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Beating the Bots: 9 Resume Do’s and Don’ts For Getting Past the ATS

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ATS refers to applicant tracking system and is the technology that most human resource departments use to manage the hiring process. While it can be time-saving and cost effective for companies, it can be the bane of existence for job seekers. It also beats hearing “I’ll keep your resume on file.

Consider this: You have the perfect skill set for a job and submit your application. You wait and hear nothing. Eventually you get a canned rejection letter. Why? You probably weren’t flagged by the ATS. If you can’t make it past the “bot” you won’t ever make it to a human eye.

The frustration that follows can be difficult. In fact, industry insiders are using the term “Algoriphobia” to classify applicants’ fear that keyword-based algorithms will always favor other applicants.

What can you do when you feel like you just can’t win? You try something new.

The key is to create an application that the software flags. To do this you should follow these best practices for beating the ATS so you can land an interview and ultimately get the job you really want.

1. Do Utilize the Job Description
Be keyword savvy. Use language from the job description within your resume. It’s likely that the person who programmed the ATS entered similar verbiage.

2. Do Research Industry Keywords
Use industry-specific keywords throughout your resume. Need ideas? Research the company website or the LinkedIn profiles of current employees. Trends will emerge, so write them down and add them into your copy.

3. Do Include and Write Out Acronyms
Acronym uncertainty? When you’re unsure about how an important term should be referenced, consider writing out the phrase and then use the acronym in parenthesis afterward. That way, you are covered no matter what the system is flagging.

5. Do Submit a PDF
Submit a PDF unless the application process says otherwise. PDFs will lock in your formatting so that everyone will see your resume just as you see it. Word docs are not as reliable. Using a PDF solves other concerns as well, such as headers, footers and graphics. Keep in mind that the text within a graphical image is not readable, but the graphic is unlikely to interfere with the resume parsing process.

6. Do Bold and Underline
Use bolding and/or underlining to highlight key words or phrases. This type of formatting is also great for organizing a resume. This will not bother the ATS and can help when an actual person is viewing your resume.

7. Do Stick to Standard Language
Skip creative wording. The system won’t recognize it. Coining new terms and adding colorful language has no value to an ATS. Save that for the interview.

8. Do Add Location Information
If you choose not to include your postal address, make sure that past employment shows city/state. The system may look for a geographic match.

9. Do Go Long
Length doesn’t matter to the ATS, so longer resumes are generally appropriate. No need to worry about sticking to one or two pages.

If you still have problems getting past the ATS or are starting to suffer from a case of Algoriphobia, consider working with an expert career coach who can guide you to success.

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