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5 Secrets to Making an ATS-Friendly Resume

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

Many companies use resume screening to weed out applicants that may not be an excellent match for a job in today’s competitive hiring climate. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software programs that scan resume content and use an algorithm to search for keywords (skills, job titles, educational background, prior work experience, former employers, etc.)

Unfortunately, 70% of job applications get disqualified by the applicant tracking system without being read. This statistic emphasizes how important it is to tailor your resume to the job you are applying for.

Do you want to get to the interviewing stage? Let’s check these 5 tips for converting your resume into an ATS-Friendly one and make it an excellent read for the actual human recruiter.

1- Customize your resume for each employer, choosing proper keywords

The most important element —beyond tailoring your resume so it can be accurately ‘read’ and parsed by the ATS— is keyword optimization.

Let’s suppose you are applying for a tax and legal services manager position. 

Your resume summary writes: “Highly-driven tax manager with 5+ years of financial experience in managing tax returns and affairs. Proven experience of success, employer satisfaction, and strong communication skills. Excellent written and spoken English.” 

ATS reads:

“Tax manager”

“5+ years of experience” 

“Tax returns and affairs”

“Employer satisfaction”

“Strong communication skills” 

“Excellent written and spoken English.”

Then, matches it to their list of requirements: 

CHECK: tax manager

CHECK: 5+ years of experience

CHECK: employer satisfaction

CHECK: communication skills

NOT CHECK: Legal services

NOT CHECK: Analytical skills

NOT CHECK: Microsoft Office 

If your resume doesn’t match the essential list of requirements, it’s automatically discarded.

Remember, the best indicator of which words they’ll search is the job description. Include the job title in your resume headline if possible. Then notice which hard skills—learned skills based on experience and training—appear early or multiple times in the job description.

2- Have the recruiter in the back of your mind

Once you focus on optimizing your resume for the ATS scan, it’s easy to forget you’re doing all this so that a human will have a chance to read it. 

Remember that you’re not writing this resume for you; you’re writing it for prospective employers. When you’re deciding what information to include in your CV, consider if the details will help a recruiter assess your qualifications for a particular role.

When describing your current and past positions, ensure your bullet points are achievements and use numbers and metrics to highlight them; this will show them how you’ve used your skills and the results.

3- Keep it simple

The way you design your resume can also affect how ATS interacts with it. 

Use a simple, clean design. Embedded charts and other images, custom font styles, and intricate bullet styles will get scrambled or simply skipped over when the ATS scans your application.

Don’t include too much fancy formatting. Most ATSs will convert the document to a text-only file. So at best, any fancy design will be lost. At worst, the ATS won’t be able to pull out the vital information, and so a person may never lay eyes on your nice designs—or read about the experience and skills that qualify you for the job.

If you don’t have Microsoft Word or another program that can convert your resume to .docx or .pdf, you can use Google Docs to create your resume, then download it in either format for free.

4- Apply only for those job roles you are qualified for

Never lie about your experience to get past the bots.

Make sure you’re truly qualified for the roles you’re applying to. This doesn’t mean you have to hit every single job qualification or apply to a job only if you have the traditional background for it. But if you don’t have the core skills needed to perform a job, you’re better off not wasting your time or a recruiter’s.

5- Convince by uploading a cover letter

Always combine your ATS-friendly resume with a cover letter —even if the application says a cover letter is optional— it could be the perfect opportunity to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other applicants. 

Be sure to keep the formatting simple by following rules of thumb:

  • Don’t just regurgitate the content on your resume.
  • The opening paragraph is catchy.
  • Explain why you love the company.
  • Connect your accomplishments and experiences to what they’re looking for.
  • Explain what you can do for the company/how you can solve their challenges.
  • Include some trades of your personality.
  • Include a call to action (e.g., “I look forward to hearing from you about next steps.”)
  • Link to portfolio or samples of work (if applicable.)
  • It is addressed to an actual person or team (not “To whom it may concern.”)
  • It is about 3-4 paragraphs in length (and less than a page.)
  • Don’t use overly formal language.

WEEKLY VOCABULARY 🗣

Qualified: officially recognized as being trained to perform a particular job; certified.

Job hunting, job seeking, or job searching: the activity of trying to find a job.

Candidate: a person who applies for a job or is nominated for election.

Prospective: indicates that something is expected or likely to happen.

Highlight: to describe something in a way that makes people notice it and think about it.

PHRASAL VERBS ✍

Keep up

“I always try to keep up with new technology.”

Back up

“My computer isn’t working. I’m glad I backed up all my files.”

Bring forward

“Can the manager bring my interview forward a week?”

Key in

“Can you key this data in for me, please?”

Sign up

“Monica needs a new job, so she has signed up with an employment agency.”

IDIOMS 📒

Hanging by a thread: in great danger of elimination or failure.

Pink slip: a layoff notice; loss of a job, typically because of layoffs.

Move up in the world: become more successful.

Pull your socks up: make a better effort.

Feel like a fish out of water: feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar situation.

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