How To Know If Your Resume Is AI And ATS Ready 

It’s a new job search world, are you ready?

Not too many years ago, getting your resume in front of the hiring manager was your number one priority when searching out a new career or corporate placement.

Enter AI and ATS.  Perfect use of technology unless your resume isn’t AI and ATS Ready!  While making a hiring manager’s difficult job easier, and quicker, these systems can present roadblocks an applicant wasn’t anticipating.  If you’re unclear on how these systems work (and more importantly, how to work them), your resume will never get past the AI Gatekeeper.

As a job seeker, it’s now your job to understand these systems and craft a resume that will lead you through the gate and to your new successful career. 

If Applicant Tracking Systems Miss So Many Great Job Applicants, Why do Employers Use them? 

With each job receiving hundreds (if not thousands) of applicants, and multiple positions to fill at one time, plus the sheer inability to manually review every application, the hiring managers’ overwhelm is real.

It’s up to you to communicate with both the ATS and the hiring manager that you’re the future employee they are searching for.

How The Online System Works

An applicant tracking system creates a funnel that narrows down the number of resumes a hiring manager will manually review, substantially lessening the amount of hands-on work for the person in charge of hiring.

The first thing the ATS does is to collect the resumes as they come in. The system then stores these in a database. 

Depending on the applicant tracking system the company is using, they can narrow down the pool of resumes in a number of different ways. 

Some recruiters still look at every application, scanning the page and in a matter of seconds to decide whether to give it further attention or move on. This is why it’s so important that your resume is formatted well for both modern AI job search software and for human beings reading the page. Make sure your best qualifications are easily spotted on the page. 

Others will be using applicant tracking systems that will compare your resume to the job posting. By comparing the keywords in the posting with your resume, the system will give your resume a ranking and then show this to the recruiter. There’s no telling how far down the list a hiring manager will actually look. 

Keyword searches are another popular method hiring managers will use. They can search through the database for previous job titles or skills. For example, if they want to find someone who can speak German, and who previously held the job title “Customer Support”, they can search the database for both “German” and “Customer Support” and only see the resumes mentioning both these keywords. 

Craft a Resume Great For Applicant Tracking Systems and Hiring Managers

Now that you’re armed with the basic knowledge of how applicant tracking systems work from the recruiter’s side, let’s look at how you can leverage this for better career management. 

1. Keep Your Formatting Simple

Software can understand a lot of information these days, but systems can be easily confused. It’s important to submit a document that is as clean and easy for the AI to read as possible. 

This means you should avoid using more advanced formatting, like tables or columns. You should also avoid using headers or footers, as some systems aren’t able to read these. Write your regular headings in your standard font and bold them. 

2. How To Save Your File

Should you save your file as a .docx or a .pdf?  The appeal of a .pdf file is that these files hold their formatting so your document will look exactly as you intend.  This sounds great on the surface, but some systems can not properly read them.  

When this happens, the information may become garbled, and your application tossed. 

When possible, save your file as a .docx. If that’s not an option, then, and only then use a .pdf as your second choice.

3. Be Selective With Graphics, If Using Them At All

Graphic files can be difficult for systems to read. They will either ignore these pictures and read around them or become confused and not know what to do with your application. Avoid graphics as much as possible. If a picture is necessary for your application, be very selective, and keep it to a minimum.

4. Use The Job Posting As a Guide

Let’s get your resume ready to be ATS friendly. The above tips will get your document prepared to be properly read by the system. Now content becomes king. How do you create content the system will like so your application comes to the top of the pile for the hiring manager while avoiding sounding like an AI yourself?

Step 1. Review the job posting. Everything you need to know is there. The hiring manager has written the posting with exactly what they are looking for in mind. They’ve also probably gone so far as to consider the keywords that the right applicant will be searching job postings for. 

Step 2.  Read the job posting carefully and highlight the keywords used. For example, they may say they want an applicant with an MBA. On your resume, you should be sure to write that you have a Master of Business Administration and add in the acronym (MBA) so you can be sure that your resume communicates this important point. 

Step 3.  Skills and past experience.  Most likely, they will also list past job experience, skills, and other important factors they are searching for.  Make sure your corresponding skills and experience are prominent on your resume before submitting it. 

Step 4.  When you write your section headings, you should use typical terms like “Job Skills” or “Work Experience” instead of coming up with something unusual. While it is fun to be creative and show personality, you want your application to be easily scannable by the system and the person behind the job post. 

5. Don’t Overdo It

One last important tip is to not overdo things. Don’t try to trick the ATS into moving you to the top. Some job seekers may read these tips and think that overusing keywords or putting them in white font so the system will pick up on more keywords in your resume is a smart strategy. Instead, you risk the hiring manager noticing this and being turned off. You also risk cluttering up your resume, which may cause the system to dismiss your resume. 

Create a Modern Resume For Today’s Job Search

Of course, the best resume truly represents why you are the right applicant for the job. And, it will be formatted to appeal to both applicant tracking systems and the human in charge of the job search. 

At first glance, it might feel overwhelming to craft your applications in a way that works within this modern system and still feels true to what you are ultimately searching for.  However, by stepping back and carefully considering each of these steps, you’ll not only stand out from the crowd, but you might just learn a little more about what your dream position will be. 

related Coaches:

Mary Nestor is an international speaker, author, seminar leader and coach with a diverse background as a business owner, entrepreneur, freelance writer, author and business executive.

Since 1991, Career Coach and Executive Tammy Gooler Loeb has been helping her clients to clarify their goals, develop personalized plans and support them in achieving rewarding results.

Wendy is passionate about strategizing with job-seekers and employed professionals in all phases of their career.

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