How to Beat Resume Bots

Applicant tracking systems (ATS), or resume bots as they are often called, are computerized systems that review resumes before employers.

ATS are reserved for larger companies that receive a big number of applicants, but other businesses are beginning to utilize this technology, as well, recognizing its unique benefits. Basically, an ATS will determine whether a resume is worth consideration by identifying certain keywords, finding relevant context and scoring each resume based on how qualified an applicant appears. While this system is great for recruiters who would otherwise spend hours pouring over resumes, it can be troublesome for applicants. However, there are ways to combat this system. You can discover how to beat resume bots and increase your chances of getting hired.

What are resume bots?

Resume bots are programmed systems that help process resumes, and may also recruit new employees via social media. These bots are designed to save employers time, and to eliminate some of the guesswork involved in selecting new employees. Because resume bots, or ATS, may overlook potentially great applicants, in favor of applicants with resumes that meet arbitrary requirements, many claim that ATSs are unfair selection methods. This is mainly attributed to the fact that human beings are excluded from the selection process. In fact, an estimated 75 percent of applications are rejected by ATS, prompting resume resources to emerge such as “ATS-friendly resume templates.” Nevertheless, countless employers and recruiters use an ATS to not only sort through resumes, but also to organize lists of potential employees and highlight certain information about them.

ATS operate simply, relying on the number of keywords present in resumes. These keywords correspond to certain qualifications, skills or other aspects of resumes companies may choose. Typically, resumes are reviewed after a position has opened. Consequently, applicants may benefit from ATS by being entered in the selection process for multiple job openings. ATSs, then, rank applicants based on the number of keywords in their resumes and distribute high-ranked resumes to recruiters and employers for further review. Once they have thoroughly reviewed the resumes, they will either contact applicants to schedule an interview or immediately hire them, depending on their application process.

You may have been considered by a potential employer via an ATS, and never known. Many ATSs store resumes they deem decent or viable for future positions. This means that an ATS may send your resume to recruiters or employers long after you have applied to the company. ATSs may also scan social media sites, such as LinkedIn, to find suitable employees. Since these sites tend to contain details about your education and work experience, it is not uncommon for ATSs to recommend potential employees in this manner.

Ways You Can Beat the System

Although ATSs seem to be difficult to surpass, there are plenty of ways you can make your resume likelier to reach human hands. Still, beating resume bots can be challenging, and requires a different approach to job hunting than you may be accustomed to. A list of methods you can employ to beat the system includes:

  • Changing the format of your resume: Even if you include great content in your resume, ATS may reject your resume, automatically. For example, PDFs and some word documents cannot be opened by some systems, so you are encouraged to save your resume as a text file (.TXT extension). Also, specialty fonts may confuse the system, so you should use basic fonts, like Times New Roman or Arial to ensure your resume can be reviewed.
  • Limiting visual effects or design elements: While some ATSs may approve the use of some pictures and graphics, most can struggle reading a resume file with excessive images or design features. Keep this in mind when you are constructing your resume.
  • Editing your resume: Of course, editing is always suggested prior to submitting important documents, but ATSs may immediately deny resumes with spelling errors or other grammar mistakes. The most common tool you can use to edit your resume is spellcheck.
  • Using section headers: Headers are attractive to ATSs, because they make it easier for the system to understand. However, you should use caution when creating your headers, and restrict yourself to basic headings, such as “Education” and “Experience.”
  • Paying attention to keywords: ALS love keywords, so you should include keywords you believe employers and recruiters would like to see. But, you should never overuse keywords. A max of four keywords for every 100 words is standard.
  • Not worrying about length: Contrary to the popular belief that resumes must be a single page, ATSs do not judge based on length. Still, you should not write a novel. About one to three pages is usually sufficient for resumes, but those pages should not be word-heavy.

How to Find the Right Keywords

Keywords are essential for resumes. In short, keywords are words that demonstrate your abilities that pertain to the job. For example, if you are applying for a position in customer service, the words “customer service,” “computer skills” and “communication skills” may be appropriate keywords. Resume bots search for keywords in resumes to assess their quality, so you should be sure to use keywords in your resume in order to surpass applicant tracking systems. To find the right keywords to use in your resume, you should follow these simple steps:

  1. Read the job posting. Generally, job postings will have a short list of skills or qualifications they are looking for in candidates. This list can prove useful when determining your keywords. If no list is provided, you should evaluate what the requirements may be for the position. This can be done by searching for other job listings within sections, like recommended qualifications or responsibilities.
  2. Find general keywords. Other keywords you may want to include may not directly relate to your field or the position to which you are applying. For instance, action verbs and some skills are universal. Skills such as leadership, adaptability and conflict resolution apply to most positions, and look great on resumes. Though these words are good, they should not replace job-specific keywords.
  3. Rely on your hard skills. Hard skills are quantifiable, a characteristic that ATSs appreciate. While you should include some soft skills (i.e., interpersonal skills), hard skills are industry-specific and can help ATS determine your worth as an employee. Therefore, you should include names of software and tools you are familiar with, and any technical skills or credentials you may have that are related to the job.

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