3 Quick Tips to Get Your Resume Past the Robots

Nancy Anderson
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Movies sometimes claim robots are taking over the world, and it may feel as though that's true when you're on a job hunt. More and more companies have turned to applicant tracking systems to vet candidates because the software has become more affordable, the job market is highly competitive, and they're always in search of money-saving ways to hire people. However, there are ways to defeat the gatekeeping robots.

Companies don't usually come right out and tell you that they use applicant tracking systems to examine your resume. Unless you used a networking connection to pull some strings, you should expect your application process to start with a computer program. An ATS ranks your resume based on the experience, skills, qualification and education requirements listed in the job description. Your resume needs to get the attention of the computer software in the right way to make it rank high enough in the system. Here's how to achieve a high enough ranking to get noticed by a human on the other side of the computer screen.

1. Research How Different Applicant Tracking Systems Work

Every ATS on the market is slightly different, and not all companies use the same one. No matter which ATS the recruiter or human resources department uses, the end goal is the same. The applicant tracking system double-checks your resume keywords against a list of prescribed keywords and assigns you a ranking according to the criteria set forth by HR or the recruiter. The major unknown factor comes from the parameters set by the humans in control of the ATS. Read about common ATS programs and how they rank resumes to get a good idea about the different programs out there.

2. Input Precise Keywords

Your application documents should include the exact keywords listed in the job description. If HR looks for someone with "5 years experience," then you should precisely say that phrase rather than spelling out the number "five" or putting an apostrophe after "years." Compile the most relevant keywords into a "Skills" section on your resume. This section can be toward the top so the applicant tracking system finds these resume keywords first.

3. Watch for Keyword Frequency

Some ATS programs rank people higher for using a keyword more than once. However, don't game the system and use a keyword too many times. One trick people try to use is to make text within the resume white against a white background. An ATS finds these words anyway and it highlights them for the HR person. If a recruiter catches you cheating to get past an ATS, your chances of landing a job there are probably zero.

One final piece of advice is that your resume must look good for when human eyes scan it after making it past the applicant tracking system. That means you must format your resume properly, include relevant keywords in the right places and have an eye-pleasing font. After all, the robots are still just the guardians, and they don't conduct interviews yet.

Photo courtesy of William Brawley at Flickr.com


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  • dave s.
    dave s.

    I think there is a typo in the title, shouldn't it be "past the robots"?

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