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What is ATS, and how is it affecting your search for a new job?

You spend hours perfecting your resume to customize it for the job you are applying for — but after all that work, you’re not getting interviews for jobs you know you’re qualified for. Why not?

What you might not realize is that your resume might not have human involvement when you first submit it – it could be going to a computer for the initial screening. More and more employers are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen and narrow down resumes before the first round of interviews.

What is an ATS?

It’s computer software designed to automate the hiring process, scan resumes for certain keywords and weed out the ones that don’t match the job description.

An ATS can accept job applications, parse resumes and cover letters, and even help to manage candidates.

For communications, marketing and design professionals, this can be especially challenging, as we are more likely to use advanced layouts, atypical fonts, symbols and images, etc. to visually showcase our skills. All of these can cause parsing errors with ATS systems.

So you need to make sure it’s optimized for the ATS:

  • Don’t use columns or tables. They will often parse incorrectly.

  • Don’t use decorative fonts.

  • Customize your resume text for the job description — every time — with targeted keywords.

  • Double and triple-check your spelling and grammar.

  • Use both long-form and acronym versions of keywords (Search Engine Optimization, SEO).

  • Use a chronoligical resume format.

  • Know that headers or footers might get parsed incorrectly.

  • Create a simple .docx version of your resume.

Learn more:

8 things you need to know about applicant tracking systems:


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