Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): How to Win Them over with Your Resume

Blog Alpha Resumes Applicant Tracking Systems How to Win Them over with Your Resume 2

As online processes continue to make our lives easier in some respects, they can complicate things in others. An online application process often means that you can apply for new roles quickly in just a few clicks by uploading your resume and filling out some basic information. This ease in applying however, does mean that a single role can often receive hundreds of applications. HR departments and recruiters are constantly under the pump to assess them all, which is where Applicant Tracking Systems/ Software (ATS) often comes in to lend a hand.

ATS acts as a filter to cut down the amount of work required by the person reviewing the resumes, and while this is great for that person, it can be bad news for job seekers if they are unaware of how to design their resume accordingly. Luckily, Alpha Resumes are here to help, but let’s learn a little more about ATS and how you can bypass its sturdy gates!

What does an Applicant Tracking System do?

ATS is software that scans and ranks job applications when high numbers of applications are being received. Most recruiters and larger companies in Australia use ATS software, and this process has also started to filter down to smaller organisations and businesses due to its time-saving benefits.

The ATS software organises the content of a resume into categories, often by identifying keywords to locate the most qualified applicants for the role, or at least the ones that the recruiter should give time to reviewing. Primarily, the software aims to remove the least-qualified candidates from the list of potential hires. In reality, it also removes poorly written and formatted resumes and those that are missing the right content and buzz words, which is an essential point to keep in mind to ensure your application has a shot at being seen.

Writing an ATS-friendly resume

There are some common resume mistakes that, regardless of how qualified you may be, will see the end of your application before it has even had a chance. The following points are some essential tips to keep in mind when designing and writing your resume to keep the ATS checks happy, acquiring the green light.

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Correct file types

Most people offer their resumes in a Word or PDF file type; however, not all ATS software will like this. To be safe, it’s best to check which file types the job ad or application process specifies, as this is an easy way to fall short very quickly from a simple oversight. If you want to play it safe, submit a Word document in .doc or .docx or a plain-text file, as pretty much all ATS software will accept these. If however, the software specifies that it accepts PDF, then, by all means, keep your resume in that format, just be diligent and double-check.

Pro tip: Keep crucial information out of the header and footer sections if you do use a Word document as some ATS software has trouble identifying these sections

The importance of keywords

The most important thing you can do to ensure success with ATS is to optimise your resume with relevant keywords. The best way to identify which keywords are relevant to the position you are applying for is by studying job descriptions of a similar nature and making a note of the common terms and criteria.

Once you know what your keywords are, the placement and frequency are essential. This works in a similar fashion to using keywords on a website to get it ranking in search results on Google. The keywords help with rankings and visibility for the content. The catch, however, is that these words need to be organic and relevant. The excessive use of keywords or using the wrong keywords to try and get the attention of a search engine, can often do more harm than good, as well as create a poor experience for the reader.

You can also make this information easy to find by using bullet points to list relevant terms. Ensure that you mention these skills elsewhere in your resume as well. Be sure to also use particular names of systems you have skills in, for example, MYOB or Xero, as opposed to simply mentioning generic skills like accounting software packages. Popular abbreviations should also feature along with the full versions of these titles, e.g., skilled in Search Engine Optimisation should also include the term SEO and vice versa.

Avoid graphics

The design of your resume is important, but the use of graphs or images to convey critical information will not go down well with an ATS. The software is unable to read graphics, meaning any info in them does not exist. This can also apply to how you display bullet point information. We strongly recommend using bullet points; however, keep the symbol for your bullets simple. A solid circle or square looks professional and ensures your resume will be compatible with an ATS.

Further to this point, intricate design elements and unusual formats can sometimes seem like a great way to ensure your resume stands out, but they can also confuse the system. To avoid this, keep things simple, minimal, and professional. As amazing as your design may look, it is pointless if it’s never seen.

The best ATS resume format

A standard, hybrid resume format is the safest bet when it comes to an ATS application. This incorporates a professional profile or summary section which outlines vital information followed by a chronological history of your experience. Chronological data is one of the main ways ATS determines your qualification level.

Need a little help?

We understand that this may seem overwhelming, especially when it seems so easy to make a mistake that will render your application near pointless. To avoid this, Alpha Resumes are here to help via our professional resume writing services!

Our extensive background in marketing and communications, along with our many years of resume writing experience, means that not only can we create the best representation of your experience for your resume, but we also know how to keep Applicant Tracking Systems happy, ensuring you get in front of the recruiters’ eyes.

Our team is continually researching the latest recruitment and resume writing trends and can help put you in the best position to acquire your new role. Speak to us today about creating your winning resume!

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