Is Your Resume Getting Read By Robots Instead of Humans?

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Recruiters report that due to the overwhelming supply of talent today, desperate job seekers are flooding every position—but that 50 percent or more of applicants are unqualified for the position to which they are applying. To save companies time and money, the hiring process has become largely automated. Almost all Fortune 500 companies and nearly 95 percent of all large firms use software filters to examine digital submissions.

Before your application gets seen or touched by human hands, it is almost certainly first examined by software. The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is an automated system which scans and scores your profile, determining whether or not you are worthy of human review. It eliminates much of the chaff in the selection process. However, the down side is that a lot of wheat is left unharvested as well.

So how can you improve your odds against this “machine”?

First and foremost, create a new resume for every job to which you apply. Of course, the basics are the same, but each should be customized to the job, and the company, to highlight your relevant strengths and skills.

Use keywords. You’ve heard about them in discussions of Web site search optimization. Simply, they are words that convey significance, or that serve as a key to code. In this case, the code you need is for getting past this electronic gatekeeper. Look at the job description; if it is for “Business Analyst,” you should be sure your resume includes the words “business” and “analyst” numerous times, if that is what you have done, but also other job associated skills and qualifications listed in the description of the position.

Don’t think of this as a defensive maneuver. It can actually be an advantageous strategy too. For example, look at what the company focuses on (research their Web site). If they are “customer-focused” or a ”world-class brand” or “global” or “strategic,” chances are those terms may be included in their keyword list and any matches within your resume could add points.

Format simply. ATS software can be confused by creative and non-traditional expressions. So, eliminate bullets, tables and graphs (dashes and asterisks are preferred). Keep your headings clearly understandable and put space between sections. List the name of the company before you list the years worked there. Most programs have been trained to see where you worked, then ascertain when you worked there. If it is confused, your score may suffer.

Creating your resume in a text editor such as TextEdit or Notepad is a good way to begin. It will keep your creative juices at bay. Then when you finalize it as a Word document, restrain yourself again. It’s the content that counts to ATS, not its appearance.

The ATS software helps streamline the hiring process for overworked HR professionals. Making your resume more efficient and focused will help them—as well as you—make the right connections. It takes some work and multiple versions of your resume. But it will almost certainly be worth it.

You may have already been made redundant, reduced, downsized, released, riffed or separated. Don’t let yourself be streamlined out of a job.

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