You find a posting for a job that’s perfect for you. You tailor your resume to show how well you match the company’s needs. You write the world’s best cover letter. You send your documents in only a day after the job is posted.
You hear absolutely nothing.
Explanations are probably as numerous as applicants, but one we’re hearing more about every day is the dreaded Applicant Tracking System.
An Applicant Tracking System or ATS is software employers use to match applicant resumes to the description of the job opening. This procedure has become increasingly popular since the recession produced hundreds and sometimes thousands of applicants for each open position. Human resource staff were finding it impossible to screen resumes fast enough.
Enter the robot
Software is perfect for screening. You tell it what to look for, and it does. Perfectly. And really fast.
The thing is, computer logic isn’t human logic. We’ve heard about how important keywords are in resumes, and we’ve been encouraged to list a good number of them “for the computer.” This is still valid, but mainly for humans. What the computer matches has more to do with the frequency of a term in a job description than its meaning. Read this blog entry to find out more.
Preptel to the rescue
Jon Ciampi and the folks at Preptel have brought us a solution in the “Resumeter.” This online service evaluates your resume just like the ATS software does, so you can feel confident that when Preptel rates your resume “Strong” or “Very Strong,” you have a good chance of making it through the ATS at your prospective employer.
Tips and tricks
I’ve been using Preptel and have found a few practices invaluable:
- Follow directions: Remember computer logic is different from human logic, so trust the process. I don’t really know how my computer works, but I have become adept at using it. The same goes for Preptel.
- Use a text resume: Before you upload your resume to Preptel, convert it from Microsoft Word to a plain text resume. Word contains lots of extra coding, and an ATS can’t read a PDF. Text is great insurance that all of your extra effort won’t go to waste.
- Use the Resources: When you have questions about why something works the way it does, check the Resourcespage. One of my favorite bosses started my training at his newspaper by opening up the machines and showing me how they worked. Jon has done the same thing for us by explaining issues that have come up for others.
- Ignore certain formatting errors:Don’t get sidetracked by some of the “warnings.” Jon told me recently they’re rewriting some of the Web site to tone down the severity of the cautions. For example, I had optimized a resume for a client until it was rated “Very Strong,” but when I clicked on the resume link, I still received a warning that the resume would be screened out because it had only one phone number and didn’t list any certifications. My client didn’t want to list more than one phone number and had no certifications. The jobs he was applying for were unlikely to require any certifications. Jon told me that the resume would be fine the way it is. Preptel points out the fomatting omissions in case we want to include them, but the resume won’t be round-filed because of them.
- When to optimize: Not every employer uses an ATS, so you may not need to optimize every resume you send out. How do you know? The larger the business, the more likely they are to use an ATS. If you’re applying to a privately owned business with 10 employees, chances are an ATS will not be used. If you’re applying to a large corporation, the chances are better.
- Ask for help: If you can’t find an answer on the Preptel Web site, ask. Jon and his team are enormously supportive. I’ve rarely encountered a company so responsive to its customers. They’ll be the first to tell you that Preptel is a work in progress. They’ve provided a contact form and a customer service number (800-408-1497). My experience has been that they’re happy when you use either.