8 Tips on How to Write Your Resume for the ATS (Applicant Tracking System)

 

Today, I want to talk to you about the Applicant Tracking System; the ATS.

This is a giant database of resumes. So, any time you send your resume into an employer, it gets scanned and it goes into this database and they call that the applicant tracking system.

And what it does is it looks at resumes, based on the content, and how they’re written and it tries to sort them, based on what position they might be good for; something like that.

And what it does is it sorts out all the resumes to make it easier on human resources department, because they get overloaded. They get thousands and thousands of resumes and it’s just nearly impossible to sort through those by hand. So, they have a computer do it. The computer is the ATS. It’s not always your best friend.

So, the first thing you want to do is plan. You have to plan your strategy. You have to understand what you’re doing. Now, back in the day, long time ago, you would write your résumé, and you would send it into a human resources department and there’s usually a gatekeeper there. And this gatekeeper is the one where all the resumes go through.

And what you can do is sometimes you could call those people up, you could bribe them, you could talk to them on the phone and kind of schmooze with them a little bit, and get them to pass your resume along to the hiring manager.

Well, today, that door shut. You can’t get in that way anymore. You can, some companies do, but not all of them. So, any of the bigger companies, they all use the Applicant Tracking System.

So, now you have to get past the computer, instead of an individual. And for some of you who haven’t interviewed for maybe 20 or 30 years, and now you’re back in the job market, things have changed. Things have changed drastically. So, you have to write your résumé for the Applicant Tracking System. If you’re not, you’re not going to get any phone calls at all.

And maybe that’s why no one’s called you for an interview right now, because your resume is stuck in the black hole of the Applicant Tracking System; it’s just kind of bouncing around there, it doesn’t even know what it’s doing. That’s because you didn’t take the time to plan out strategy to writing your resume for the ATF.

So, I’m going to show you how to do that. I’m going to give you some tips that’s going to help you get a lot closer.

Now, if you just disregard the ATS entirely and you just keep writing your resume may the old school way, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get a lot of traction. So, remember you have to create a plan. So, first you have to know that you’re even going to write for the ATS.

So, the next what we have here is job titles. Now, the job title that you have might not accurately describe what you do. So, what you want to do is make some small tweaks to your current job titles or past job titles and adjust them so that they more accurately reflect what you did and keep them relevant to what the job description title is as well. Because remember, we’re writing for the Applicant Tracking System. The Applicant Tracking System is going to be looking for specific titles.

So, for example, maybe you were a consultant. Alright, everybody is a consultant. You don’t want to just list ‘Consultant’ or ‘Business Consultant’ as your title. I mean, maybe in this position that you’re applying for they’re looking for a business analyst. And let’s say, as a business consultant, you were a business analyst. So, in this case you might want to change your title from ‘Business Consultant’ to ‘Business Analyst’. That would make you more relevant to what they’re looking for and more accurately describe the type of work that you did in the past and what you’re looking for.

Now, if you just listed ‘Consultant’ and they’re looking for a ‘Business Analyst’, those two just kind of seem at opposite ends, but the type of work you did was exactly related to what they’re looking for. So, it’s okay to make some minor tweaks to your previous job titles to make the match and be more relevant to what they’re looking for in the job description.

And don’t feel like you’re lying by changing your title because you’re not. You’re not lying about the type of work experience that you have. And resume writers, they do this all the time. They will make subtle adjustments to your titles to make it more relevant.

And sometimes the title that you get is like this long and it doesn’t make any sense at all. So, you just want to shorten that down to a two or three-word title that makes sense, that accurately reflects the type of work that you did. Alright, next one.

Resume SEO and key words matter. Now, SEO for Search Engine Optimization and that’s what the search engines like Google use to evaluate certain websites and pages and find out which ones more accurately reflect what you are searching for. And so does the Applicant Tracking System.

The Applicant Tracking System is looking for certain keywords in your résumé that are going to help the human resources department match you up towards a particular position.

So, before you start writing your résumé, you want to find out what the keywords are for the job description. So, to do this, get the job description. Print it out; don’t look at it online, print it out and then go through it with a highlighter pen and look for all of the key words that are important to them.

These are usually related to the skills or requirements that they want someone on this job to have. So, go through, highlight those and use the same color for the same type of word.

Now, they might say things in a variety of different ways. They might use one word and then in the next sentence, say the same thing, but use a different word.

Those are all key words. Those are the important key words, when they’re saying the same thing twice, but saying in a different way or using different words.

