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Can your resume outsmart Applicant Tracking Systems?

Are you submitting your resume to job after job with no response? Does it feel like your resume goes into a deep black hole, never to be heard from again. The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is more than likely responsible.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have transformed the way employers recruit, making recruitment more efficient and easier to manage. HR and hiring managers are overwhelmed with large volumes of resumes for open positions. On average corporations receive 250 resumes for each job posting. That's a lot of resumes to read! The ATS is an employer's best friend screening and filtering the best candidates for the job vacancy.

How does it work? The ATS scans the resume extracting key words into categories such as: skills, work experience, years of experience, education, certification, languages. Then it scores your resume based on relevance to the job criteria in the job posting and job description. The hiring manager will review the resumes that the ATS recommends.

For example your resume profile reads like this: "Sales leader with over ten years experience in technological and operational expertise. Dedicated to building team and working across functional silos to meet client needs. Bachelor's degree in Business Management, Certified Sales Executive (CSE)"

  1. ATS scans the resume and extracts the following: Experience: Ten years experience. Skills: technological, operational expertise, team, client needs. Education/Certification: Bachelor's in Business and Certification sales executive

  2. Next ATS scores the resume based on relevance to the job posting: score is 85%. Resume is missing the following: strong analytical skills, people management experience, ability to negotiate licensing deals and contracts.

ATS is mainly used by large and medium sized companies (250 plus employees), but smaller companies are starting use ATS to simplify recruitment efforts.

Outsmart the ATS by using relevant key words and phrases from the job posting. ATS scans your resume and cover letter for relevant key words. Make sure your resume includes those key words from the job posting and job description. The more key words and phrases that match the job posting the higher the score, which increases your chances of being seen by the hiring manager.

Optimize your resume by using the right file type. ATS reads PDF and .docx. Save your resume in both formats just in case the employer doesn't accept PDF, you have a resume in .docx that you can submit. Optimizing your resume to the correct file type ensures that the ATS will read your resume.

Resume outsmarts the ATS. Apply these tips to your resume and job search strategy. The true test? If you start getting calls from employers, then you know your resume has outsmarted the ATS.

Meet the author: Elizabeth Ushamirsky has over 20 years experience in career coaching and human resources. Helping people find jobs is her passion. She writes about job search, resumes, career solutions, and human resources. She is the founder of First Impressions Resume and Career Solutions. Learn more about First Impressions at:

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