WHERE DOES YOUR JOB APPLICATION GO AFTER YOU SUBMIT IT?
So you discovered this perfect dream job that just you. It fits like a hand in a glove. You spend hours poring over your resume trying out first one and then another format to make absolutely sure that the hiring manager sees at first glance how perfect you are for the role. Then you attach it to a carefully drafted cover email and send it off into cyberspace.
Poof! Its lost.
What happened? Most likely a job application tracking system – popularly known as ATS – rejected your CV.
What are Application Tracking Systems?
Think about it there are thousands, lakhs and even millions of applications for a single job. Selecting one out of that crowd is a daunting prospect so recruiters rely on technology to help them.
An ATS or Application Tracking System is a software that performs routine tasks like sorting scanning and ranking resumes and job applications – eventually presenting only the closest fits to the recruiter for consideration. Almost all big organizations have been using ATS for a while to aid the recruitment process. It is now a common practice even among startups, SMEs, and even freelancers.
Why does ATS Reject your Resume?
An ATS is essentially a scanning tool. It works for a recruiter. So it will work as per the instructions of the recruiter. While each ATS works differently, in general ATSs scan applications and resumes for specific keywords provided the recruiter. The entire application is categorized and each category is searched for select keywords. Based on the category and keywords fed in the ATS determines which resumes should be forwarded to the recruiter and which should be rejected.
If your application does not contain the right keywords or worse is not “scannable” then you are likely to be tossed out even if you truly are the best fit for the role. Conversely, an ATS can potentially present the least qualified candidate up for consideration simply because the application contained the expected keywords. These are of course extremes but it is important to ensure that your resume passes this first basic test to get to the next stage.
So how do you ensure that your CV passes recruitment tracking systems? Or rather how to write an ATS compliant resume? Here are some tips –
Most ATSs specify the compatible file types. If this is the case, go ahead and choose. But if nothing is specified – an MS-Word file in .doc or .docx format is your best bet. Plain text – .txt – files work too but they do not have the greatest formatting options which means when your CV eventually lands on a desk – or desktop – it may not look too appealing or readable.
With Word Docs you can create a great looking ATS friendly resume that is appealing to both bots and humans.
AVOID HEADERS AND FOOTERS
No not completely – but save them for general routine details like your name, email, and contact number – which will be needed later. ATSs rarely scan the header and footer of your document. So put all those great skillsets and qualifications in the main body. Remember though, that if the recruiter has specifically asked the ATS to scan for contact details you are still likely to be trashed.
IMAGES AND CHARTS
You have a photogenic face and a great profile picture and you want to put it on your resume. Do it by all means if it boosts your confidence or fans your ego – but remember the bot will either ignore it completely or turn it into so much junk and gibberish. Same goes for any other images and charts you may want to showcase. We’re not saying you should not use them at all. It’s perfectly ok to put your profile pic at the bottom of your CV for recruiters to see. But let the ATS scan the relevant details first.
Well worded bullet points hit the proverbial nail on the head – and they are scannable too! So use them liberally. Keep the style simple – don’t get too artistic – remember any images can turn into junk may it can affect the accompanying text too. With that said, go ahead and use any of the usual bullets that Word offers to highlight your skills, qualifications, talents, or why this job is tailored for you. You can also use a generous mix of bold and italics, different font sizes, and other formatting to appeal to the recruiter’s human eye.
Remember the adage less is more. That applies to your CV if you want it to pass the ATS. That is not to say that you should provide less information. Say all you need to say – and a bit more besides. But don’t clutter the pages. A 1.5 spacing is decent but you can go for less with space between paragraphs if you have a whole lot to say.
We’ve said elsewhere that your CV should not be more than two pages long because recruiters and hiring manger don’t have the time or patience to read lengthy pages of text. That’s true but if you try to cram everything into one or two pages it is likely to confuse the bot. So the idea is to strike a balance.
As we said earlier, the ATS scans your CV for select keywords. So for instance if the recruiter is looking for a content writer, he may ask the bot to look for words like English, Content, MA, Literature, and PG or Post Graduate. If these words show up in your CV the bot will serve them up to the recruiter for consideration. Depending upon the algorithm and what the recruiter requests, the bot will look for any, all, or a select number of keywords. So while stuffing is never a good idea, you should make sure that your resume is worded in a way that contains the important keywords relevant to the job.
Creating an awesome CV to land the perfect job is important – and optimizing it for ATS is even more important.
And here’s a simple but effective way to check if the resume you have created is ATS friendly. Simply copy the contents of your MS-Word resume and paste it into WordPad or NotePad. If you find portions of the CV missing or garbled, you can assume that those are the parts that the ATS will either ignore or distort. Then go back and change the formatting for those parts.