Is Your Resume ATS-Friendly? You Might Be Surprised.

You work hard to create a resume that will stand out and help you secure interviews. You apply online. Days go by and you receive crickets. Nothing! Believe it or not, there is a chance your resume is working against you.

To get your resume into the hands of a recruiter or hiring manager, it must first make it through the ATS system (the applicant tracking system). If it is not compatible, it could get swallowed up, never to be seen again.

Applicant tracking systems are used by employers to collect online applications from potential candidates. These platforms use artificial intelligence to make the process of screening resumes automatic for recruiters.

Once you hit submit, the system goes to work breaking your document down into data it can "read". It analyzes that data to make decisions about your fit for the role. If you make it through, your resume gets flagged for the recruiter to view. If it doesn't pass the test... hello black hole. Bye bye interview.

How Do You Know Your Resume Is Compatible?

Start With Your Design
Resume services are pushing the use of "modern templates" to stand out in the crowd. Candidates love the idea because they look sleek... a major upgrade from the old, boring styles we are used to seeing.

Be careful though. Many of these templates achieve their "modern" design through the use of text boxes. You place the content in the box and move it around to the location of your choice.

The problem is, the first thing an ATS system does is dump out anything that isn't text on a page. There go your text boxes. So, it doesn't matter how much the content on your resume aligns to the job post if the system can't "read" it.

If your template uses text boxes, tables, and graphical elements... consider dumping it.

Pay Attention To The File Type
Before you upload your resume into the system, check the file types they recommend or accept. Each system is a little different. Make sure what you upload is supported.

I always tell clients a PDF is preferred as it holds your formatting best. However, if a PDF is not listed as a supported file type, use a Word document instead.

Never use a text file. Some people try to do this to "beat the system". The problem with this strategy is when your resume gets floated up to a recruiter, there is nothing eye catching about it. Your resume has two audiences, the system, and then the human. Think about both.

Chronological is Best
Expect the ATS system to be a little outdated in how they operate. Therefore, the best chance you have to ensure your information is extracted and parsed correctly is to use a chronological resume.

I hear you career changers saying, "But, what if I am trying to show how my skills transfer and I am using a functional layout?" You can still highlight your transferrable skills in a chronological resume. Just create a really strong candidate summary/profile and keyword section at the top.  Also, make sure your job entries are achievement-based to demonstrate those skills.

Avoid Fancy Jargon
ATS algorithms (the set of rules the system is programmed to use) are built to understand traditional, common keywords and phrases. If you want it to extract your information correctly and understand it, make sure your resume is using common language. Label resume sections what they are, don't get clever. Use terms like Work Experience, Education, and Volunteer Work.

Here Is The Real Compatibility Check

#1 Open your resume file

#2 Click "File", then "Save As"

#3 Change "Save As Type" to a text file or .txt

#4 Click Save

#5 Open the text file you just created

#6 Read for accuracy

If your file is completely compatible, it will read the exact way you want it to. If you see things that are jumbled up, your resume is NOT ATS-friendly.

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