Welcome to Whitman Associates’ comprehensive guide on creating an ATS-friendly resume. Whether you’re starting from scratch or optimizing your current resume for ATS, you’ll find valuable insights and tips to increase your chances of making a positive impression on both a mechanical and intentional reviewer.
At Whitman Associates, we are committed to assisting you on your job search journey. Understanding how an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) works is a key step in this process. With this knowledge, you’ll not only enhance the quality of your application, but also gain a deeper understanding of the modern recruitment landscape, empowering you to navigate your career path with confidence. Now, let’s begin our deep-dive into the world of ATS.
What is an ATS?
Before we dive into ATS-friendly resumes, let’s clarify what we mean by an ATS, or Applicant Tracking System. An ATS is a software application used by employers to manage recruitment. It organizes, screens, and tracks applications and resumes, significantly streamlining the hiring process. It can filter applications based on given criteria such as keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience, and schools attended. However, an ATS isn’t just a machine doing the recruiter’s job, but a tool to assist and enhance the hiring process.
Debunking ATS Myths
It’s easy to find a plethora of misinformation about ATSs online. Some sources may lead you to believe that these systems automatically filter out candidates based on arbitrary or discriminatory criteria. However, this is a misunderstanding. In fact, an ATS is simply a tool to manage the sheer volume of applications. It’s designed to organize and streamline, not discriminate or exclude.
Another common myth that circulates among job seekers is the belief that ATSs actually “read” the resumes they submit. Many fear that their candidacy is solely at the mercy of an AI system parsing their resume.
The reality is that ATSs serve predominantly as storage and organization tools. They collect and categorize resumes, making it easier for human recruiters to manage and review applications.
The Importance of an ATS-Friendly Resume
Crafting an ATS-friendly resume is a crucial aspect of the modern job application process. Since many companies utilize these systems to handle the initial screening of applications, understanding how to optimize your resume for ATS is not just useful, but essential. The perfect resume increases your chances of being shortlisted for the position you’ve applied for by ensuring that the resume can be correctly interpreted and categorized by the system.
Armed with this knowledge, let’s explore the do’s and don’ts of creating an ATS-friendly resume. Whether you’re applying for your first job or eyeing a top-tier position, we’re here to help you navigate the ATS landscape and get one step closer to landing your dream job.
Creating an ATS-Friendly Resume: The Do’s
DO Embrace Specificity in Skills
Every job opening requires a specific set of skills, languages, and software knowledge. If you have them, flaunt them. When optimizing your resume for ATSs, consider every language you’ve studied, every software you’ve worked with, and all the skills you’ve developed over time. The more specific you are, the better.
Remember, recruiters often look for specific skills when they search in an ATS. For example, if a recruiter types “Excel” into the search bar, you want your resume to be part of the search results. Optimizing for ATSs can be your ticket to getting your application noticed and, ultimately, shortlisted.
DO Prioritize Plain Text over Graphics
While a visually stunning resume can be an attention grabber, it could also be a hindrance to your visibility in an ATS. Some systems may struggle to accurately process images, graphics, or pictures, which could affect your resume’s searchability.
For creative professionals, there’s a way around this. If you have artwork or a portfolio to showcase, include a link to your website or another platform. This way, you retain your creative edge without affecting your ATS visibility.
DO Revise for Readability
Although an ATS might scan your resume for keywords, a recruiter will be the one to make the final decision. This underscores the importance of making your resume readable. Ensure your resume is clear, concise, well-structured, and free of grammatical errors. A resume laden with typos or difficult to read can overshadow your qualifications and work against you.
Creating an ATS-Friendly Resume: The Don’ts
DON’T Use Fluff
When highlighting your skills and experiences, it’s crucial to be clear, precise, and to the point. Algorithms that ATSs use thrive on explicit skills and professional experiences. Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of ambiguous, generic descriptions that might not be detected in an ATS search.
Take, for instance, a statement like ‘exceptional team player’. While it might sound impressive, it could be more impactful to mention specific teamwork skills such as ‘collaboration’, ‘conflict resolution’, or ‘leadership’.
DON’T Overuse Buzzwords
While it’s crucial to use relevant keywords and industry jargon in your ATS-friendly resume, be careful not to overdo it. Yes, these buzzwords can optimize your resume for ATS searches, but remember, your resume ends up being evaluated by human recruiters. The goal is to strike a balance between keywords and meaningful, descriptive content.
DON’T Write Like a Robot
It’s understandable that, armed with some knowledge about ATS, job seekers might be tempted to outsmart the system. Strategies such as copying and pasting large blocks of keywords might seem like a clever workaround. However, while these tactics might temporarily trick an ATS, they will likely fall flat when your resume lands in the hands of human recruiters.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a resume that’s both ATS and human-friendly. Make sure your keyword usage is natural, integrated seamlessly within your experience and skills descriptions.
The Whitman Associates Recruitment Approach
At Whitman Associates, we take pride in putting the human touch into our recruitment process. Our approach prioritizes manual review over software screening. Once we manually identify a potential candidate, their resume is inputted into our ATS to track their status throughout the recruitment journey, ensuring clear and transparent communication at each stage.
Understanding and leveraging the capabilities of an ATS-friendly resume is vital in the modern job search. However, we strongly advocate for viewing your resume as not merely an ATS-optimized document, but a human-friendly one too.
Your Dream Job Awaits
Our expertise at Whitman Associates extends beyond career advice – we are your partner in landing your dream job. As your trusted, leading professional staffing firm serving the Washington, D.C. area, we have a keen eye for matching candidates with the right opportunities. Our role doesn’t end with understanding your resume; we are committed to understanding you.