So, go through the job description and pick out all of these important keywords and write them down and create a list of all these keywords that are relevant to this job description. These are the words that you are going to want to use throughout your résumé.

Now, you have to keep in mind that you’re writing for a human being and you’re writing for a computer. So, your résumé actually has to be legible when it’s done. You can’t just take all these keywords and stick them all over the place. You want to carefully weave them in to the fabric of your résumé.

So, you might be using a word that’s similar to what they’re asking for in the job description. Just pull your word out and stick their word in. Now, you’re starting to write for the ATS. You take their keywords and you replace certain keywords on your resume and this makes you more relevant to the Applicant Tracking System and more likely to generate a phone call off your resume.

Because what happens is the employer is going to sit down and they’re going to type in their computer. They’re going to do a search for let’s say a ‘Business Analyst with X amount of skills with certain keywords. And when your resume has those key words in it, it’s going to show up in the Applicant Tracking System.

Without those keywords, it’s not going to show up at all. But you might have all of the experience that they’re looking for, but if you don’t say it using the words that they’re looking for, then you’re not going to show up in their computer listing. Makes sense; right? Crazy, but makes sense.

So, that’s where just having me experience isn’t good enough, you have to convey that experience to them using the words that they’re looking for. And I know I know this makes it hard, this makes it difficult and you might think impossible, but it’s not. Because they’re giving you a roadmap with the job description.

They’re giving you a roadmap of what they’re looking for. All you have to do is tailor your résumé to match that job description and use those keywords and then you’ll show up on their results and then you have a chance at the interview. Next one here.

Keyword stuffing does not work. I think that’s kind of self-explanatory. You know how I told you to pull out all the relevant keywords from the job description and put them in your résumé. Well, if you just over use all of those words and just stuff them in every other line, that’s not going to work either.

The Applicant Tracking System is going to sense overuse of certain keywords. And what’s going to happen is the ATS is going to kick you resume out into a different bucket of resumes, and trust me, that’s not the one you want to be in. That’s the one where all the rejects go.

So, if you have keywords that are appearing more in an irregular fashion and repeating themselves over and over and over again, that’s not going to help you either.

Remember, you’re also writing for a human. You’re writing for a computer but you’re also writing for humans. In the end, someone is going to give you resume and they’re going to read it. And if it’s just stuffed with a whole bunch of keywords, that don’t necessarily make sense. They’re not going to call you for the interview either. So, you want to write naturally.

So, as a general rule, try not to use a keyword more than two or three times. You can find another word that’s similar to that word; which I recommend. That way, you’re not saying the same thing using the same word. You’re saying the same thing using a different word, and that’s going to add some variety to the resume and that’s going to give it a warmer feeling, when you can say the same thing using different words instead of repeating yourself using that same word over and over and over again. Okay? Alright, next one.

So, when I say “Not all keywords are created equal” what do I mean by that? I mean that you need to use the words that they are using in the job description. The ones that describe what they are looking for, and use those specifically.

You can use some variations of them, but you also want to include that original, root keyword that they’re looking for. You have to remember that you’re writing for the Applicant Tracking System. It’s a smart system, but it’s only going to do what it’s told to do so. It’s only going to look for certain keywords that someone told it to look for. And if you don’t have those words, then your resume isn’t going to be picked out as one of the potential matches.

There’s a lot of keywords that the applicant tracking system can’t really distinguish between. So, you might want to say the same thing, but a different way.

So, if they’re looking for a Master’s in Business Administration, you definitely want to use that keyword ‘Masters of Business Administration’. But you also might want to say it in some different ways, like MBA or Masters of Business. Come at that route keyword a couple of different ways, but make sure that root keyword is there and then put some variations on it to give you resume more of a natural, warmer feeling.

Generally, I’d like to avoid abbreviations on a resume, but if in the job description, they are using an abbreviation for a particular skill or education or whatever it will be, make sure you use that exact abbreviation as well and then also, list the spelled out version of what that abbreviation is. So, you’re coming at it from two different angles. Makes sense? Alright, next one.

Keyword placement is critical. And here’s what I mean by that. You want to use keywords naturally, throughout your entire résumé. You don’t want to just stuff them like at the top or in the middle or at the end. You want to weave them in throughout your entire résumé.

So, if you can, start with your objective and start putting in the keywords in your objective statement, if that’s possible. Then have an accomplishment section with a list of accomplishments; put some of his keywords in there. And then as you move into your experience, put some in there and just spread them out in a natural fashion, so that anyone who would read it would look at it and just think that it reads normally.

