(Applicant Tracking System)
Before diving into ATS resume optimization, it's crucial to understand what ATS is and how it works. ATS or APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEM is a software used by employers to automate the initial screening process of resumes. It scans resumes for keywords, skills, and qualifications that match the job requirements.
Optimizing your resume for ATS is vital because many companies rely on these systems to streamline the recruitment process. If your resume isn't ATS-friendly, it may never reach the hands of hiring managers, no matter how qualified you are. By implementing the following expert tips, you'll maximize the chances of your resume getting noticed by ATS and increase your overall job prospects.
Importance of ATS Resume Optimization
Optimizing your resume has immediate benefits. Two of the most powerful benefits of ATS resume optimization are
A Higher Overall Application Success Rate (LAND MORE OPPORTUNITIES): When you tailor your resume for ATS, you increase the overall application success rate. By optimizing your resume's content, formatting, and keyword relevance, you ensure that it passes the initial ATS screening and reaches the hands of hiring managers. This boosts your chances of securing interviews and ultimately receiving job offers. An ATS-optimized resume gives you a competitive edge in the job market by maximizing your exposure to potential employers.
Time and Effort Saving for Recruiters (GET HIRED FASTER): Optimizing your resume for ATS saves recruiters time and effort. ATS automates the initial screening process, allowing recruiters to quickly filter out unqualified candidates. When your resume is properly optimized, ATS can easily identify relevant keywords and qualifications, making it easier for recruiters to assess your suitability for a job. By making their job easier, you create an immediate positive impression.
Using relevant keywords in your resume is key to successful ATS optimization. These are industry-specific terms, skills, and phrases that are commonly associated with the job you're applying for. A top-level keyword refers to a significant and broad term or phrase that is commonly used in a specific industry or job market.
To put it simply, imagine you're looking for a specific book in a library. The top-level keywords would be general terms like "fiction," "mystery," or "biography." These terms help you narrow down your search and find books related to those genres. Similarly, in the context of resume optimization, top-level keywords are the general terms or phrases that are associated with a particular job or industry.
For example, if you're applying for a marketing position, some top-level keywords could be "digital marketing," "social media management," or "marketing strategy." These terms are commonly used in the marketing industry and can help employers quickly identify your skills and qualifications when scanning your resume.
PRO TIP: YOU CAN OFTENTIMES IDENTIFY THE KEYWORDS RELEVANT TO THE POSITION YOU'RE APPLYING FOR WITHIN THE JOB POSTING. If you come across a job listing looking for a "chef" it's important to use "chef" instead of "cook" or "prep." Similarly, if an available position opens up for an "accounting clerk" you would use "accounting clerk" instead of "accountant" or "finance manager."
In addition to top-level keywords, it's essential to incorporate longtail keywords. These are more specific keyword phrases that narrow down your expertise and help target your desired job market.
Longtail keywords often consist of three or more words and can be location-specific or industry-specific. For example, if you're a software developer in San Francisco, longtail keywords like "Java developer in San Francisco" or "software engineer with Python experience" can increase your resume's relevance and visibility.
How do you integrate Longtail Keywords into your resume?
Research and Identify Relevant Longtail Keywords: Conduct research to identify longtail keywords specific to your target job or industry. If you're applying for a job that's listed online, you should be able to identify longtail keywords in the posting. For example, if you're a software developer, relevant longtail keywords could include "Java developer with cloud computing experience" or "full-stack web developer proficient in React.js."
Strategic Placement in Resume Sections: Once you've identified the longtail keyword(s), strategically incorporate them into relevant sections of your resume. This can include the professional summary, skills section, or work experience descriptions. For example, if the longtail keyword is "Java developer with cloud computing experience," you can mention it in the skills section or within a relevant work experience bullet point.
Natural Integration: It's crucial to integrate the longtail keyword naturally into your resume. Avoid stuffing the keyword excessively or using it inappropriately. Instead, focus on incorporating it in a way that enhances the overall flow and readability of your resume. Remember, the goal is to provide accurate information about your skills and experiences while aligning with ATS requirements.
Now that we've covered what the ATS is, and a few of the crucial components required to bring your resume into alignment with the System- let's dive into a pointed list you can use to create an optimized ATS approved resume.
