4 strategies to help get your resume past an applicant tracking system

A sales person for a large telecommunications company was discouraged when his resume wasn't getting any action.

He applied for many jobs, only to go without one phone call back, or return email to schedule an interview.

The reason?

His resume wasn't tailored for each specific job. He used the same resume he created five years ago, with language and content focused on his background - not the skills, experiences, and achievements requested in the job description – or related to what he wanted to do next in his career.

While failing to tailor your job to the specific job description is the most common reason job seekers don't get their resume through an applicant tracking system and read by a human, there are some other factors that come into play, including these scenarios:

1. Don't use a resume template

Job seekers need to spend less time worrying about how their resume looks, and focus more on its content, says Bethany Wallace, a soft skills expert and career coach. That doesn't mean the look of your resume isn't important. It is - but the "look" should focus more on organization and presentation of information, versus a funky design.

"I know we're living in an image-conscious world," says Wallace. "Instagram. SnapChat. Pinterest. Memes. We are surrounded by constant quick snapshots as evidence of fun moments, meaningful quotes, and hard-hitting advertisements. But applicant tracking systems (ATS) are annoyed by images. Images - tables, graphics, and special formatting found in ready-made resume templates - are not only unnecessary when applying online via ATS, but templates are also a burden to ATS. Information - content on your resume which communicates your worth to employers - may be scrambled and misread if the formatting is confusing to an applicant tracking system.”

2. Don't copy and paste job postings into your resume

Yes, you want to cleverly insert keywords into your resume in all the right places. You want to be the client the employer is seeking. But if you're not the client the employer is seeking, don't claim you are.

"That's fraud," says Wallace. "It's unethical, and you know what? When you face the employer in an interview, and you are forced to explain your experience in your own words, the employer's going to know that your resume is a gross misrepresentation of you. Even if you truly possess the skills and qualifications listed in the job posting, you're still required to take time and effort to paraphrase the information. Copying and pasting is lazy. Who wants to hire someone who is lazy?"

Instead of copying and pasting information from job postings, use job postings as jumping off points when tailoring your resume, adds Wallace. You want to include keywords listed in the job posting multiple times, if those keywords match your experience and qualifications. You want to ensure that you meet all minimum qualifications listed in the job posting. But you never want to submit a copy of the job posting with your name and contact information at the top. If paraphrasing and conveying your accomplishments in writing overwhelms you, work with a professional resume writer.

3. Stick to reverse chronological order

Job seekers take note:

Recruiters hate the functional resume format. So, when listing experience on your resume, stick to the traditional format: Reverse chronological order. List most recent experience first.

Should you list every single job you've ever held on your resume? Of course not. But sticking to reverse chronological order helps the ATS keep things tidy. Functional resumes are flat out confusing. And don't forget to keep the formatting within the experience section consistent.

"If you want to emphasize your job title - which I always suggest, rather than emphasizing employer/company title - list the job title first each time you list a position," says Wallace.

For example:

Example: Job title, company, city/state, dates of employment

Like this:

Account manager, Acme Company, St. Paul, MN (2014-present)

Again, how information is presented, and how closely it matches the specific job description for the job one is applying for is important - much more important and effective than using a resume template, focusing on fancy design, or a functional resume.

But how do you know if your resume matches the job description?

Start by using the language referenced in the job ad. If a job is seeking someone with account management expertise/experience, use the word account management in the resume - several times - with examples of successes managing accounts throughout the resume. Use numbers, and show, don't tell, to provide your accomplishments. For example:

Don't say this:

· Managed numerous accounts to success.

· Increased sales through new business development.

· Managed small team.

Instead, say this: These specific achievements prove your skills:

· Account management: Managed 34 accounts generating $5.6MM in sales in 2017.

· New business development: Increased sales $456,000 in one year by managing and penetrating 16 new house accounts.

· Leadership: Built and led teams of up to 21 staff members. Groomed staff for success - 6 department members were promoted to new roles in past 3 years.

Being specific, and using results, along with the tips above, are among keys for getting your resume past an applicant tracking system.

There's one more method of making sure your resume matches a job description, and is in position to get past an applicant tracking system. That's discussed here:

4. Use the technology available at Jobscan

Jobscan is a tool that gives job seekers an instant analysis of how well their resume is tailored for a particular job, along with how it can be even better optimized for an applicant tracking system. When using Jobscan, job seekers paste their resume into one text box and the job description in another, and the Jobscan technology shows job seekers how well their resume matches. Job seekers can then tweak/adjust their resume based on the results of the scan.

The reality is, job seekers need every advantage they can get to sand out in the job search. Use these tips to create a resume that gets results, and gets noticed. Most important, follow these tips to get your resume past an applicant tracking system, and get an interview.

Matt Krumrie has 15 years of experience writing resumes for clients at all levels, from entry-level to executive. If you are not getting your resume past an applicant tracking system, or called for interviews, contact Krumrie to learn more about how he can help job seekers create a resume that gets results.

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