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Resume ATS Systems: Knowing What They Are & How to Rank High

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No matter what job you are applying for the first step you must take is submitting your resume. But where does this resume go and who looks at it? Long gone are the days where hiring managers would manually sift through hundreds of resumes just to move candidates onto the first round. Now Resume Applicant Tracker Systems (ATS) can complete this task in seconds. With 98% of Fortune 500 companies using this technology, the time is now to learn how these systems work and how to best optimize your resume to earn an interview.

What is an ATS?

A resume ATS system is the first thing that your resume reaches when you apply for a job. When the ATS meets your resume, its main goal is to determine if you are a qualified enough candidate to move on to the next round. It does this by scanning your resume for necessary work experience, relevant skills, and job-specific keywords. Based on these factors the ATS gives your resume a ranking. If your resume meetings the ranking requirements, then it is passed to the hiring manager. If it does not, then your application process is over.

How is the Ranking Determined?

Resume ATS configure its rankings using a variety of different strategies with each one being slightly different. However, almost all systems use the job description to determine their ranking in some type of way. The closer your resume matches the job description, the higher your ranking. These matches could include education requirements, previous positions held, and any keywords that are in both the job description and your resume. Additionally, “bonus points” can be assigned to designated keywords to propel candidates that have specific skills & experience needed for the position.

How to Optimize Your Resume to Rank High

  1. Study the Job Description for Keywords. By doing this research you have a better idea of what the designated keywords are and can insert them into your resume. These keywords can most likely be found towards the top of the job description or in the “requirements” section. Also, if any skill or experience is mentioned more than once then it is probably important! Try to place these keywords throughout your resume by connecting them with your experiences.
  2. Include a Skill Section.  If you cannot fit all of the specific keywords into your experiences, make a designated skills section on your resume. This section can be good for hard skills such as certifications and software that you are proficient at. Place this section near the top of your resume so it can easily be found once a human scans it in the later stages.
  3. Use Long-Form & Acronyms. Since some keyword rankings are based on exact matches, it is important to include both the long-form and acronyms versions of titles in your resume. For example, the ATS might have an exact match for “Masters of Business Administration” not just MBA so your safest bet would be to type out “Masters of Business Administration (MBA)”. Imagine graduating from a top tier MBA program but getting rejected for not typing an exact match!
  4. Correct Formatting. Before submitting an application always check to the required format. However, if there is no format is required you should still only consider sending the resume as a PDF or .docx document. Submitting it as a PDF will ensure the document formatting and design stays consistent, meanwhile .docx is most easily scanned by ATS. Either format will work, but just consider what aspects you think are more important to your resume.

Want to take it a step further in optimizing your resume? Using industry specific keywords and phrases, Em and a Pen offers resume writing services to help beat ATS and land your next interview. Contact us to get started today!