Resumes. These simple, easy-to-read documents are still the go-to way of summarizing your skills to land a new job. The sad reality, though, is that even if you have all of the skills, experience, and know-how needed for a specific position, you may get passed over before your resume is even looked over.
Yes, thanks to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), your resume has to do more than merely summarize your past experience. It needs to be optimized so that it actually gets into a hiring manager's hands in the first place.
These systems can also seriously impact the outplacement process by making it harder for participants to land a new role. The good news is that tech-focused outplacement providers, such as Careerminds, have figured out ways to help participants get past an ATS.
Before we get into that, though, let's take a brief look at what an ATS is and how it works.
Applicant Tracking Systems, Explained
In short, Applicant Tracking Systems - better known as ATS - are a way for employers to filter out resumes when they have a job opening.
Employers use these systems for obvious reasons. When a new job opens up and is posted online, some organizations may receive hundreds to thousands of applications. This makes it nearly impossible for a hiring manager to wade through them all.
Applicant Tracking Systems help narrow the search by examining resumes for keywords, thinning the herd to a reasonable degree. Afterward, the hiring manager has a far easier time looking for the ideal candidate.
So how do these systems actually work?
While there are many different Applicant Tracking Systems on the market that work in various ways, the most common ones work by examining resumes for keywords much like a search engine crawls web pages to rank them when you perform a search.
The search engine comparison is the most apt. Consider how many sites, pages, and posts there are online. Without a way to navigate and search that massive amount of data, you'd never be able to find anything.
Google, and other search engines, crawl the internet and can pull up specific pages when you search for specific terms. Based on keyword density - and various other metrics and algorithms - Google can serve up the pages that interest you and hide the ones that don't fit.
Applicant Tracking Systems do the exact same thing but instead of finding the right websites, they find the right candidates out of hundreds or thousands of applicants.
This is great and all for the employer, but it really hurts those looking for work, putting even those that do have the correct skills at a disadvantage if they do not do their due diligence to optimize their resumes.
Optimizing Resumes: How to Defeat ATS
At Careerminds, when a participant is searching for a new job, we take special care to ensure that resumes are optimized to get past Applicant Tracking Systems and into the hands of a person.
To do this, we employ technology called Perfect Match, which analyzes job descriptions and compares resumes against those descriptions to get insights into how well it aligns and what keywords need to be added to make it match even better.
Again, one of the best ways to think about this sort of thing is to apply it to how Google works since many more people have a cursory knowledge of them.
If you want to rank highly on Google for a specific search term, your web page will need to have a certain density of that term - among other, technical aspects - if you ever want it to rank on the first page.
The same exact thing happens inside ATS programs with job applications. If the job description puts a lot of emphasis on a specific skill set, the resume has to match that emphasis.
What Type of Keywords Are We Talking About?
So what keywords do you need to focus on? How are you supposed to take a resume, which is meant to be a rather short, easy-to-read document and create a keyword density that makes a difference?
These are great questions.
For us, we take the guesswork out of the equation by using technology, Perfect Match, which we discussed above. Perfect Match helps us focus in on specific terms that will make the difference between a resume being read by a human or ignored entirely.
This means that every job requires a different keyword optimization. However, there are a few that we can talk about here, and they're pretty much what you'd guess: job titles and skills.
Job titles are, obviously, very important for hiring managers. They quickly and efficiently show if you someone is qualified for a job. Chances are, if someone previously held the same job title as the one they are applying for, they will be able to perform said job at the hiring organization with little to no hand holding.
While that seems incredibly obvious, it's important to highlight job titles so that they align with what the applicant is applying for.
The same can be said for skills. Though they are extremely important, job titles need backed up by a list of skills. These skills are typically laid out in a job post. Perfect Match will find these skills and allow the applicant to tailor their resume to the wording found in that description.
This is an important distinction. Say you have customer service experience. The keyword there is: 'customer service experience.' But you're resume may say something like 'customer support specialist' or 'experience working with customers'. While these two obviously are saying the same thing in different ways, to get by ATS, you should try to say exactly the same thing as a job posting, allowing it to be tagged by the ATS.
As you can see, it can all get very technical and detail-oriented. This is where we allow technology to do the heavy lifting for us. It takes out the human error and allows our participants to easily be seen by real hiring managers.
The Key Takeaways
Applicant Tracking Systems are used by countless organizations to make it easier for hiring managers to wade through a massive amount of applications.
These systems work by examining resumes for keywords that pertain to the specific job posting. The more correct keywords found, the stronger the resume is, making it more likely to get through the system's filters and into the hands of a hiring manager.
This is great for hiring managers and awful for job seekers who may not understand how keyword optimizing works.
At Careerminds, we take all of the guesswork out of the endeavor by using our Perfect Match technology to find the right keywords and help participants get past these systems.
Want to learn more about Perfect Match? We'd love to talk: