If you have been looking for a job, you already know that rejections are a regular part of the job-hunting process. But did you know that you can get a rejection even before your resume had a chance to be seen by human eyes? *mind-blowing* After you submit your application, your resume needs to go through different review stages. To save time and focus only on resumes that meet basic requirements, many companies use the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). ATS is software that makes recruiters’ life easier by helping them with sorting through CVs and finding the top candidates without reviewing each and every resume.
Now you know that rejections don’t always mean that recruiters or hiring managers are not that into your resume. Maybe ATS sends it to the black hole and they don’t even have a chance to see it.
The fact above causes mixed feelings: on one hand, it is a relief – all those rejections in your inbox don’t necessarily mean that your CV is bad. On the other hand, you have another problem to solve – if your resume matches the job, how come it doesn’t pass this first filter?
We are here to help you answer this question.
In the next 10 minutes you will learn:
How do Applicant Tracking Systems work
What to write in your resume to pass the ATS
How to format your resume so ATS can read it
How to be 100% sure that your content is ATS-readable
In other words, you will learn how to beat Applicant Tracking System and get selected for a job interview.
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HOW DO APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEMS WORK?
Applicant Tracking Systems are AI gatekeepers checking resumes on the virtual entrance to the company.
They collect, scan, sort and rank all resumes received as part of a job application for an open position. In doing so, they focus on specific keywords from the job description and compare your resume with them.
Based on the above, the main purpose of these systems is to sift out unqualified candidates/applications. To beat the ATS, you don’t have to worry about being the best candidate. You just need to ensure that you are not the least-qualified one. In order to do so, you need to show them that you match requirements they are looking for by filling it with the same keywords from the job ad.
WHAT TO WRITE IN YOUR RESUME TO PASS THE ATS?
If you take into consideration that your CV might be read by software that looks for keywords, there is only one logical step you should take when writing your resume: make your CV keywords-friendly.
The most important keywords are hard and soft skills specified in the job ad. By using them in your resume, you will show that you possess the experience, knowledge and skills that qualify you for the job.
Wondering how to identify keywords?
First of all, focus on the job description. Highlight skills, experience and knowledge that they are looking for. Identify words they have used repeatedly. Write down a list of those words. You will get a list of 5-10 words – these are the same words you need to use all over your resume.
Once you have identified keywords, you should sprinkle them all over your resume – in your personal statement, skills section, and most importantly, employment history.
Try to incorporate the most important keywords through your resume 2-3 times each. For example, if you have worked as an SEO content manager, “SEO” as a keyword should be used in your personal overview at the beginning of your resume and in the skills section. With this keyword sprinkled across your resume, you will pass the ATS filter.
However, don’t forget the fact that your resume will also be seen by a human pair of eyes. Therefore, stuffing your resume with keywords and using them as buzzwords just to beat the ATS is not enough.
So use the same keyword in your employment history section to provide evidence of relevant work experience. Explaining your experience and providing detailed/specific information of your previous (yet relevant) responsibilities is how you win recruiters and hiring managers over.
So the answer to the question from the headline is: Fill your CV with keywords from the job description.
All the wisdom about customizing your CV to pass the ATS fits into one sentence.
HOW TO FORMAT YOUR RESUME SO ATS CAN READ IT? A well-written resume with a "wow" design and optimized keywords could still get rejected if the formatting isn’t ATS compliant. Formatting your resume properly has a vital role in making your resume ATS-readable. Below you can find most important dos’ and don’ts for creating an ATS-friendly CV.
1. Avoid graphics
Even though resumes that look like infographics can impress hiring managers, if you fill your CV with visual content, there is a huge chance that they won’t even see it. ATS cannot read graphic elements. If you include important information about your skills and experience in a chart or other visual form, you are making it invisible to ATS. It’s like it’s not even there. Skip graphic elements. Focus on the content. Make your resume worth reading, not only worth seeing.
