Understanding Applicant Tracking Systems, By Scott Robarge

As every modern job seeker and hiring manager knows, computerized applicant tracking systems are a blessing and a curse. ATS programs automatically scan submitted resumes to collect and parse relevant information for employers, quickly reducing a large applicant pool by filtering out all but the most qualified candidates. Unfortunately for businesses and job seekers alike, the programs are fallible and often misread or omit important information. To maximize the chances that your information is seen by the hiring manager, remember these important tips for optimizing your resume.

1. Do not send a PDF file. Most ATS programs have difficulty collecting information from them.
2. Use simplified, standard terminology. In particular, use the phrase “work experience” to head your work experience section, rather than “professional experience” or any other term.
3. Eschew tables, charts, and other graphic elements. ATS programs have no reliable way to interpret such information and almost invariably ignore it or misread it.
4. Favor longer, simpler formats over condensed ones. Never lead with employment dates when detailing work experience, because these will be misunderstood by the ATS unless they are printed after the business name and job title. Feel free to put each relevant piece of information on a separate line, even if it causes your resume to take up more space on the page.

By bearing these pieces of advice in mind and carefully considering how an ATS will scan and parse the data from your resume, you can ensure that all or most of the relevant information you have to share will be properly understood by the program. This helps to prevent the all-too-common occurrence of qualified candidates being passed over for arbitrary reasons, and it increases the chance that those qualifications will lead to a job interview.

About the author: Recruitment professional Scott Robarge has provided workforce recruitment services to clients for many years, both as an employee and as the founder of his own recruitment consultancy, Another8.

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