Now, as you’re sprinkling these keywords throughout the résumé, try to avoid repeating them; use an acronym for them. But use the root keyword and then come up with a similar word for it. If you need to use that same word again, just find an acronym for it and use a similar word.

This will give your resume a smoother, more natural flow, instead of you repeating the same word over and over and over. And I’ve seen people do this when they write their job descriptions statements. They’ll use the same word like every three lines and it just stands out like a sore thumb.

So, use a different word of the root keyword and just sprinkle those all throughout resume and I’ll give it a nice warm flow, so that when someone picks up to read it, it seems natural, and the applicant tracking system is attracted to it and it kicks it out as a potential match. Okay? Next one.

KISS; Keep It Simple Stupid. This was actually an acronym that the US Navy coined back in the 60s; which really means that most systems work best when they’re simple vs complicated.

So, don’t overthink this. Don’t over think writing your résumé for the ATS. Keep it natural. Remember you need to write for a computer and you need to write for a human being.

So, first, you want to write for the computer. You want to have that core set of keywords baked into your resume. Then you go through it, and you massage it, and you put that warm human touch on it, so that when someone actually picks off your resume to read it, it feels natural, and they can feel who you are. They can feel the kind of things that you’ve done and they know that it’s not a document or resume that was written for a computer, it was written for real person, because in the end, that’s who’s going to read it.

Now, I know this is tougher than the way it used to be. 20 years ago, you just wrote your résumé for an individual, a human resources department, or hiring manager or whatever. Now, you have to write it for a computer and you have to write it for a human being.

It’s tougher, it’s harder, I know; but you don’t really have a choice. You have to do this. But don’t overthink it either, don’t overthink this. Keep it simple; it’s not that hard.

Alright, and the last one here; be human. And this has really resonated in these seven other tips that I’ve given you for writing for the ATS. You have to be human; because that’s who you’re writing for. You’re writing for a human being on the other end and you want to give them a resume that’s a strong reflection of what you’ve done.

Now, granted, you also have to write for a computer to get to that level, but when it reaches them, you want to give them a document that speaks about you; it speaks of your experiences, it speaks of your accomplishments in a way that a human can understand it and not a computer.

Writing for the ATS is almost like baking a cake. I mean, you can’t just bake a cake that looks good, but taste bad. You have to bake a cake that looks good and taste good. So, it has to look good; your resume has to look good for the ATS and it has to taste good for the person who reads it. That’s how you’re going to get farther, that’s how you’re going to get the interviews.

Without that, your resume is just going to sit around, bounce around in the black hole of the ATS and you’re never going to get anywhere.

Now, there are some things you can do if you want to test your resumes. You can create another profile. You can create like a ghost profile on CareerBuilder or Monster or whoever, and write a completely different resume that you think is going to attract employers for a certain position.

Now, granted, if write another profile, and you have a different name on it, and they actually call the person with that name, you know, that’s really not a real person and you know that you can’t apply for that job. But this will give you the ability to test out a resume that you wrote for the Applicant Tracking System.

So, having a second ghost online resume may or may not be a good idea. But if you really wanted to test out writing for the ATS that’s one thing you can do.

And just knowing that it’s going to be very difficult for you to apply to any of those jobs, because it’ll be a different resume, it’ll be a different name.

Alright, my friend. That’s all I have for you today. If you would like to go farther than what I have gone in this video with resume writing, I would suggest picking up a copy of the Resume Masterpiece.

This book will teach you how to write your resume for the Applicant Tracking System. It will show you how to write strong accomplishments statements, it will show you how to review job descriptions and pull out the right keywords and how you need to place everything on your résumé. It will also give you over a hundred different examples from 20 different professions of resumes. So, you’ll have a hundred different resume examples that are going to show you how to write your résumé and then they’re going to show you how to do it using the right keywords, using the right phrases, and they’re going to show you how to write for a human and how to write for the Applicant Tracking System at the same time.

So, if you would like to go further and what I can in this video, try the Resume Masterpiece. I’ll put a link for it down below this video. Give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out for you, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give you your money back. No worries at all. And that’s all I have for you today. I wish you well and I will see you in the next video.

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About The Author

Don Georgevich

Author of 4 top selling interviewing books, speaker, and job interview strategy coach. The one person everyone calls on before a difficult job interview.

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