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Get past the bot: How to get your resume past the ATS system

The company you’ve always dreamt of working for has posted the perfect job opening. You want it (along with hundreds of other job applicants) – but you notice that there’s no email address to send it to. Instead, you have to apply through the company’s designated Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a system that’s  designed to weed out people who appear unqualified. The hard truth is the majority of applicants are rejected before a hiring manager or recruiter even looks at the resume. Blame it on the bot!

Here are 5 tips to help make it past the bot:

1. Focus on your skills not your career goals.

Instead of focusing on how you want to apply your skills and career goals, highlight how you can add value to the company. Try a few bullet point sentences that specifically emphasize your achievements, important experiences and major skills. This will not only appease the bot with the keywords, but it will also give the hiring manager great first-glance material that will help them understand the value you’ll bring to the team.

2. Leverage keywords. 

To figure out the best words to use that align with your experience, copy and paste the job description into a word-cloud generator like TagCrowd or Wordle – bonus if you add 3 other job descriptions similar to the job you’re applying for. This will create your keyword bible, consolidating the most frequently used terms from the files. Your task then is to integrate this list of terms into your resume. It is critically important not to go overboard with keywords, the bot may seem to like it, but once in human hands, they will see right through your strategy. Focus on your past experiences and add a few extra words (or even reiterate the same words) in a section you can call “Area of Expertise”. This will help sprinkle the keywords throughout the resume making it more appealing to everyone.

Note here: it is suggested to use not only the acronym of a title, certification or organization, but also the spelled-out form to ensure that no word goes unnoticed. For Examples; Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

3. Check your formatting. 

When it comes to the bots, using a Word document file format seems to be friendlier to the bot than the popular PDF format. You should also ensure the document is well formatted. Use font size 11 (minimum), half inch margins, left alignment, and avoid at all costs putting any important information in the header or footer. Be sure to also use clear fonts like Arial, Courier or Times New Roman. Delete all those extra touches you’ve added, like logos, pictures, symbols, and shadings, unfortunately you won’t be needing those.

4. Spell-check. Spell-check. Spell-check.

We can’t say it enough; spelling mistakes can completely take you out of the running no matter how qualified you may be. An ATS will immediately terminate you from the applicant pool because it simply does not compute what it is you are trying to say. Quadruple check your resume and if you can have a separate pair of eyes read it over before sending it through.

5. Do an online presence audit. 

This doesn’t have to do exactly with your resume, but some ATS software are capable of searching the web to assess your social media presence. That’s right, not only are they looking at those key skills you have, they are also checking out what your everyday life entails. Good news is you can control this! Check your privacy settings on all platforms making what you do not want to be seen private. It also doesn’t hurt to remove any embarrassing photos tags or any comments you may regret. Better to be prepared then to lose the chance at your dream job!

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Cristine Sousa

Cristine Sousa

Cristine Sousa holds her Master's of International Management with a major in Social Enterprises through the CEMS Global Alliance in Management Education (Ivey School of Management Western University, Nova SBE Portugal, and Erasmus University Rotterdam). She currently leads Bmeaningful's Marketing and Communications and enjoys engaging with the social impact community! When she's not focusing on Bmeaningful, Cristine is teaching dance and barre classes, volunteering her expertise as the President of New Generation Consulting (a Probono global consulting group), learning about new cultures while travelling the world, or being creative on the keys playing the piano! Feel free to connect with her.

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Lomaine
    September 18, 2018 at 12:37 pm — Reply

    Great tips ! Thanks for sharing

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