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How to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Software

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By Tiffany Sappington
Career Coach, APUS

Applicant tracking software (ATS) is used by many employers. It parses your resume for keywords, skills and qualifications.

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In fact, over 98% of Fortune 500 employers use ATS. These software systems are often the first stop in the hiring process, because they reduce employees’ workload and save time.

One way to determine if ATS is used is to examine the URL of the job announcement. If you notice that names such as Taleo, ICIMS, Workday or Greenhouse (to name a few) appear within the URL, then applicant tracking software will most likely scan your resume first before a human sees it.

No matter who or what software reviews your resume, there are ways to show why you are an ideal candidate. Here’s how you can optimize your resume for applicant tracking software.

Tailor Your Resume to the Job Announcement

To appear as the ideal candidate, tailor your resume to the job announcement of your desired role. Create a list of skills and qualifications that an ideal candidate would possess. How do your skills and qualifications match up? Does your resume include concise examples proving you have those skills and qualifications?

Applicant Tracking Software Scans for Context and Keywords

ATS scans for context in addition to keywords, and some can even identify potential positive qualities within your resume that may not be included in the job announcement. Some applicants try to sprinkle keywords in white-colored text throughout their resume in an attempt to appease the software. However, if you try the white text “trick,” an ATS system will most likely highlight the repeated keywords in another color.

Pick out the keywords within a job announcement and mirror them throughout your resume. Back up your qualifications by providing concise examples of how you demonstrate proficiency with those keywords.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

Ensure the Readability of Your Resume

When it comes to applicant tracking software, a simple format is better. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use sans serif fonts like Calibri, Cambria and Arial
  • Use traditional round bullet points
  • Avoid multiple columns
  • Avoid icons, graphs and charts
  • Avoid placing information in headers and footers
  • Avoid abbreviated titles (Spc. should read specialist)
  • Create basic section headings (Work Experience, Skills, Education)
  • Write out acronyms at least once [Project Management Professional (PMP)]

If the ATS format seems boring to you, prepare a resume specifically tailored to ATS and then prepare a separate resume that incorporates your individual style. Bring copies of your stylistic resume to the interview.

Consider including a unique LinkedIn profile URL on your resume. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and upload examples of your most creative work to it. You might even upload your stylistic resume to your profile (with your personal information omitted from it).

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