October 22, 2010
Advanced resume screening techniques you should know about
In my resume search optimization seminar, I discuss four common algorithms that applicant tracking systems (ATS) use to sort through resumes. Knowing what the ATS is looking for and optimizing your resume with this in mind is crucial if you want to get noticed by the employer.
When you submit your resume to a company, depending on the complexity of its ATS, it can go through a hiring management system (HMS) first to get screened. The HMS gives you a score based on different criteria, discussed below. Once all the resumes are reviewed, the ATS presents recruiters and HR managers with the best possible candidates in order of their HMS score.
Here's how to get a high score in the company's ATS:
Keywords: When we say keywords in this context, we're not talking about industry terms; rather, we're referring to keywords from the actual job description. When incorporating keywords into your resume, be sure to use them exactly how they're spelled in the job description. For example, if the description says "apply" don't use the word "applied," as it won't get picked up by the HMS. However, the word "manage" is still contained in "managed," so you're safe.
Phrases: The word "profit" and the word "loss" will give you a point if the HMS is looking for those words. But you'll get additional points if you use "profit and loss" together because the HMS is capable of searching phrases in the job description. Note the phrases used in the job description and try to mimic them as closely as possible.
Acronyms: SDLC is an acronym for "software development life cycle," but the HMS isn't aware that these mean the same thing. To get high points in the ATS, again, make sure to match your terms as they appear in the job description: Use acronyms if they're used in the job description; spell them out if that's how they appear originally.
Order of appearance: If you have a list of skills on your resume, or a list of bullets describing your experience with your previous employer, it's important to arrange them based on the importance found on the job description. In general, when writing a resume, candidates emphasize the areas where they're most comfortable first, then follow with areas where they're weaker. You can appear to be a stronger candidate in the eyes of the HMS if you change what you put first.
Of course, a human being will still review your resume prior to submitting it to a hiring manager. But with the techniques above, you can count on getting a higher ATS score than you might have previously, and hopefully that will get you one step closer to your new job.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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