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Job Hunting in the Age of Applicant Tracking Systems

Those of you who have worked with me to improve your resume and LinkedIn profile have heard my advice about optimizing your resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

What is an ATS? Basically it’s software that companies use to manage the recruiting and hiring process, Most importantly, it’s used to select candidates who apply for further review and/or interviews. So in many cases your resume may not ever be reviewed by a person, just the software, particularly if you don’t make it through the first cut of candidates.

I’m always trying to expand my knowledge of what works best for my clients who come to me seeking help with their career branding materials and job search strategies. Here are some new things I’ve learned to consider if you or someone you know is looking for a job.


Longer Resumes

For years we’ve been told that in most cases your resume should not be longer than two pages. But longer resumes can fare better if they are submitted to an ATS, because they contain more keywords, and may be ranked higher since it may indicate you’re a better match for the job than someone with fewer key words.

Use Exact Job Titles

If the job you’re applying for is, for example, listed as a senior software developer, use that title in your resume, assuming you have worked in that capacity. Not software engineer or programmer, even if that’s what you’ve been called at past jobs. Resumes with exact matches to the job title being posted will rank higher when the company is deciding who to interview.

Apply Using the Company Site

Nowadays, a lot of people apply from job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s efficient and fast. But if you know the name of the company in the job posting, go to its website and see if you can apply directly there. Some firms rank applications received on their own website higher than ones received from third-party job websites.

And the Best Way to Beat the ATS…

Is by avoiding it entirely! Whenever possible, get job leads through personal networking, where you can often send a resume directly to an individual’s email address. Then you won’t have to worry about making it through the selection process based on a software program’s algorithms.

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