Did you know that recruiters spend only 6 seconds reviewing each resume they receive (if they read it at all)? And those are just the resumes that actually make it to a human for review. First, resumes must pass the filtering algorithms of an applicant tracking system (ATS). Knowing the uphill battle your CV or resume must go through to simply get a call back for a first interview, it's important to know how to write a resume that will appeal to a robot recruiter.
What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
Most organisations who deal with high-volume recruitment rely on an applicant tracking system to sort through the CVs of the hundreds and even thousands of applications they may receive for one job posting. Think of the ATS as a portal where each applicant has their own profile that includes their contact information, education, skills, credentials, and other pertinent info entered when applying. Hiring managers can enter a command in the ATS to find candidates that have the skill-sets, background and other critical elements required for success with a particular position that should be considered for the next step. The machine is sorting through all the information rather than the recruiter and rejecting 75 percent of job applicants before a hiring manager ever looks at them.
How to Delight a Robot Recruiter
Your resume and CV should be written with the ATS in mind. You must always be honest when stating your experience and credentials, but there are ways to represent your background that will appeal to a robot recruiter. Here are six tips:
1. Keywords are key
Something as simple as using a different tense or phrase could eliminate your CV from the review. For example, if you wrote, "Managed project from design to implementation, " and the hiring manager searched for, "project manager, " you might not come up in the search results even though you are describing the same responsibility. To try to increase the chances of your resume getting in front of the recruiter or hiring manager, be sure to use the exact phrases and keywords that were used in the job posting. And, don’t try to fool the system. Keywords should be included in your resume very naturally. If you try to cheat the system by stuffing keywords or including “invisible” keywords by changing the text to white, the hiring manager will see through these tactics on the other end of the system (even if you bypassed the algorithm).
2. If you know the ATS system, do a bit of research to improve your odds
Even though every ATS system has the same objective—screen applicants to streamline work for humans—they don’t all do it the same way. If the name of the ATS is visible to you as a candidate, do a quick Google search to see if there is any information available to help you adjust your resume to better suit the system you are applying to. For example, if you find out that the system used by the organisation you are applying is known to rank resumes with the keyword multiple times, try to include that keyword naturally more than once in your resume.
3. Match your resume to the job description
In addition to including keywords, be sure your resume matches as many aspects of the job description as possible. If the job posting includes responsibilities for leadership, project management and budgeting ensure your resume also includes these areas if they pertain to your own experience. Again, honesty is imperative so you shouldn’t include an example of budgeting if that hasn’t been a part of your work experience. However, if you have any sort of experience that you would be comfortable using in an interview to explain why you are the right candidate for this position, align your resume with the job responsibilities. Also, if you had a job title for a previous employer that was creative but could be misunderstood by a bot, such as Director of Getting Things Done, switch it to something more easily understood such as Project Manager.
4. File type and formatting
Unfortunately, PDFs are not always bot friendly, so while a PDF would maintain the formatting of your resume, it might not pass through the ATS. Follow the instructions for file format if they are given in the job posting; if not, play it safe and submit a resume as a Word document. While charts, images, and logos are appealing to a human reviewer, bots have a hard time translating them. Clean and straightforward formatting is preferred such as solid circles for bullet points.
5. Avoid putting critical info in headers and footers
Some systems aren’t able to extract info from headers and footers. Be sure all the crucial information about your background and experience is included in the main body of your resume so the bots can easily access it.
6. Human touches are still important
An email or a handwritten note sent to the hiring manager could bring your name to the attention of the hiring manager. You might pique their interest enough to have them do a little more digging for your credentials if you weren’t part of the ATS’ search results. In a very competitive job market, a little human touch never hurts.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.