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How to Get Your Resume Read by an Employer

If it confuses the Applicant Tracking System, it may get tossed

By Joe Konop | March 24, 2014
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Joe Konop is the founder and principal of One Great Resumé, a resumé creation and career service provider. His web site is www.OneGreatResume.com. Follow him on Twitter @OneGreatResume and find him on Facebook.

Because employers are often inundated with resumés every time they post a job, they routinely turn to electronic Applicant Tracking 
Systems (ATS). An ATS efficiently scans all the resumés that come in and then presents the top candidates to a living, breathing human being.

Problem is, the ATS can be the reason you not only don’t get hired, it’s preventing your resumé from being seen by a firm’s hiring manager. Consequently, you’re not even in the running for an interview.
 
Studies have shown that up to 75 percent of qualified applicants are rejected by ATS programs because they can’t be read.

(MORE: The 5 Resume Rules You Need to Ignore)

Below are the formatting and keyword rules you must follow to make friends with your potential employer’s ATS. They’ll help ensure that your resumé doesn’t hurt your chances of getting hired.
 
Formatting

Your resumé is not the place to get creative. Save your creative juices for your next painting project.
 
An ATS is more likely to accept resumés that follow these formatting rules, simply because it’s easier for the system to find the information it is looking for:

Use a .doc or .txt format. Do not use a .pdf or any other format. ATS programs read editable text best and often mistake .pdf documents as great  big pictures.

(MORE: Keep Your Resume From Being a Career Obit)

Don’t include graphics or tables on your resumé. They throw off a system’s ability to get information from your resumé, causing the ATS to simply reject you.

Do not use resumé templates. These often use formatting tricks that are invisible to the eye, but are very real to the ATS.

List the names of your employers first, then the dates you worked there. This is a big deal for ATSs. When they see a date before the employer, they get confused and reject resumés.

Upload your resumé instead of typing it in. Even if you copy the text straight from your resumé and paste it into the computerized system, the ATS will give preference to uploaded resumé documents.

(MORE: 6 Essential Steps for Jobseekers)

Keywords

Like all search systems, ATS programs are becoming more sophisticated. So it’s important to use keywords correctly.

Include unique keywords.  Rather than using a generic keyword over and over, take a good look at the job posting you’re responding to and find the unique keywords the employer is using over and over. Then be sure your resumé has them, too.
 
For example, just using the word “Marketing” is weak. But using the keywords “Event Promotion and Marketing,” if they show up in a posting, is strong.
 
Use the keywords in a laundry list and contextually. It’s great to use your unique keywords in your skills summary, but make sure you’re including them in the body of your resumé as well. This will add strength to your keyword usage.

Learn the corporation’s culture. Every firm has its own “corporate speak” that’s used more within the business’ walls than in everyday speech. So if you know the company uses words and phrases like cadence, back schedule or strategic brief, sprinkle them in.
 
If you know someone currently working at the potential employer, ask him or her for common “corporate speak” words there. Deft usage of these catchphrases could be catnip to the company’s ATS and get you in the interviewer’s door.