The majority of organizations use an applicant tracking software (ATS) to vet applications. There are 193+ ATS in use worldwide. While a program can narrow down viable candidates, people hire people, so a résumé needs to appeal to both the ATS and people.
Formatting: Most font styles are compatible with ATS. Using bold, italics, and shading can be read by ATS. Content within a table can be read by an ATS. However, it is best to use a table with only one row. Otherwise, the ATS may jumble the column and row content, making it confusing.
Place contact information within the document and not in a header section. Some ATS do not read headers, and a résumé without contact information may be discarded.
ATS will ignore charts, graphs, and text box content, so be sure to use the same content within the résumé.
Always include dates and company names with your experience sections. Some ATS will discard experience that does not have a date or a company name.
Keywords: Be sure the résumé includes keywords that match the job description keywords. Some ATS systems will search for keywords in the experience section to validate the number of years of experience with a particular skill. It’s also important to use keywords in context with experience and accomplishments, so the hiring manager understands your skill level and contributions. While keywords are helpful, there is no need to include every possible keyword within the résumé.
Abbreviation: Most ATS recognize common terms such as ROI and do not need the term to be written out as Return on Investment. Some ATS are industry intelligent, so if you work with audits and regulations, an ATS may recognize SOX as Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
If you are unsure, don’t use abbreviations. Education abbreviations are not recommended because many ATS search for a specific word such as “Masters” or “Certified.” If a job description states expertise with a specific program, like Microsoft Word, list the specific program and do not use an abbreviation like MS Office.
File Submission: It’s a good idea to keep separate files for a cover letter and résumé. If an application only allows one file to be submitted, do not make the first page of the file the cover letter. Instead, start with the résumé first and then the cover letter last. That way keywords and strong job matching content are scanned first by the ATS.
Writing a professional, ATS-compatible résumé is not difficult if you understand how the candidate selection process and systems work.
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