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The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

April 6, 2016 / Stephanie Anderson

Simple methods for surviving the applicant tracking system

shutterstock_358256684It can feel cumbersome and repetitive, driving even the most patient job hunter up the wall. The applicant tracking system (ATS)  is a commonplace tool used by employers to feature accept applications and manage the recruiting process.

Last week we wrote about how employers can optimize ATS processes. Today we focus on the applicants themselves. The use of ATS is only going to grow, so it’s in your best interest to align your job hunt appropriately.

A visit to any job-seeker discussion board will offer loads of theories on how to beat the ATS robots. You’ll probably find your fair share of rants and expletives, too. If you’re getting to an ATS boiling point, it’s important to keep your cool and power forward. Remember, you can’t get the job you don’t apply for.

While there are numerous strategies to give yourself an edge against an ATS, here are five of the simplest tried-and-true methods to help you beat the bot and get your resume in front of human eyes.

1. Mimic the job description
How do you know what keywords the ATS is flagging? You don’t. But you can bet that the terms used in the job description will probably be included in the must-have list. Use them verbatim in your resume to ensure yours gets pulled. For more ideas, visit the company’s website and social media pages.

2. Use standard headings
ATS parses your information into buckets by searching your resume’s headers. That means it’s looking for standard phrasing and organization of your information. Resist the temptation to rename your education or work experience section to something more flowery, otherwise it might get skipped over completely.

3. Limit formatting
Fancy formatting can cause ATS havoc. While pretty on the eyes, complex fonts, graphics or photos don’t translate well to these software systems. It’s best to keep it simple, and if you want to convey your creative side, do so by including a link to your portfolio site for a recruiter to see at a later date.

4. Write out acronyms
Acronyms are all around us. Some companies have acronyms for names, and academic acronyms are everywhere, too. Technology acronyms can often feel like a different language. It’s hard to know what the ATS is looking for, so to decrease the chance of error, write out any phrase and then put the acronym in parenthesis.

5. Don’t sweat the length
While you shouldn’t produce a short novel, the length of your resume is not much of a concern to an ATS. In fact, a slightly longer resume offers more space to express your accomplishments and include those golden keywords. So if you’re tipping the two-page mark, don’t fret. You’re OK.

What other advice have you uncovered for beating the ATS? What have been your positive or negative experiences with this widely used approach for filtering applicants?