- August 14, 2021
- Posted by: Zander Buel
- Category: Blog
There’s a reason more than 98% of Fortune 500 companies use application tracking systems (ATS) to filter out less qualified candidates before any pre-interview screening even starts. Virtually every time you apply for a job online your application goes through an ATS. And it does more than just track applications. The system scans the content of every resume and cover letter submitted, instantly forwarding the most relevant, qualified job seekers to the hiring manager or recruiter.
The laser-focused resume scanning technology is the first layer of the applicant funnel that comes before your application is ever viewed by human eyes. This means if you aren’t using the correct keywords or you are using them the wrong way, you won’t be getting any human interaction—think recruiters and hiring managers.
So, what are ATS keywords? They are unique words or phrases that employers identify as requirements for the posted position. ATS keywords usually include words that help find qualified candidates based on skills, experience, education, and the industry or position.
Use these best practices to get through the automated job application filters and in front of hiring mangers:
1. Customize your applications.
You should edit your resume before submitting any job application. Every time. Is it time-consuming? Maybe, but it will pay off in interview hours. First, read the complete job description and pin down specific keywords the employer included. You can usually locate these gems under educational requirements, duties, responsibilities, and preferred qualifications. When tweaking your resume for each position include keywords either directly from or like those in the job description. The employer is probably using these keywords to filter candidates in the ATS.
Make sure you are putting the keywords in all the right places—that includes your summary statement, education, experience, and skills sections. Start your resume with a focus on keywords and the highest level of experience in your professional summary or career objective. Use your experience section to include role-specific keywords from the duties and responsibilities sections. Your experience section should include industry-specific and hard job skills. For good measure, include a nice mix of these keywords in your cover letter where the soft skills will also come in handy.
2. Lead with achievements.
Just slapping keywords around your resume isn’t going to get it into human hands. ATS recognizes when a key skill or experience is on your resume, but people are still drilling down the quality behind them, people who want to see how you apply these skills in the workplace. It’s obvious to a recruiter when you’re cutting corners by working a keyword just because it’s in the posting without connecting it to a professional achievement, and it isn’t a good look.
Instead of copying and pasting keywords randomly throughout your resume, keep the focus on your professional wins and achievements. Remember, you aren’t the only applicant honing in on coveted buzzwords, but your unique accomplishments can make you a standout job candidate.
So, when you’re recapping both current and past positions, your bullet points should highlight key achievements backed by numbers and metrics to show their impact on your employers and their bottom line. This approach instantly shows recruiters that you not only have a knack for reading job descriptions, but you also have the skills necessary along with the results to prove it.
3. Be deliberate.
You want to keep your options open, but also keep in mind that ATS lets recruiters see every role you’ve applied to at their organization. If you are submitting your resume to every single opening in your department of choice, a recruiter may be puzzled on whether you are interested in specific positions or their organization or straight rapid-fire applying.
If you have a versatile skillset or a company posts two comparable roles, apply away. But be deliberate about it. Don’t apply for associate positions and senior-level ones or positions in various departments. Applying across the board can make your long-term career goals fuzzy for recruiters spending hours every day eyeing new candidates and their resumes. They don’t have time for that and neither do you.
Be honest with yourself.
Only applying to positions that you’re legitimately qualified for makes it much easier to woo recruiters and ATS systems alike. Recruiters use these systems because so many candidates apply for roles that are a reach with their experience.
So, before you ever apply or update your resume with the right keywords, make sure you’re qualified for each position before clicking Apply. That doesn’t mean you’ve nailed down every job qualification or have to have a traditional background primed for it. People change professions and careers, but at the core, you need the skills to perform the job.
We can help.
At Staffing Strong, we understand the qualifications employers are looking for and which keywords factor in your job search. Our experts help you through the hunt with more clarity and fewer what if’s. Submit your resume and connect with us.
Meet the Author
Evelyn Vega is the Founder and President at Staffing Strong and the Past President of the Phoenix American Marketing Association. Since 1999, she’s made her career about supporting her clients in building meaningful careers and partnering with businesses in finding quality hires. In her free time, Evelyn sits on various advisory boards and enjoys practicing on her drum set!