Most resumes submitted online are never seen by a human.  Your carefully crafted resume is subjected to Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software used by companies to search through hundreds (sometimes thousands) of resumes quickly to identify the best candidates.  

ATS is becoming more accessible by companies of all sizes. According to a recent study, the global Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Market is expected to reach USD 2.34 Billion by 2026! 

However, while an ATS is efficient, it is not always accurate.  So how can highly qualified candidates – like you – avoid falling through the cracks? Follow these simple steps to get your application over the ATS hurdles and in the hands of the recruiter.

Use the Right Keywords

ATS searches your resume for keywords determined by the recruiter. Your resume is scored based on relevancy which takes in to account matching keywords and your years of experience.

Don’t use generic industry or occupation keywords you find online.  It is important to use the exact keywords, including the exact spelling, abbreviations and numbers, used in the job description.  

Are they looking for “five years of experience” or “5 years of experience”?  Does the position require “CRM software experience”? Then be sure to use that phrase, don’t say “Sales Force” or “HubSpot”. It won’t come up as a match.  

There are online tools to help you compare your resume against the actual job description. Some of these tools even score how well they match.  

Focus on Hard Skills 

ATS is primarily looking for hard skills when it scans your resume.  Soft skills, such as “team-player” and “multi-tasker” are not quantifiable.  Focus on your technical skills, credentials, job titles and software or tools that are relevant in the industry.  Your soft skills will be considered later in the cover letter and interview so don’t prioritize them on your resume. 

If you don’t have a specific skill required but have taken courses or are familiar with the software or database management system, for instance, then be sure to include that information in your resume.  

Keep the Door Open

You don’t want to be screened out for being in a range too narrow.  For example, skip questions such as shift preference or salary requirements when possible. No need to enter all 10 jobs you’ve had if you’ve been in the workforce for 20+years. Include the three most recent jobs and those most relevant to the position.    

Submit the highest education level they are looking for.  If the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree but a master’s degree is preferred, then select the master’s level if you have it.  But if the position only requires a bachelor’s degree then select that level. You don’t want to look too high or too low than expected for the position. 

Get Organized

Have everything saved in a word document so you can reference or cut and paste. This includes your contact information, experience, education, references, etc. Online applications for government jobs and even some companies with government contracts can ask for your former addresses and dates of residence for the previous 7-10 years for security purposes.   

There are times you will have the option to begin an online application, save it before completed, return to it later and then submit.  In these instances, you will likely be establishing an applicant account. Be sure to keep track of your usernames and passwords for these accounts and to track your status when possible.

Apply on Company Websites

Apply directly on the company website whenever possible, even if you find the listing elsewhere. Your application will go directly into the company’s applicant tracking system and you’ll be able to monitor its progress.

Yup, those maddening and time-consuming online applications are here to stay.  But there are ways to work with them. For more advice, check out these online application hacks to help you breakthrough ATS roadblocks.

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