7 steps to writing a resume that beats application tracking systems

Published by rudy Date posted on September 14, 2015

Search through millions of job board postings and classified ads? Check.

Update your resume? Check.

Fill out the online application? Check.

Hit ‘submit’ and send your resume out into cyber space? Check.

Hear back from your dream job? Nope. What happened?!

We can only go through the above sequence so many times before we totally lose our enthusiasm and self-confidence. We do everything right, but job applications keep going out with no prospects coming in. Why does this happen over and over again?

On average, 72% of all submitted resumes are never seen by a human eye. Companies have started using something called application tracking systems – computer software programs designed to do all the heavy lifting for the HR department.

These application tracking systems analyze all incoming resumes. They scan the information and award a score to each applicant based on how well they fit the job description. After ranking all the candidates, the highest scores will move on to the next stage of the hiring process. Everyone else is tossed on the trash heap.

How can you ensure you are part of the 28% that moves on? Here are seven steps to write your resume and overcome application tracking systems:

1) Find your keywords:

There are a lot of things that will make or break your application. However, one of the biggest factors is keywords.

The application tracking system will specifically look for the keywords that were shared in the job description. These absolutely must be included. Applicants with tons of experience and all the necessary qualifications will be passed by if they didn’t include keywords.

Get the job description out and find all the keywords. You’ll be looking for specific industry terms, abbreviations, acronyms, buzzwords, and jargon. Once you have a list of keywords from the job posting, go one step further.

Find five other job postings that are similar to the one you are applying for. Check for key terms in those postings too. If you find new keywords that weren’t in your original list, include those in your resume too – just to be on the safe side.

2) Start with a blank page:

Even if you already have a resume made, it might be best to write it from scratch. Basically, everything you have already done is probably wrong.

First, fight the urge to make your resume look pretty. Don’t include images, borders, shading or anything fancy. The software won’t be able to read or understand these embellishments. If the system becomes confused, it may reject your resume just to make things simpler.

Next, choose a computer-friendly font. Some fonts – Arial, Georgia, Impact, Courier, Lucinda, Tahoma, and Trebuchet – were specially designed for the web. Use one of those; they are your safest option.

Lastly, make sure you haven’t used any special characters. Traditional bullets are fine, but everything else (like arrow bullets) must go. Remember, you don’t want to run the risk of confusing the computer program.

Now that you have stripped everything down to the basics, go ahead and write a second version of your resume – a snazzy version you can give the interviewer when you meet in person.

3) Write the most important information at the top:

Make sure your resume has your contact information. In fact, put it front and center. Include your phone number and email address in addition to your mailing address.

Then, check your spam folder religiously. After receiving your resume, the application tracking system might send you an automated email with additional instructions.

4) Include only the most relevant information:

Only include your past work experience, skills, and personal qualities that are relevant to this particular job application. Get rid of anything that is unrelated to this job posting; it will just be seen as filler.

5) Start adding keywords.

Computers are smart. They can’t be fooled. Anyone who has played a game against “the computer” knows there is no way to cheat.

Don’t try to fool the application tracking system with a big block of keywords. Even if this did work, would you want it to? Image what a keyword-stuffed resume would look like when it finally does make it to a human – totally unprofessional. A prospective employer will have no way of knowing you are the perfect candidate if all you supply is a bunch of keywords.

Instead, add them to your resume naturally. A good way to do that is to take an active – not task-based – approach.

Try this writing formula: An action verb + a keyword + a fact or figure that resulted from your action

For example: Implemented marketing strategies that increased page views by 74%.

6) Add other important words.

Keywords from the job description aren’t the only words the application tracking system will be looking for.

The employer might set the program to look for specialized or technical skills. Mention computer programs you are proficient in. Any industry strengths and competencies should be listed too. Use popular industry abbreviations or acronyms.

You’ll want to make sure your work experience and educational background sections are beefed up too. The application tracking system might look for specific certifications or degrees. Mention job titles you’ve had, products you’ve worked with, and any professional organizations you’re a part of.

7) Edit and then edit again.

Double and triple check your resume before sending it off. Try reading your document backwards; this will make your mind slow down and catch errors easier.

If you are submitting your resume in an online form, copy and paste from a word processor. If you spell a keyword wrong, the tracking system won’t notice it.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you will have to wash, rinse and repeat this process with each new job position. Sure, there are some things that will be consistent from one application to another. However, each job will have a different set of keywords.

Don’t get frustrated. Follow these tips to write your resume and you will score your dream job!

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