5 Ways to Beat the ATS In Your Job Search

A few years ago, the magazine CIO published an article explaining how almost 70% of resumes submitted by job seekers are never even seen by human eyes.

Why is that?  Because most companies, now seeking to deal with a large number of applicants, employ an applicant tracking system (ATS) to organize, sort, and select resumes.

Applicant tracking systems use semantic technology, which counts keywords in a resume and decides whether or not the candidate is suitable for the position.  However, companies are slowly replacing semantic technology with what’s called contextualization, which attempts to make a logical decision based on whether the description is in context to the keywords or subheadings.

Even this newer, better system is not foolproof.  As a result, many good candidates still get eliminated.  So it’s essential to understand how these systems can be beat.

Below are five ways to beat an applicant tracking system when applying for a job:

#1—Network, network, network.

This advice is not just for B-school graduates; it is essential for any and every job seeker.  This is because the chances of getting a resume reviewed by the company’s human resources department dramatically improves if the candidate is referred by a company’s current employee.  Organizations believe that a current employee would take extra care to preserve their reputation within the company by only providing a referral for someone they know is an excellent candidate.

#2—Customize your resume.

Ensure that your resume fulfills all of the requirements mentioned in the job description.  The ATS often eliminates a resume or ranks it lower if 100% of the requirements are not met.  For example, if the job description mentions that a CPA and a B.S. degree in Finance are required, ensure that CPA and B.S. in Finance appear in the resume, even if you haven’t completed your CPA yet.  Present it like this: “B.S. in Finance and expected to complete the CPA exam in two months’ time.”

#3—Match your resume to your social media persona.

Many of today’s applicant tracking systems can be linked to social media for the purpose of validating your resume.  So make sure that your LinkedIn profile and other social media profiles match the information in your resume.

#4—Obtain feedback.

This is another way to utilize your network to your advantage.  From the time resumes were invented, we have been advised to avoid spelling and grammatical errors.  But in this age of short messages and texting, acronyms and shorthand are the norm, and it’s quite common for people to miss a comma or not capitalize where required.  An ATS frequently rejects such resumes, so ask a friend or peer to review yours.

#5—Use technology to beat technology.

Run the job description through online tools Wordle.net or Tagcrowd.com.  These websites provide “word clouds” (i.e., the words that appear prominently in the text provided).  These are your keywords.  Ensure that these appear on your resume so that it’s more likely to be selected by the ATS.

Jacqueline Hill, Esq.

This post was written by .

Jacqueline Hill is a partner at Lexacount Search, where she places top senior-level and other legal talent with law firms and corporate legal departments across the United States. She has been writing about careers, lawyers, attorney professional development, and the legal industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at jacqueline.hill@lexacount.com or 215-740-0104, extension 101.

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