10 Applicant Tracking System Resume Tips

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Times have changed. Job applicants face an interesting challenge: creating a digital resume that is readable not only by humans, but by the machines that process it.

Applicant tracking systems are being used more often by employers. With hundreds of resumes being submitted per job opening, this system allows resumes to be kept organized and limited to the best possible matches. When you submit an online job application, a tool called a resume parser extracts information from your resume, transferring it to the correct section of your profile. When a recruiter is looking for candidates who match a job description, they may rely on searching and matching software. If your resume wasn’t parsed correctly, you may be overlooked even though you’re a match for the open position.

What can you do to make sure your resume is understood correctly? Resume scoring is a big part of ATS, the inclusion of keywords and proper formatting can make all of the difference between your resume being seen by a recruiter or going unnoticed. Sovren, a global provider of resume parsing and searching and matching software, shared their secrets. We’ve summarized some of their resume tips for electronic resumes below.

How To Format Electronic Resumes

1. Use Microsoft Word to create your resume – never use PDFs.

We’ve explained why in our previous post, 4 Reasons Why Recruiters Want Your Resume in Word Format.

2. Don’t combine two resume sections into one.

Unlike humans, when two sections are combined into one, resume parsing software won’t understand which information belongs to which section. Rather than “Education and Training”, use “Education” and “Training”.

3. Avoid “nesting” jobs if you’ve held several positions at the same company.

Rather than listing multiple positions beneath a company name with dates of employment that encompass all positions, treat each position as a separate job. Make sure to include the company name, location, title and dates of employment foreach position.

4. Be consistent with how you structure jobs.

Each job should include the dates of employment, job title, company name, and company location (city/state); followed by the dates of employment. The order of these elements should be the same for every job. If you begin one job with the start and end date; ensure you begin the next job with the dates.

5. Include start and end dates for every position.

A resume parser may ignore positions without dates. If you’re still working at a position, use common words such as “Current” or “Present” in place of the end date. Spelling out the month, rather than using the MM/YY abbreviation, will ensure your dates are understood correctly regardless of which country the website is optimized for.

6. Keep formatting simple.

We’ve mentioned this before in our post 10 Tips to Create an Effective Resume and Get Noticed – it’s also helpful for recruiters. Some resume formatting tips include:

  • Don’t store information in columns, tables, templates, headers, footers, or fields.
  • Don’t use paragraphs within a single job description; or information may be split up that belongs together.
  • Don’t use images or fonts that create symbols, like Wingdings.When a resume is parsed, images are translated to text. This means that images will either be ignored, or translated to random letters and numbers that don’t make sense.

    Words to Use in an Electronic Resume

7. Contact information should be the first item on your resume.

Use a separate line for each element of your contact information, like you would when writing a letter. Never include all contact information on a single line.

8. Using Keywords.

Recruiters often search for keywords and phrases within your resume to filter candidates. Keywords for resumes can be found in the job description of the position you are applying to, for example if you are applying for a data heavy position, a good key phrase to have within your resume is “data entry”. Section headers also should be keyword friendly – a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. If the parser doesn’t recognize a section header, it may not parse the information at all.

9. End company names with common company-related abbreviations.

Terms like “LLC, Inc., Co., and Corp.”, among others, help the parser to recognize a word as a company name; so it ends up in the ‘company name’ field of work experience in your profile.

10. Include skills within your job descriptions. 

Sophisticated software can determine how many years experience you have with each skill; based on the dates of your employment. It’s still fine to have a separate section for skills if you want to.

Testing Electronic Resumes?

To test whether your resume will be readable by automated recruiting software, copy and paste it into a text editor (like Wordpad or TextEdit). It should still be readable, with the information listed in the same order as your original resume. Take advantage of the many free ATS resume tests available online such as ZipJob’s tester, before you apply!

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