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How to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems and Get More Interviews

Today, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use a software called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS for short) to manage the high volume of resumes they receive. These software systems scan the text of resumes, searching for specific keywords. Without the right keywords, your resume won't make it past the screener and to the desk of a recruiter or hiring manager, even though you may be qualified for the position.​ Therefore, describing your skills, education, and experience in the way the company's screening software wants to see them, is essential.

An ATS is trying to compare the text in your resume to the text in the job description you applied to. The ATS is looking to see how many keywords and qualifications it can find in your resume that match the job description. Once the ATS scans your resume it applies a grade and that grade is what a recruiter or hiring manager first sees. If the grade is poor your resume won’t be viewed by a human. So how do you make sure your resume receives a good grade?

It’s not a matter of simply adding every keyword from the job listing to a skills section of your resume. The ATS is looking to see how much experience you have with the skills on your resume. Interestingly, skills listed in a so-called “skills section” of a resume receive little ranking. Why? Because the ATS cannot associate those skills with any kind of experience. However, when you weave skills into your work history section the ATS can associate dates or periods of time with the named skills. For example, if you worked at Acme Inc from 2015 - 2020 the ATS know you worked there for 5 years. If you then explain how you used Microsoft Excel to achieve a measurable result while working at Acme Inc the ATS now knows you have at least 5 years of experience using Microsoft Excel and you can generate measurable outcomes. It might look something like this on your resume:

Acme Inc. January 2015 - March 2020

“As project manager, utilized Microsoft Excel to create a team collaboration tool that reduced costs by 15% and lead to project completion 1 month ahead of schedule.”

Now the ATS knows you have 5 years of experience as a project manager with Microsoft Excel and can produce measurable results with these skills. This is the ideal way to include skills in your resume to get a top ranking from an ATS. Now all you have to do is scan the job listing you’re applying to, identify important skills, and add them to your resume in the manner described above. Do this, and you will see significant results in the number of interviews you receive.

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