Job seekers are inundated with articles about resume guidelines, best practices and tips on how to get to the top of the stack. But these may not always set candidates up for success when applying for positions through a recruiting company. Certainly, some of these insights are valuable in any job hunt scenario, but a not-so-secret industry secret is that many recruiters use an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) system to parse applicant resumes. These systems save recruiters hours of time, but using these can also prevent good candidates from rising to the top. Below are a few tips on how to ensure that your resume passes the resume checking system.
#1 Ignoring the Job Description
It should be no secret that candidates should gear their resumes toward a given job posting. But in many cases, job seekers choose to send out the same resume to every position they apply for. It’s fast, easy and can potentially maximize the number of jobs applied for on any given day. However, this technique can hinder candidates from standing out in the crowd of other applicants with recruiters.
By carefully reading over a job description, job seekers can pinpoint the necessary skills and qualifications a company is looking for and then tailor their resume toward it. Keywords are a candidate’s best friend when it comes to passing the initial ATS review because the system is designed to look for these. It may take more time, but it shows the recruiter that a candidate is paying attention and invested in the open job position.
#2 Not Properly Formatting
Resume formatting can cover an array of particulars. From font size, to experience ordering to layout. A few good rules of thumb are using a font size no smaller than 11, putting job experience in chronological order and keeping formatting simple.
And one particular pet peeve that many candidates may not be aware of, but that deserves to be expounded upon, is the use of tables to organize a resume. Many times, job seekers use tables to prevent a resume from going over one page. However, these can make a resume difficult, if not impossible, to properly parse in an ATS – resulting in a low-ranking job-to-candidate match. It’s more important to use simple formatting (hitting enter for each new line of info: job title, time in spent in a role, job duties, etc.) than it is to keep a resume to one page.
#3 Limiting a Resume to One Page
Leading off of the last point, is the one-page resume rule. It’s not a hard-and-fast imperative, but it seems to have proliferated the minds of candidates nonetheless. Although it has merits, it’s generally an outdated principle for most job seekers, and it can prevent an applicant from providing a true picture of their skills and accomplishments.
This “rule” typically only applies to entry-level applicants, but even then it’s not an absolute. So rather than focusing on fitting everything on one page, candidates should turn their attention toward fully elaborating on their experience. This will help ensure their resume ends up in the recruiter’s hands.
On the other hand, don’t go overboard and send out a novel. If a candidate is well into their careers, it may seem like a good idea to detail every inch of it. But when a resume gets longer than eight pages, it’s likely that an otherwise qualified applicant will be passed over because the recruiter will find details that deem no interview is necessary. The art of brevity can be powerful.
To put it simply, provide enough information to pass the initial screening but also leave something for the interview.
#4 Including a Generic Objective Statement
The objective statement requirement has also gone the way of the one-page resume rule. It started off as a well-intended principle, but it often makes a candidate sound generic. Every recruiter and hiring manager knows a candidate’s objective is to acquire a job and perform its duties successfully. This is a no-brainer.
Instead, applicants should save this precious resume real-estate for tangible/qualitative accomplishments and skills. But, if a job seeker still feels the need to express their zeal for working in the given job, they should turn their efforts toward a thoughtful cover letter or introductory email. Both of these say more about a candidate by allowing them to put qualifications into a context that speaks to the specific employer.
#5 Missing contact information
It may seem obvious to always include contact details, but many applicants leave these out. Candidates should always include their first and last name, email address, phone number and the city and state where they’re located. If contact information is missing or difficult to find when recruiters pull applicant records from the ATS, it can become another road-block for candidates looking to land a job.
So, job seekers should always make this information easy-to-find by placing it at the top of their resume, and if they want to make it even easier for an ATS system to find them, writing the words: name, email, phone or address before the details can help.
#6 Bonus: Improve your Resume by Including Links to Professional Websites
Want to kick that resume up a notch? Candidates are encouraged to provide links to relevant professional websites like LinkedIn or portfolio websites. These provide extra context for recruiters and hiring managers – helping candidates get a leg up on the competition.