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Beat the Bots: How to Write an ATS-Friendly Resume

Most medium and large organisations use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to manage the thousands of job applications they receive. Chances are when you apply for a job online, your application will be “read” by ATS bots before making it to a human recruiter. If it reaches them at all.

The reality is, with each job you apply for, there many other applicants you are competing with. Unfortunately, this can mean your resume is only ever reviewed by an ATS before being deemed unsuitable. The good news is that you can learn how to write an ATS friendly resume. Check out our top tips that’ll help your resume be recognised by the system (and the recruiter) as a top match!

Ensure your relevant experience is clear

This is one of the most common mistakes. Requirements and challenges can vary greatly between jobs of the same name. For example, one organisation hiring a Business Analyst may focus on stakeholder management skills, while another may seek business case experience, or technical rather than business-focused ability. These different areas of focus will be used to shortlist or reject applicants.

That’s why it’s critical to tailor your CV to highlight your relevant experience. If you are bringing transferable skills and experience from another role or industry, it will be even more important that you clearly link what’s relevant. Remember, an ATS will not be able to read between the lines, and a recruiter will not have the time.

Use keywords

Including keywords in your resume from the job ad improves your chance of being ranked favourably by the ATS, and the recruiter who will ultimately read your resume. The keywords should relate to skills, experience, knowledge, personal attributes, and the position title. There are a range of online tools such as JobscanTargeted Resume, or SkillSyncer that can assist. Using keywords taps into the principles of mirroring; a technique in which one person mimics another – although often unconsciously – to indicate interest and build rapport. Keywords provide a common language to create trust and build a connection. It’s a simple way to help the reader quickly recognise how you match what they are looking for.

Know what to avoid

ATS’ are good at reading text, but not much else. So avoid getting too fancy with the presentation of your CV, otherwise it might rank poorly despite containing the right keywords. Specific things to avoid include tables, images, keywords in headers and footers, photos, and flat scanned PDFs. Additionally, headshots accompanying CVs are uncommon in Australia. You’ll also want to avoid using acronyms and spelling mistakes, as the ATS will not recognise them. Spelling mistakes are also the fastest way to land in the reject pile at the recruiter review stage. This may sound harsh, but spelling, punctuation and grammar are an obvious way to cull hundreds of applications to a manageable number. If you can’t be bothered taking the time to check something as important as your CV, that’s a reflection of the level of care you’ll take when at work, and recruiters will steer clear.

Talk the ATS lingo

Most ATS’ are designed to understand common section headings within resumes such as Summary, Employment History, Professional Development and Education. Try not to deviate too much from this conventional language, or the ATS might not understand your CV. Don’t be the Director of First Impressions when you can be the Receptionist.

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Go for quality not quantity

Finally, go for quality, not quantity when applying for jobs via an ATS. If you send 100 bad CVs with a 0% conversion rate (from application to interview), you’re not increasing your chance of getting a job. Instead, aim for two to three good applications each week – depending on what else you have on – and work towards achieving a 100% conversion rate.

For advice on other job-seeking topics, check out the resources we’ve put together to help you land your next role. If you are on the market for your next IT opportunity, take a look at our hot jobs to see what’s currently available. You can also register with Clicks via the Job Seekers page on our website. We also have a fantastic referral program that can earn you $500 for every great person you send our way.

 

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