There are two hurdles you need to clear in the hunt for a job: the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and the Hiring Manager, the latter being the decision maker on who gets hired and who gets rejected.
Two important filters, two radically different methods of filtering—the ATS filtering automatically by keyword choice, the hiring manager filtering based on everything else (experience, skills, the interview and more).
Both are very important filters that applicants need to consider when crafting their applications. And because ATS software rejects 75% of applicants, crafty job seekers tend to write their resumes designed to beat the software. They stuff their resumes full of keywords pulled from the job ad in the hopes they’ll get past that first, tough-to-pass filter.
It’s not the ATS they should be focused on: it’s the second filter.
“I’ve seen keyword-dense resumes and cover letters that were barely legible because of how much attention the applicant gave to the ATS system instead of the hiring manager.” says Rick M., CoverLetterPros.com owner.
“My concern is with job seekers that believe the ATS can be ‘gamed,’” Rick says, “as if optimizing it for ATS is the best case scenario.”
“The human filter (the hiring manager) is really the one you want to build your resume towards,” Rick says. “You want to give the ATS some thought, but not game it in a way that makes it utterly useless and without content for a hiring manager.”
Turn your resume into a story.
Resumes should have a story or a theme. Don’t try to cram everything in without a theme in mind otherwise you end up with garbled, messy pages. Imagine an ESL school is looking for a student recruitment officer. A resume theme for this position could be something like:
“I used to work in South Korea. I have close ties to that country. I know a lot about the educational systems in Asia.”
If you tie your experience and skills to that theme and mirror language and keywords from the posting, you’ll have an excellent chance at getting by both filters.
And don’t try to be sneaky. Just don’t.
Hiring managers review applications for a living. They will notice a keyword-heavy application. They will reject applications that basically copy the posting. It’s unprofessional and it gets noticed (negatively). And that’s assuming your resume gets into the hands of a hiring manager. Companies spend lots of money on ATS software, and the technology is improving rapidly. The software that used to be easily fooled by “white word”-laden applications is not the ATS software hiring managers are using today.
Ultimately the best way to optimize your resume for both the ATS and the hiring manager is to enlist the services of a career services professional to write your resume in a way that helps you get past both filters, not just one.
Published November 2016 by CoverLetterPros.com