sheer volume of resumes received from candidates necessitates the use of applicant tracking systems. These computer programs search for keywords in your resume and compare them to keywords found in other resumes. The software then ranks everyone, creating a list of the top candidates. Although not perfect, the ATS saves large corporations on labor costs when sifting through mountains of data. That's because the average HR employee spends only six seconds perusing a resume.

Get Past the Robots

Your resume needs to get past the robots to reach the point where someone in HR wants to set up an interview. Look beyond just using the right keywords to come up with an overall strategy that works.

1. Maintain Simple Formatting

ATS do not like fancy things like images, logos, symbols and graphics. If anything, those items hinder your resume and make it seem like there is a large gap of space in your document that the computer may perceive as a lack of skills or experience. Keep your fonts simple without cursive scrawls, because a computer program may not be able to read the text. Although a PDF looks good to human eyes, send your resume as a Microsoft Word or plain text document so the program can find keywords easier.

2. Keep Only Relevant Sections

Include only basic sections, such as Qualifications, Experience, Skills and Education, to reduce the clutter in your document. You do not need a Career Objective section at the top of the page. Instead, try a Career Summary section that includes up to six main bullet points that show your top-level skills. These six items should match top-level qualifications as listed in the job posting, and the verbiage should match as well.

3. Use Relevant and Precise Keywords

Keywords in your resume are very important to getting past ATS. Employers input what keywords the automate trackers should look for, and HR staffers look to their own job postings for clues. Top-level qualifications, such as a college degree, years of experience or knowing how to run certain computer programs, are very important to match exactly as the company lists them in job description. If the company wants someone with 7 years' experience, then you should say you have 7 years' experience exactly in your document. Consider using computer programs such as Wordle or TagCrowd to determine the most-used keywords in a job description to show what you should focus on.

4. Edit and Run a Spell Check

ATS pick up on typos and misspellings. Edit your page thoroughly before turning it in; otherwise, the computer software may see a typo and disqualify your candidacy.

Your resume must be polished to get past the robots standing in your way of landing a job at a large corporation. Formatting and keyword usage are vitally important parts of this strategy. What else do you do to get past ATS?

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