Workwrite Resumes

Beat Applicant Tracking Systems: Revise your job search strategy


If every person in this crowd applied for the same job you did, would you get the job? That’s essentially the position you’re putting yourself in when you apply for a job online and are thrown into the Applicant Tracking System.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are a hot topic for job seekers. At first glance, they would seem like a good idea. An ATS filters resumes to weed out unqualified applicants and send to human eyes only the candidates who best fit the job posting. They save HR untold hours, particularly in the largest firms that receive thousands of applications each day. If you’re curious about ATS, you can read a more thorough explanation here.

So what’s wrong with this picture? As many as 75 percent of good candidates can be filtered out because the resume writer doesn’t understand how and when to write a resume and conduct a job search following ATS rules.

When ATS are important to your job search

Sometimes, you can avoid the ATS issue by networking into a job. That means you don’t apply online. Instead, you might send inquiry letters, talk to people you know, connect with people in your target company, or have someone you know introduce you to a hiring authority. Learn more about these techniques in my August 2014 blog posts about the Hidden Job Market:

 In some cases, you will still be asked for a resume that will be fed into the ATS as a matter of policy. It may or may not affect you chances of a job offer.

Applying online

The time when ATS will rule your life is when you apply for a position online.

In the spirit of transparency, I must tell you that I recommend spending only 10 percent of your job search clicking the apply button. It is a deceptively easy exercise that can waste enormous amounts of your precious time. Read more about why clicking the apply button isn’t enough.

However, with each passing month and year, I encounter more and more people who will not be dissuaded from conducting their job search online. So, for those of you who make this choice, here are some hints that will help you navigate Internet application:

  1. Apply early. Many companies receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for a single posting. Sometimes, they choose a batch of applications, say the first 50 received. They review those resumes to see if they contain viable candidates. If they find the right person, they may not read any more resumes for that position. Yes, your resume may be kept on file for another position, but you don’t know when that opportunity may present itself.
  2. Do not apply for multiple positions within a company. It tends to “confuse” the ATS. If you find several positions you’d like to apply for at the same company, call the HR department or the department you want to apply to and ask how they would prefer you do that.
  3. Use a plain text resume. There are many articles online about how to format your Microsoft Word resume for an ATS. Rather than wrapping all of your resume decisions around the ATS question, I recommend using the Word document (.doc) as your networking resume and using a plain text version for the online applications.

If you already have heard more about ATS than you care to know, you can leave the writing to us! Your Workwrite Resume Package comes with two Microsoft Word versions for networking, a plain text version to keep the ATS happy, and a PDF version for uploading to job boards. Contact me today at Jeri@WorkwriteResumes.com to talk about how we can work together to land your next job.


Crowd photo by James Cridland

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