It can be hard out there for a resume. Because when yours enters the digital race to reach human hands, it must first beat the bots—which can prove tricky for even the most qualified of candidates if they're not wise to the filtering ways of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Used by 40 per cent of employers to source and screen potential candidates, an ATS is like an inbox gatekeeper that works by scanning resumes for contextual keywords and phrases and mathematically scoring them for relevance. And only about 25% of resumes will score high enough to get through for human review.
Applicant Tracking Systems, however, can also be error-prone. In fact, 62 per cent of organizations that use them admit “some qualified candidates are likely being automatically filtered out of the vetting process by mistake," which makes it even more critical for job seekers to tailor their resume to each position they apply to.
So, take these tips into consideration to SEO your resume like a pro to beat the bots and impress the hiring manger:
What are they?
Keywords are critical to your candidacy; because without them in your resume, the ATS won't find your skills or experience.
Resume keywords are the skills and qualifications used in the original job description that need to be mirrored in your resume.
However, simply using any form of these keywords will not win the robot war. They must be formatted to echo the original job description exactly— to an ATS, there’s a difference between “Microsoft Word,” “MS Word” and “Word.” When it comes to your job description, a “marketing coordinator” will find his or her way into an interview room before a “branding ninja” will even be noticed by the resume robots.
Take away: Tailor your resume to each job you apply to by identifying the keywords from the job description and mirroring them on your resume.
How and where to use keywords
Repetition is required, and keywords used early in your resume are valued higher than those placed lower in the document. Look for areas within your resume for optimization in sections like job responsibilities, accomplishments, education and summary of qualifications. They should be under EACH project that relates to those keywords, and not only in the summary section.
Take away: List keywords multiple times within your resume, but avoid "stuffing" by only using the words where they make sense and are applicable to your experience.
Keyword habits to avoid
Copy and Pasting
You know how you're looking at job descriptions all day? Well, so are recruiters, and they'll be able to tell if you've copied and pasted the job description into your resume. You want to make sure the information is in your own words and that the keywords are incorporated into detailed sentences explaining how they related to your responsibilities OR project.
Using only acronyms
Robots can't connect acronyms to their long form words. So if the job description calls for knowledge of American Standard Code for Information Interchange, highlight this by using the long form and including the abbreviation.
"X years' experience working with American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)."
Your resume won't be found without keywords, but it will also be dismissed if you've stuffed it with too many or put them in areas where they don't belong.
Include full contact details with postal code
Recruiters use something called a radial search by postal code to find experienced candidates who live closest to the job site first- before drilling down into secondary search methods. This means that if your postal code is missing from your resume, your skills and experience won't turn up in the critical initial search. Ensure your email, phone number and full contact details are listed on each page of your resume.
Remove any headers or footers
Applicant Tracking Systems can't read what's written within headers or footers, so if you've included your contact details within either, your resume won't be found.
Keep a simple format
Similar to headers and footers, an ATS will misread tables, charts and graphs, so the valuable information you've included within them won't be understood either.
Remember, you’re writing your resume for both people and an ATS, and the goal is to optimize the content to rank with the robots first, before impressing under under human scrutiny.