We’ve written several past articles about applicant tracking systems (ATSs), what they are, how they’re used by modern employers, and how to write a resume that won’t get filtered out by an ATS.
You might want to go read those articles before reading this one, but to briefly summarize, ATSs are pieces of software that scan resumes looking for certain keywords that indicate a candidate might be a good fit for a job.
ATSs filter out many (and maybe even most) of the resumes employers receive. Some sources estimate that large corporate employers receive an average of 250 resumes for each job they post and that 75% of those resumes are screened out by an ATS without ever being seen by a real live person. This may seem incredibly daunting, but it’s important to keep in mind that some of these same sources estimate that about 90% of those 250 resumes are from people who are not qualified for the job they’re applying for. In fact, this commonly high number of unqualified applicants is one of the reasons employers started using ATSs in the first place.
So, if you are qualified for the job you’re applying for, you do have a chance at getting hired, but you have to know how to get past the ATS and move on in the hiring process. Like we mentioned earlier, the main way ATSs screen resumes is by searching for keywords, and those keywords usually come from the job description posted by the employer. You can use this tool provided by Jobscan to paste in a job description and your resume to see the degree to which the keywords in your resume match the keywords in the job description.
Given the importance ATSs place on keywords, it might be tempting to cram your resume full of keywords you think might help with the ATS. Some people have even gone so far as to include keywords in their resume in a font color that matches the background of the resume, making the text invisible to casual human readers, but visible to an ATS scanning the document. We don’t recommend these kinds of tactics, though. In fact there’s a term for this kind of thing (and it’s not a good one): “Keyword spamming.”
There are at least two good reasons to avoid keyword spamming. First, getting caught “gaming the system” is generally not a good first impression to make on a prospective employer. Secondly, resumes filled with keyword spam often read very weirdly to a human reader. Imagine a hypothetical resume for a sales job and imagine it containing this sentence:
“Sales associate with eight years of sales experience making sales to multiple customers in need of sales services. My sales figures were consistently among the highest sales numbers among all sales people in the sales department.”
This part of the resume is certainly going to appeal to an ATS searching for the word “sales,” but it reads very oddly and repetitively to a human reader. As important as it is to get past the ATS, beating the bot is a moot point if your resume doesn’t then read well to a real live person with hiring authority. So, what you want to do is avoid keyword spam, while striving for keyword optimization.
Achieving keyword optimization can be difficult, and it’s just one of the many things job seekers need to do to make sure their resume can get past an ATS but also read well to a human reader. We will look further at this topic in future articles. But for now, one of the best ways to make sure your resume strikes this balance is to have your resume read by a human reader before you submit it to potential employers. You can do this on your own. Read your resume out loud to yourself, or better yet record yourself reading your resume out loud and listen back to the recording. Ask a friend, trusted colleague, or family member to read your resume for you.
ResumeSending.com also offers a professional review of your resume as part of our services, and this review can help you strike the needed balance and send out a resume that will appeal to ATS and human readers alike.