Times are changing. And these days, the first person to review your resume is very likely not a person at all. It’s most likely an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS is a software application designed to help a company recruit employees more effectively. An ATS can be used for a variety of things including screening resumes and generating interview requests to potential candidates through e-mail. It is estimated that 50% of mid-sized companies and almost 100% of large corporations use some form of ATS. Here are some tips for optimizing a resume for an ATS.
Use standard, web-safe fonts – Remember that we are talking about a computer reading your resume. The key is to make it as easy as possible. Use size 11 or 12 font and use Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri to minimize the chance of a scanning error.
Focus on your skills – Keep the fluff to a minimum. Focus on accurately describing your skills, capabilities, and accomplishments.
Use language from job description – The ATS will be scanning your resume for certain terms and phrases. These will be most likely taken from the job description itself. Use the job description as a basis for creating your resume.
Only use standard characters – Don’t use fancy characters like arrows, triangles, or asterisks. Simple bullets are fine but don’t use anything else besides letters and common punctuation.
No shading – Keep the entire background of your resume white.
No fancy borders – Many ATS are unable to process visual elements like borders and frames. Some even have problems with simple lines used to break up sections of your resume. Play it safe and don’t use them.
No spelling errors – Spelling errors are often missed by human screeners. But they can be fatal to your resume if it is being scanned by an ATS. It should go without saying that your resume should be free of any spelling errors.
No images or graphics – An ATS only scans words and punctuation. Images and graphics will only cause problems and confuse an ATS. Don’t use them.
Contact info at top – Putting your contact information at the top of your resume is pretty standard. But it’s important to realize that most ATS look for it at the top so make sure you don’t hide it somewhere that an ATS may not be looking.
Only submit once – There are humans behind every ATS and if you submit your resume more than once they will know. And it probably won’t reflect positively on you, especially if the resumes aren’t the same. Stick to investing time into optimizing your resume and only submit it once.