You may have heard that the first step to getting a job interview is making it past the initial screen by the hiring manager, recruiter or human resources rep.
Over at Jobscan, we previously published an article about how to make the best possible impression in the ten seconds it takes recruiters to decide whether your resume is destined for the dustbin. But that advice only applies to those job applicants fortunate enough to have their resumes looked at by actual human beings.
Many job applicants and resumes must first survive the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) before a live person even looks at them.
To find out how to get your resume found within Applicant Tracking Systems, so that it can then go on to the real human beings who will call you for interviews, read on!
1. What Is an Applicant Tracking System?
An ATS is a software application that handles the recruitment process, namely by sorting through thousands of resumes, to determine which ones are the best fit for the positions for which they were submitted.
An Applicant Tracking System processing your resume is not so different from a recruiter.
Each glances at your resume for ten seconds, as both are looking for certain criteria for inclusion. Whereas human recruiters are often looking for grounds for automatic rejection, such as spelling errors or lack of relevant skills. Applicant Tracking Systems operate by keywords searches for resumes.
2. Why Do Employers Use Applicant Tracking Systems?
Applicant Tracking Systems help employers save time; the help them stay organized. Without them, recruiters would have to spend much more time filing and shredding papers or moving and deleting emails.
With Applicant Tracking Systems, there is no risk of an employer accidentally deleting the email containing the resume of the applicant the company wants to hire. Applicant Tracking Systems were first used by large corporations that receive thousands of applications, but smaller businesses are now also using them, too.
In today’s marketplace, you must assume the employer is using ATS to process your resume.
Just as employers use software applications to keep track of relevant information on their customers, such as Amazon’s customer orders, and Amazon remembers your address and your previous orders, what stage you are in your purchase lifecycle, using similar software to organize information on prospective employees also makes sense.
3. How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?
Applicant Tracking Systems process resumes submitted by applicants and sometimes even use social media to actively recruit prospective employees.
When you submit your resume through an Applicant Tracking System, the ATS stores your resume and an entry in the database. The recruiters then searches for keywords chosen as qualities for a particular job opening or requisition. If your resume contains the keywords the employer wants, then the Applicant Tracking System will rank you higher in search results.
The keyword searches by recruiters primarily include the skills and experiences specific to the particular job opening… so your resume text must closely match the job description.
The employer can even command the ATS to search the company’s entire database of resumes to look for candidates with certain qualifications, which means that even if you submitted your resume a long time ago but never got a response, the company may have kept it on file in its database, and the ATS might identify you as a good candidate for a different position that opened up long after you originally submitted your resume.
4. What About Social Media?
Just as professional networking has always been an important part of the job seeking process, social media plays an increasingly important role. The prevailing sentiment is that having a social media presence helps more than it hurts when it comes to looking for a job, and most job seekers already understand the importance of presenting a professional image on social media.
Of course, when it comes to attracting ATS, it is more than just a matter of not posting pictures of your drunken exploits on Facebook. There are social recruiting software that crawls the web for specific keywords.
The best way to get to notice you on social media is to have a profile on the social media platforms.
Furthermore, include basic details about your education, work experience, and skills you’ve mastered. That is sufficient to let the social recruiting software find you.
5. Search Engine Optimization
The process by which job candidates tailor their resumes to get them noticed by ATS is similar to the process of search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is the process by which creators of web content tailor their web pages to make search engines notice them first and therefore to make them rank higher on the list of search results.
When it comes to written text, matching keywords is an important part of how search engine optimization works; if your website contains the words the user typed into the search engine, then it will appear in the search results.
So, the best way to get an Applicant Tracking System to notice your resume is to anticipate which keywords the ATS and recruiters will be trying to find.
This is where Jobscan can help analyze the job description against your resume in order to increase your interview chances.
6. Research is Key
You may have heard that you should tailor your resume specifically for each job application you submit.
Whether this means making major or minor changes to your existing resume, your resume should answer the call presented in the particular job ad in response to which you are sending it.
Every employer is looking for certain qualifications, whether they will first be noticed by a recruiter or a keyword-seeking ATS. Whether you are networking face to face or trying to optimize for keywords, you should find out as much as possible about the organization to which you are applying. If current employees of the company have social media profiles (especially LinkedIn), read their profiles and see if you have similar qualifications or keywords and if you seem like you would fit in with them as colleagues.
7. No Fluff
When recruiters search for keywords in Applicant Tracking Systems, they are usually looking for certain concrete skills in your resume. If you are applying for a job as the manager of a hotel restaurant, for example, a recruiter may search for phrases such as “restaurant manager” and “hotel restaurant” or for the word “hospitality” in the education section of your resume.
Recruiters will probably not look for words and phrases like “outgoing” and “team player”.
8. Applicant Tracking Systems: Friend or Foe?
Applicant Tracking Systems make the recruitment process much more streamlined for recruiters, making the time it takes before a manager or human resources employee contacts applicants who seem like good candidates for the job much shorter.
For most jobs, it is not possible for the hiring process to be entirely automated. If you think your best qualities only show once you meet your potential employers face to face, you will still have that chance if you can rank high in the ATS. Researching jobs and optimizing your resume with keywords before you apply to them and applying to the ones for which you meet the requirements is the best way to get interviews, whether the first stage of recruiting involves a person or a machine reading a large number of resumes.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Jobscan!
About the Author: James Hu is the founder and CEO of Jobscan, a web tool that helps job seekers land interviews by optimizing resume keywords. With eight years of technology product experience, he previous co-founded an award-winning transportation start-up and worked as product manager for a stealth start-up, Kabam Games, Groupon, and Microsoft in North America, Europe, and Asia. James, who grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington, is determined to make job searching easier. James is fluent in English, Chinese, and restaurant Spanish.