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What happens to your résumé when you submit it online? by Donna Tucker, CareerPRO Resume Center

Are you afraid it goes into the Black Hole?

Beware the Applicant Tracking Software systems! Some ATS screen out many well-qualified candidates since most candidates submit résumés that are not optimized for ATS. Let's be sure your résumé is written and formatted to pass ATS criteria.

First of all, there are about 200 different ATS systems today. Some more sophisticated than others. Unless you know what system you are working with and its capabilities, you must write to the common denominator.

Most ATS use parsing software to place words and information in fields; many ATS use section headers to categorize information; and many ATS match résumé keywords or phrases from users entering them in, analyzing announcements, and/or mathematically evaluating many announcements and/or from the same career field

Now, let's make YOUR résumé pass.

1. Use standard header names for each section.

2. Contact Information: Do not use a formal header. Include Name, City, State, ZIP, Phone Number, Email Address and LinkedIn address at the top of the résumé. Second page should be a formal header with name and contact information

3. Summary or Profile: Include the title of the job from the announcement with keywords. This can include a skill list with keywords. No tables!

4. Experience: Use Reverse Chronological format. Consider entering “Company” after each company name. Enter dates on right, including month and year. Enter in each company’s city and state.

Write duties and accomplishments with keywords and phrases from the announcement. Repeat keywords and phrases from position to position to score higher and show depth of experience. Spell out acronyms at least the first time and put the acronym in parenthesis after full words.

5. Education: Use “Education” heading. Type full name and abbreviation for the degree, major, school name, and location. Optional information may include degree date, GPA, honors, and course work.

6. Training: Use “Training” heading. Type in names for all related training courses.

7. Certifications: Use “Certification” heading. Type in all certification information (but never license numbers!).

This is all basic information; there can be more items to consider. No one rule fits all for all ATS.

Modify your résumé for each job to enhance your chances.

Ensure that the résumé is readable by humans and computers—you never know when a résumé will be read by ATS even when you apply in person. Final notes:

  • Most ATS systems can read Word files without tables, graphs, and boxes.

  • Avoid key information in headers or footers.

  • Avoid PDF files (they are not read correctly).

  • You can have one format that is both ATS and human readable.

  • You want a nicely formatted résumé uploaded since recruiters / managers may download the original.

Donna Tucker

CareerPRO Resume Center


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