Many organizations use an applicant tracking software (ATS) to vet applications. While computer software can narrow down viable candidates, people hire people, so a résumé should appeal to both an ATS and a person.
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 content in multiple columns.
Place contact information within the document and not in a header section. Some ATS do not read headers, and a résumé without contact information is usually discarded.
ATS will ignore charts, graphs, and text box content.
Include dates and company names in the experience section. Some ATS will discard experience that does not have a date or a company name.
Keywords: Include keywords in a résumé 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.
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 the cover letter and résumé. If an application only allows one file to be submitted, start the file with the résumé first and then the cover letter after the résumé. 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. Searching for assistance with your résumé content? Contact me.