Did you know that if you’re applying for a company that isn’t a local mom and pop business, your resume could easily be getting thrown out before it ever comes across a human being’s desk? In the old days, you submitted cover letters and resumes, and a hiring manager went through them, filtering out the applicants who didn’t really seem truly qualified for the position.

Today, resumes must pass through applicant tracking systems. These are software systems that are designed to filter out applicants who aren’t qualified. Today’s job market is an employer’s market, and for any given position, there are sometimes hundreds of applicants. This digital screening process is estimated to remove about 75% of the applications submitted.

This makes things much easier for hiring managers and human resources departments, but unfortunately, these computerized systems are really rather flawed. Computers aren’t that smart in a lot of ways, and the software is designed to work with certain formatting parameters. Applications routinely get thrown out by the system, simply because they’re not formatted correctly. This is bad for both job seekers and employers. Who knows how much top talent has been automatically rejected from any given job position?

If your resume or application isn’t seasoned with the right sprinkling of keywords, arranged in ways the software is capable of “understanding,” the applicant tracking system will assume you’re a bad match, and throw your resume out.

Why Did Anyone Think These Systems were a Good Idea?

Applicant tracking systems save employers, time, and help them keep applications organized. Without them, hiring managers would have to spend much more time filing and shredding paper documents, filing and deleting emails, and otherwise juggling applications coming in through a variety of channels. They also eliminate problems like accidental email deletions, and make it easy for the company to keep tabs on the hiring process. On their end of things, it’s a massive time saver.

How Do These Systems Even Work?

When you submit your resume into an applicant tracking system, your resume is stored as an entry in the program’s database. The ATS will rank you higher among the candidates if it picks up on the keywords it’s looking for in your resume. Employers can also search the system for particular keywords or qualifications.

How Optimizing Your Resume is Like SEO… Circa 2003

Optimizing your resume for applicant tracking systems is kind of like SEO (search engine optimization), the process of making sure websites are optimized for Google to crawl and rank them for relevant search queries. The difference is that Google’s algorithms are almost unfathomably sophisticated, and they keep getting even better. Today, the search engine has a fantastic ability to pick up on subtler aspects of context, rather than relying on exact match keywords.

Applicant tracking systems are not nearly as sophisticated as Google’s search engine. Just like using exact match keywords in your content and sometimes, even keyword stuffing were important for old-school SEO, they’re important for getting your resume through the applicant tracking system. To do that, you need to try to anticipate which particular keywords a particular company will be looking for in the application.

This means that you really do need to tailor your resume independently for each job you submit it for. For example, if you’re looking for a job as a hotel restaurant manager, the system will be looking for terms like “hospitality,” “hotel restaurant,” and “restaurant manager.” However, it probably won’t be looking for generic “soft skills” terminology, like “outgoing” or “team player.” Hard skills and job experience are far more likely to be included in the keywords an employer is looking for through an ATS. You actually don’t want a whole lot of fluff.

Applicant Tracking Systems Aren’t Your Friend… But You Can Beat Them

Applicant tracking systems make job searching even more of a headache. But fortunately, there are ways to optimize your resume to try to at least give yourself a fighting chance. At Resume Yeti, we offer affordable resume creation, optimization, and design templates. Try our service today, and stop letting mindless, soulless computer systems get in between you and your dream job.

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