- Qualified job seekers used to enjoy having a good chance that their well-crafted resume would be read by a human once it was submitted correctly.
- Now, most companies employ automated tracking systems (ATSs) to weed out countless resumes for missing keywords and minor formatting errors.
- A majority of job seekers are unaware of the algorithms and robotic systems that prevent their traditional resumes from ever being seen.
The humble resume has been around for a long time.
Resumes are the key to the first gate on the often arduous journey of the job seeker. If the resume successfully conveys your experience and skill-set to potential employers, you might have the opportunity to interview for the open position.
Traditionally, if your resume demonstrated that you were qualified for the job, that would be enough for you to get called in for an interview.
Tradition, however, has come to a close in this respect. It is no longer enough to demonstrate that you are qualified for a job in order to obtain a job interview.
Rather, new technology largely dictates whether or not you will land an interview.
If you work in tech, marketing, or content sectors, you’ve probably heard the term “SEO” for quite some time now. SEO stands for “search engine optimization.”
What is the purpose of SEO? The internet is jammed full of content that wants our attention. Internet search engines scroll through millions of pages of text looking for the best content for a specific question or topic that a user types into the search page.
If you type a question into the search bar on Google and click enter, the results that appear closest to the top of the page are not random, Along with a few paid advertisements pretending to be results, you might get lucky and discover some websites that contain just the information you need.
There are specific “keywords” that are valuable and drive website results to the top of the page – if those keywords are embedded in well-written, relevant content. After all, how often do you find yourself scrolling past page one of the search results for a particular topic?
With respect to resumes, something similar is going on –except instead of showing up on Google, your resume will show up on the desks of potential employers. These keywords, however, are not referred to as “SEO.” Rather, they’re referred to as “ATS.”
What are resume ATS keywords?
ATS stands for “applicant tracking systems.” When you submit your resume to a potential employer, it is filtered through ATS, and is ranked. The terms which determine your resume ranking may include your actual qualifications and experience, but they mostly boil down to whether or not you are using the right keywords.
The reason employers initially started using ATS was to filter the large numbers of resumes they were receiving. It makes sense, then, why the first predominant adopters of these systems consisted of large corporations. If your company is receiving hundreds of applications, it pays off to filter out the resumes that contain little to no reference to relevant keywords.
Most job seekers are unaware of how ATSs work
Back when I was still looking for work 2 or 3 years ago, I was not only flustered, but totally confused. I had the qualifications and experience required for the jobs I was applying for. And at that, I was applying for literally hundreds of jobs.
The problem I had, though, was essentially the problem that most job-seekers have today. I had no idea ATS determined whether my resume would be accepted. More importantly, I was unaware of the amount of automation screening my application materials for the most minor keywords.
I was not alone in this, apparently. Roughly 70 percent of resumes get filtered out of the initial screening process through the use of ATS. This is an astonishing number of potentially qualified workers not obtaining work, simply because they failed to tailor their resume towards these new systems.
“People are applying to job postings thinking a human being is going to look at their submission, but they rarely get through if they have a gap in their job history or don’t have the exact right keywords,” said Joseph Fuller, a management professor at Harvard Business School.
One of the justifications for using ATS systems was to create an unbiased manner of hiring. The idea here is that ATS systems are designed to ignore demographic information, thereby making it “impossible” to discriminate on the basis of these factors.
While this might be true, this does not mean these systems are not without their own biases. Namely, a bias against the majority of workers, who are either unaware of ATS systems, or unaware of how to tailor their resumes to meet the demands of these systems.
How to tailor your resume for ATS systems
Given that the majority of workers seem to have trouble adapting to ATS mediated hiring processes, here’s a few things you can do to your resume to ensure that it doesn’t get immediately sent to the trash by a robot:
Formatting: The format of your resume might sound like a banal factor to consider. However, if you use the wrong format, it could automatically disqualify your application. The key to optimizing your resume format for these purposes is to keep it as simple as possible. This means simply submit a standard black and white text document, entailing no charts, special designs, or pictures. It might even help to sort your experience from most relevant to least relevant, instead of chronologically. Finally, submit your resume in either pdf or word doc form –sometimes, job descriptions specify, so be sure to check!
Keywords: Keywords are probably the most important factor that determines the ranking of your resume. This ranking can make the difference between obtaining and not obtaining an interview. You can optimize the keywords in your resume by looking at the description of the job you are applying to. These words are generally job-related skills and action verbs.
Retain the human element: The role of keywords should be to get you over the ATS hurdle and nothing more than that. Over-doing keywords can make your resume appear as if it has been written for a robot. Given that a human will eventually read your resume if it gets past the ATS systems, they will notice this. As Ray Dalio in his book Principles noted, employers care just as much –if not more – about who they are hiring as they do about their skill-set and experiences. That is to say, make sure to retain your relatability and humanity while still accommodating the new systems.