8 Expert Tips for Getting Past Resume Screeners

As a job seeker, you’ve likely heard of resume screeners, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), before. And if you do your research, it’s pretty easy to learn the basics. They have multiple uses for companies, but most commonly, they are used by hiring managers and recruiters to filter large amounts of job applicants. So it’s important you know how to “beat” them to get your resume through to the hiring manager.

When thinking about ATS, your perspective makes a huge difference. It’s easy to approach ATS from the perspective of the job seeker, but if you flip your perspective to that of the recruiter, you can learn a whole lot more.

Check out our 8 recruiter tips for getting past applicant tracking systems.


1. Take Your Time

Your resume is your number one ticket to getting a job. If there is any part of the job search process where you should spend the most time, it is on building your resume.

As robots, ATS will not parse (organize into the database) errors correctly.

Recruiters are experts in reading resumes, which means they are also experts in catching spelling errors, formatting errors and other mistakes.

Take your time to make sure every part of your resume is done well for the sake of getting past ATS, and for making an impression when it lands in the recruiter’s hands.


2. Take Keywords Seriously

You’d be hard pressed to find a recruiter that doesn’t recommend using keywords to tailor your resume. From a recruiter’s perspective, keywords are important because those are the search terms they use to narrow down candidates in ATS.

For example, if the job posting calls for a candidate with “JavaScript” knowledge, “JavaScript” will likely be a search term the recruiter uses to filter through applications.

Use important keywords in your resume to make sure it gets seen. Some ATS will even rank your resume higher if the searched skill is included more than once.

Important note: If you are going to use a keyword more than once, do not go overboard. Recruiters do not tolerate keyword stuffing.


3. Use a Format That Works for You

Your resume format determines how a recruiter (and ATS) sees you.

For example, the chronological resume format puts an emphasis on work experience, while the functional and hybrid resume formats focus on skills and accomplishments.

It is a common misconception that the chronological format is the best match for ATS. In reality, that isn’t necessarily true.

The best format is whichever format highlights the best parts of your work history. A recruiter’s first impression of you will often be whatever information is located at the top of your resume. Keep this in mind when choosing a layout.


4. Kill the Objective Statement

The resume objective statement should stay in the past, where it belongs. As far as your ATS-optimized resume is concerned, no introductory statement is necessary.

It is best to keep your resume clean and include only vital, measurable information.

However, if you insist on a statement, most recruiters will suggest a summary statement if you have more than 10 years of experience.

While an objective statement explains the job seeker’s goals, a summary statement shows your accomplishments. If you include a summary statement, use it as a source for relevant keywords.


5. Keep it Short and Sweet

If you are on the fence about including a piece of information in your resume, it probably shouldn’t be included.

Some ATS score resumes using a noise-to-keyword ratio, meaning if you include too much irrelevant content, it can lower your overall rank.

Trust your instincts when they tell you a past job or skill is not relevant to a specific job opportunity. Unsure? Consult the job posting as a reference. Tailoring your resume for each job will naturally keep irrelevant information at bay.


6. Don’t Try to Be Fancy

As a rule of thumb, your resume is about what you can do, and the interview is about who you are.

You are unique, and you have qualities to offer that no other candidate has. Recruiters want to see your personality, but not before they see your capabilities as an employee.

Let your professional abilities take the stage in your resume through your measurable skills and accomplishments.

Don’t use a fancy font or over-the-top resume templates to try to showcase your personality. Instead, focus your resume on the hard, factual evidence that will get it past ATS and the recruiter to land you an interview. Then, use the interview as your chance to show your personality.


7. Say Hello to Bullet Points

Recruiters will recommend bullet points for two reasons:

  1. The human eye can skim them quickly
  2. They parse easily by ATS

Below each job description, use bullet points to describe your role and accomplishments, including programs and software you often used. These bullet points should include measurable information–think percentages and dollars. Stick to 3-4 single-line bullet points to keep it concise. Recruiters hate to see chunks of text on your resume.


8. Don’t Sound Like a Robot

The ATS-optimized resume serves a specific purpose: to get into the recruiter or hiring manager’s hands. When writing your resume, be sure you are keeping that end goal in mind.

The trick is to add the components needed to get past ATS without making your resume sound unnatural. Find the balance between making your resume a match for the robots and appealing to the recruiter.

As you are optimizing your resume for ATS, do a quick check every so often by asking yourself, “does this part sound forced?”
Applicant tracking systems were built to alleviate the tasks of recruiters. If you put yourself in the position of the recruiter and consider their tasks, the functionality of ATS is revealed. For example, to mimic a recruiter, an ATS must scan each resume, pick out relevant information, choose the top applicants based on relevant search, and be able to contact the candidates. Now jump back into the position of the job seeker and use that knowledge to optimize your resume for ATS.


About the Author

This post was written by James Hu, the founder and CEO of Jobscan, a tool that helps job seekers land more interviews by comparing one’s resume against any job description for keywords and match rate. Follow Jobscan on FacebookTwitter and Instagram
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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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