How Resume Writers Can Give Their Clients a Competitive Edge With ATS
With all the chatter about applicant tracking software (ATS), you'd think it's some magical beast that needs slaying. ATS is nothing more than human-created software.
In the early days, ATS was more of a resume database. HR managers would input a job title or set of keywords into the software, and it would present results of potential job candidates with matching resumes.
After just a decade or so, ATS has become more sophisticated, and its functionality has also transformed. No longer is applicant tracking software limited to a simple resume database. Modern ATS offers add-ons that manage onboarding, communications, training, and data tracking. There are also some artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities (AI/ML) too.
There is an estimated 200+ applicant tracking software on the market globally. With this many, there are bound to be rockstars and duds.
Some are proprietary, meaning they were developed internally (Google's ATS is an example), while others are known as software as a service (SaaS). SaaS A few of the most common SaaS ATS solutions include Taleo, Workday, and iCIMS.
Select ATS solutions, such as those provided by Oracle, integrate with other programs, such as workforce management, payroll, and legal/HR compliance.
ATS, in general, provides hiring staff with the ability to:
- Schedule Interviews
- Initiate Assessments
- Communicate With Candidates
As you'll notice from the above list, most of what ATS does is unimportant to what resume writers do with the resume itself.
So, what do resume writers need to concern themselves with?
Resume writers need to ensure their resumes "behave" well when input into these systems. And, they need to optimize each document's content so it matches what employers want to see in ideal candidates.
That doesn't sound so tough, right? It's not, as long you know a few ground rules from the onset.
5 Tips to Ensuring The Resumes You Write Are ATS Compliant
First, ensure that ATS can read and process the content you write for each resume.
This means using common header titles and refraining from using ALL CAPS for select content - because ATS "presumes" the caps signal a section header.
The goal of the ATS is to take the content from a resume (preferably a .doc or .docx file) and parse that content into their matching text fields. Doing this makes the content searchable.
Second, the content you write needs to be keyword-rich, but not stuffy. 😉
Although ATS seems very mysterious and powerful, they are still very keyword-driven.
This means optimizing the content you write to include relevant and recent job tasks that introduce ideal keywords and key phrases.
However, the latest advice we hear from the hiring community is to avoid "keyword (skills) stuffing" because when a candidate is too much of a match, that's looked upon negatively.
Employers don't like when candidates try to game their ATS.
Third, use synonyms and other descriptors to describe the same/similar job skills.
For example, instead of PPEs, you could write “safety gear” or “protective clothing.”
For OEMs, you could use alternative descriptors, such as contract manufacturers or industrial parts makers.
Strategies like these will deepen the relevance of the content you write.
Fourth, avoid graphics, pie charts, and text boxes.
Actually, this isn't 100% accurate.
There is a workaround for this that I'll talk about in an upcoming resume writing tip that you won't want to miss!
Fifth, use whole phrases with acronyms (and appropriate slang) to cater to those HR managers who conduct more refined resume/candidate searches.
Here are a few examples:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)
- Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML)
- Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
- Request For Quote/Request For Information (RFQ/RFI)
Avoid putting both forms in more than one or two places in the same resume. Doing so will make the resume content look excessively repetitive.
ATS isn't complicated and is more like common sense.
For example, we know that ATS reads content from top to bottom and left to right - at least for now.
For resume writers who like using columns in their resumes, ATS can struggle with "understanding" the layout and thereby cause some issues when uploading a resume into an employer's online application.
The best EDUCATION that resume writers can get to familiarize themselves with how ATS reads content is to visit several employer websites and play around with their systems.
And, avoiding the temptation of applying for positions of course. 😉
In future posts, I'll highlight the importance of keyword (skills) recency, relevancy, and frequency in the resumes you write.
And, I'll showcase HOW to get around some ATS restrictions when you MUST HAVE design (e.g., boxes, graphics) and more advanced layouts in your resumes.