by Trista Winnie,  March 4, 2015 

Applicant Tracking Systems: A Tool, Not an Enemy

The average job posted online receives 250 applications, according to data from ERE. Because the interview process is time-consuming, most employers only interview a handful of candidates. With that many job seekers out there, you’re bound to be competing with people who have similar experience, qualifications, and accomplishments. In order to score an interview and land a job, you have to submit application materials–your resume and cover letter–that will get you noticed by an applicant tracking system.

Sending one version of your resume to as many job openings as you can is wasted effort. A generic resume, rather than one tailored for a specific job opening, is all but guaranteed to be lost in the shuffle. Some job seekers call applicant tracking systems “black holes”–and if you don’t target your resume, they can certainly seem that way. There are no perfect systems, but an ATS is a database that serves many purposes for employers, helping streamline the hiring process from recruiting to onboarding. Applicant tracking systems aren’t going anywhere, so to succeed in today’s job market, job seekers need to take them into account.

Targeted resume

Tailoring your resume for individual job postings might sound impossibly time-consuming, but the key is to work smarter, not harder. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel and create a new resume from scratch every time.

One method that will simplify the process of tailoring your resume for a job is to start with a career management document. This is a document where you keep track of all of your professional accomplishments, plus information related to community involvement or volunteer work. It’s a master list of your skills, credentials, and achievements, along with a bank of resume keywords related to your field, and any notes you might find helpful later. Then you will draw from this document to create individual, targeted resumes.

The order of the information on your resume can vary based on the job. If your skill set makes you a more appealing candidate for a certain position than your education, your resume skills should come first. On the other hand, if your education included the completion of a major project that relates to the role you’re interested in, you could put your education section first, and include a line about the project.

Using resume keywords

Becoming familiar with resume keywords is also important. Once you learn what they are, and can spot them in job postings, incorporating them into your resume is easy. Using the right keywords isn’t about parroting the job posting, but about seamlessly blending the right keywords into the text of your resume. If you are applying for a design job, for example, the posting probably asks for familiarity with various Adobe products. Are they listed out individually, or referred to collectively? Do they specify a certain version of the Adobe Creative Suite, or are they using Creative Cloud? Make sure your resume reflects the exact phrasing of the job posting, because that’s what the applicant tracking system will notice.

To get instant and impartial feedback about how well your resume matches up with a specific job, try Jobscan’s resume analysis tool. Just paste in the text of your resume and the text of the job listing, and Jobscan will analyze them side by side and tell you what you’ve done well, and where you can make improvements.

Additionally, don’t forget that your LinkedIn profile gives you the chance to go into more detail about your experience and accomplishments–and you can even include work samples, relevant links, and more.

Your resume is not supposed to tell your whole life story, or even include every detail of your professional background; it should be a concise, targeted document that makes it obvious that you are right person for a particular role. And before you get the opportunity to make the case to humans, chances are you’ll have to earn a high ranking in applicant tracking systems first. This is doable if you tailor your materials. Far from being a waste of time, tailoring your resume and cover letter will drastically improve your odds of success.

See also:

Resume Tips: Creating a Career Management Document

How to Use Jobscan: A Step-by-Step Guide

8 Things You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems