Preparing your resume for an applicant tracking system
A typical applicant resume is screened by many people and - becoming more and more common - computers.Among the things that need to be considered when preparing your resume, especially if it is to be sent or posted electronically to recruiters or hiring managers, is having it ready to pass unscathed through an "applicant tracking system," also known as an ATS.An ATS is a software application for managing large volumes of recruitment, resume and job application data. It may be a subset of a human resource information system or a stand-alone application, and is configured to the specific needs of the hiring end-user. Although in New Hampshire many resumes still make it to human eyeballs, you have to be prepared that your resume will also be screened with an ATS.For the job applicant, ATS applications present a particular challenge. Either they will accept or reject your resume. Such systems are programmed to only accept resumes that contain keywords and phrases specific to the open job position.When using a single resume to try landing interviews for multiple job descriptions, applicants run the risk of getting rejected too often by an ATS because their resume may not contain enough keywords and phrases pertaining to what the employer wants.Getting around this problem may require more work, but it's not unmanageable. Obviously, the goal is to have your resume address as closely as possible the job description to be filled, while staying true to your value proposition. Therefore keywords that make up the job description you're interested in should be included in your resume. If you notice many of these keywords are not included your resume, then you need to decide if your resume simply needs to be revised - or whether the job is not a good fit for you.Resume refinement Following are some techniques to consider when getting ready to send your resume electronically to firms or agencies that require digitally formatted resumes:• Follow up your contact information at the top of the first page with a professional profile or executive summary. It should contain keywords and phrases for the kind of position for which you are best qualified and should align with what the employer is seeking.• Include an achievement or significant accomplishments section, which is again sensitive to keywords pertaining to desired functions.• ATS applications are becoming more sophisticated and may include a contextualizing ability. When using keywords, write them as describing skills and functions that demonstrate your knowledge and command of the job. Don't just stick in a list of words.• Don't use fancy text or graphics. They won't impress a machine and may actually confuse it.• In many cases, don't send your resume as an attachment to an e-mail, but rather paste it right into the body of the e-mail. The Web site you're responding to may specify a file type. Don't be surprised that you may be asked to paste a plain text (.txt) file format into the message body. If you are given a choice between pasting and uploading, however, go with the upload; it'll retain your resume structure more reliably. I recommend having your resume in three formats: Word 2003 (still the industry standard), PDF and plain text.• Avoid misspellings and abbreviations. Assume an ATS will be programmed to pick up fully and correctly spelled keywords. And don't get cute with all capitals or all lower case letters. Standard capitalization still rules.• When completing an online application you may be asked to repeat information that you know is included in your resume. Fill in all fields even if you are repeating yourself.With some care and attention to keywords and phrases, you will increase your chances of having your resume and its accompanying job application make it to the all-important inbox and avoid the screening filters of an ATS.Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, also is a regular blogger on NHBR Network. He can be reached at 603-724-2289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.