Building an ATS Approved Resume:
The following list of suggestions will help you align your resume with ATS standards and will leave you feeling confident and prepared to land your dream job
Formatting Tips to Ensure ATS Accepts Your Resume:
Utilize clear headings and subheadings to organize your resume. (Don't use fancy headers or creative wording. Be precise and write with purpose.)
Ensure consistency in formatting throughout the document.
Use a clean and easy-to-read resume template.
Use standard fonts and sizes to enhance readability. (so basically don't use anything that looks like the font I use to write my headers and captions. It looks fancy, but it's not super legible.)
Avoid excessive formatting, such as tables, text boxes, and graphics, as ATS may struggle to interpret them. (Don't include items like skill graphs and bars- while popular, it's very hard for a hiring manager or system to understand what a 93% skill score translates to in a real-world scenario.)
Organize your resume with clear sections and bullet points.
Prioritize content and highlight key achievements and experiences.
Incorporating Relevant Keywords
Research and identify keywords specific to your target job, and browse job postings for keywords
Include relevant keywords throughout your resume, especially in the skills and experience sections.
Use variations of keywords and phrases to cover different synonyms or related terms.
Avoid overstuffing your resume with keywords, as it may appear unnatural.
Using Proper File Formats
Save your resume as a compatible file format, such as PDF or .docx.
Avoid using uncommon or outdated file formats that may not be supported by ATS.
Check the job posting or company's website for any specific instructions regarding preferred file formats and submission instructions. Some job postings will require you to submit your application via the main company website
Customizing Your Resume for Each Application
Tailor your resume to match the requirements outlined in the job description.
Analyze the job description and identify specific skills and experiences needed.
Rearrange and emphasize relevant sections based on the job requirements.
Highlight achievements and experiences that align with the job description.
Proofread and Checking for Errors
Review your resume for spelling and grammatical errors. (Chrome extensions like Grammerly are amazing for checking spelling and sentence structure)
Check for consistency in formatting, fonts, and headings.
Proofread your content for clarity and coherence.
Ask a friend or professional to review your resume for a fresh perspective.
My top 3 personal suggestions to you
I'm writing this article because like many of you- I struggled to find jobs for the longest time, even though I was overqualified for most of the positions that I applied to. It was really shocking to learn that automated systems were preventing me from even having a chance at most jobs, and the burnout I experienced after learning that I had wasted my time with hundreds of applications was so intense. But it was also amazing to witness the results of aligning my resume with ATS standards, and I really hope that the info in this article helps you land the job you deserve.
Beyond ATS resume optimization, I'd like to share the most valuable lessons I've learned over the years. Lessons that have allowed me to land amazing job opportunities in record time.
APPLY IN PERSON WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
Even if it means printing a copy of your resume at home and driving it to your employer, or requesting to wait in a waiting area while you fill it out, and ask to present it to someone in charge of hiring.
FOCUS ON RESULTS NOT TASKS.
Hiring managers care less and less about what you’re doing, and are more and more focused on what the results you can create are. While this does suck in a lot of ways— it’s also a very strong way to seek better pay, or position yourself for promotion/raise consideration right off the bat. (Ex. I use to say “designer and market responsible for managing social media platforms and visual content creation.” ———— now I say “human-centric designer driven by emotion and authentic connection. Responsible for producing visual content and optimized marketing campaigns that have driven over $3m in sales for small business worldwide over the last 2 years.”———- the work I did didn’t change, but the value perception to employers did)
ALWAYS SEND A COVER LETTER
Some sites won’t allow you to attach one, but will leave a space for additional comments or anything else you’d like to add. This letter should still be highly professional and very concise- providing a quick summary of your skillset, your hope for progression and YOUR EXPECTATIONS FROM A JOB! Stating what you’re looking for in a job makes it a bit easier for a hiring manager to analyze possible alignment with brand values and cohesion with other workers.
WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST IN YOUR JOB SEARCH
Optimizing your resume for ATS is unfortunately essential in today's competitive job market. It's worth the time investment, and I highly recommend you don't underestimate the power of ATS resume optimization. When combined with effective networking, a strong online or in-person presence, and well-crafted cover letters to maximize your chances of success- may be the key to landing your dream job.
I really hope some of the information in here helped you, friend! I'll try to update this article over the next few weeks with visuals and examples to help you align your resume with ATS standards.