• Prasanthi Naidoo

How to optimize your resume to get past the ATS (Applicant Tracking System)

The most common reason why people don't hear back from their job applications is that the hiring professional on the employer side never even saw their resume. That's because before the HR person or the hiring manager sees your application, it first has to get past the applicant tracking software.

Most companies, especially larger organizations such as healthcare institutions and hospitals, are now using this technology to screen and track candidates. This means that when you apply online for a job, your resume will likely be scanned by bots before it reaches an actual human being. The applicant tracking system (ATS) scans your resume for a select group of required words and phrases.

Only those applications that contain the requisite content get past the filters to be read by a human recruiter, the others are never even seen.

Getting past the ATS software

You can beat the bots by keeping this technology in mind when you create your resume. The software is designed to save employers' time by narrowing the applications down to just the most relevant candidates. So, make sure your resume is as relevant as possible to the specific job you are applying for.

Match the keywords. Read the job description carefully. Pay attention to how the required certifications, skills, and experience are described. Those are your clues to the keywords the software may be scanning for. Use the same words and phrases to detail your credentials. Typically, they'll be looking for things such as technology, job titles, industry-specific terms, degrees or certifications, specific skills, etc.

Spell out your job titles, certifications, and degrees rather than using abbreviations – or where appropriate, use both. For example:

  • Registered Nurse (RN)

  • Registered Nurse, Nurse Practitioner (RN/NP)

  • Certified Medical Technologist (CMT)

  • Occupational Therapist (OT)

Also spell out the full names of your previous employers and schools. Hiring professionals have been known to scan for candidates who graduated from a particular program or who have worked at a specific institution.

Keep your formatting simple. List your work history in reverse chronological order. This makes it easiest for search engines to find and understand the context and relevance of your information. Avoid using tables, columns, images, or other layout devices that can confuse the system.

Use common headings such as 'Work History,' or 'Experience,' and 'Education,' or 'Certifications' to classify your information.

It is okay to use bullets, bold, or italics where relevant. You want your resume to be visually appealing and easy to read for humans as well as software. Because once you get passed the robotic filters, you still need to impress the actual employer in order to land an interview.

Just be sure to use basic round bullets for your list, not arrows or any other fancy symbols. Characters that the software doesn't recognize could cause that information to me garbled or lost.

Keep it relevant. For electronic resumes, there is no need to consider the number of pages it takes to describe your information. Therefore, you can take the space that you need to describe all of your relevant education, experience and accomplishments. However, you should still do that as concisely as possible.

While it might seem like adding more skills and experience to your resume will help you to pack in extra keywords and boost your odds of getting past the filters, this isn't a good idea. Simply padding your resume with terms that don't reflect skills that you really have isn't going to do your career any good. There's no point in making it to the short list of candidates for a job you can't actually do.

Similarly, creating an overly-long, wordy resume won't impress the employer selecting candidates to meet with, in the event that you make it that far. Your resume can be as lengthy as it needs to be – so long as everything in it is relevant to the role and helps sell your candidacy. Everything beyond that is filler, watering down the good stuff, and hurting your chances.

So, that is the line you have to walk with your resume. Tailoring your resume for the ATS software can greatly boost the odds of your application ranking higher. However, at that point, your resume is going to be read by human recruiter. It still has to be well-written, concise, and attractively formatted to succeed.


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