2. Don’t use text boxes
Text boxes in Word or Mac Pages make formatting of your resume much easier. They are a drag-and-drop solution to placing your text in the document. However, ATS recognizes text boxes as a graphic element (same as the point above). Therefore, if your CV content is in text boxes, it won’t be read by the ATS which might lead your application into the ‘no’ pile even if you are fully qualified for the job.
3. Don’t include important information in the header and footer
Not every ATS is able to read the information placed in the header or a footer of a Word document. Avoid including any text or information there, as most likely it won’t be read by the system.
4. Use a clean resume design
ATS won’t recognise any fancy fonts and graphic elements so all the effort you had put into creating a jaw-dropping layout won’t matter. A better option is to keep the formatting simple and go with a clean resume.
Please bear in mind that a clean and simple resume design doesn’t equal to a boring resume. Check out some ATS-friendly templates with a unique layout that stands out from the pile of basic Word documents.
5. Use bullet points
Typically, bullet points are easier for an ATS to read than paragraphs. Use a standard round bullet - which the ATS will be able to read with ease. Don’t use arrows or other special characters, as those might present a problem. And of course, once your resume gets past the ATS, bullet points are easier for a recruiter to read as well.
If you misspell keywords in your resume, ATS won’t be able to find them. There must be a 100% match between the keyword that ATS is looking for and a keyword in your CV; otherwise your CV will be rejected by an ATS. Thinking in the long-run, even if you pass the ATS filter, recruiters and hiring managers will notice a mistake. And they are quite quick on eliminating candidates with mistakes and typos on their resumes.
Therefore, proofread your resume multiple times before you submit your application. It is also useful to share it with someone else who can proofread it. A fresh pair of eyes is more efficient in catching mistakes you missed.
HOW TO ENSURE THAT CONTENT IS ATS-READABLE? Before you submit your application, double-check the content to find out how ATS will read it.
You can do so by converting your resume into a plain-text file.
Copy the content from your resume, paste it into a plain-text document, and review the results.
If the plain-text version is missing details from your original resume, has characters saved incorrectly, or looks disorganized, then assume your resume requires additional editing. You can also use jobscan.co to see how your resume ranks when compared with the job you are applying for.
HOW TO SAVE YOUR CV? There is no "one-size-fits-all" answer here. Everything depends on the job and the company you are applying for.
According to employer surveys, 99 percent of employers want a .doc (a Microsoft Word file) or a PDF file of your resume. The file format an employer wants varies based on the company's applicant tracking system (ATS).
The key to saving your CV in the proper form is hidden in the job description.
Read it carefully and follow the instructions in the job posting. Employers usually specify the format they need. Don't send a different file format or your resume may not be readable by their ATS.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are AI gatekeepers checking resumes on the virtual entrance to the company. They collect, scan, sort and rank all resumes received as part of a job application for an open position. In doing so, they focus on specific keywords from the job description and compare your resume with them. In order to pass the ATS filter, you need to fill your resume with keywords from the job description.
Additionally, you need to apply a couple of rules to properly format your CV so ATS can read it:
Don’t use text boxes
Don’t include important information in the header and footer
Use a clean resume design
Use bullet points
In the end, double-check if your content is readable. Copy and paste the text into a new Word document. Save it as TXT format. The content you see in this new document is the content that ATS will be able to read. Save your resume in the file form requested in the job posting and beat their ATS!
Still don’t know what to do next? No problem, there are additional things you can find here that can make your life easier:
Take a look at our collection of ATS-friendly resumes. Their formatting is already aligned with all of the suggestions above. You only need to replace our text with yours and your CV will be ready for the next application within minutes.
Book your 1:1 call with a professional recruiter who will share suggestions on how to properly format your resume and tailor it to the job.
Grab your Resume Writing Workbook. It can help you massively with your content. And it's FREE! (You can also get it by clicking the picture below)
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