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5 tips to get through resumé tracking systems

Optimize your resumé for applicant tracking systems

Ever feel like once you click Submit on an online job application that human eyes never review your resumé? You’re probably right. About 75 percent of candidates’ resumés don’t get past the digital eye of an applicant tracking system (ATS).

In fact, many major corporations rely on electronic software systems to weed out, or score, resumés based on the content’s job relevancy. Job seekers should optimize their resumés by using these tips:


Insert targeted keywords.

Load your resumé with keywords, phrases, industry terms and other language outlined in the job description, says Randy Miller, vice president of career counseling services at Phoenix Career Services at University of Phoenix.

Miller acknowledges that doing this “seems somewhat extreme.” However, he adds, “It is a must to make certain the words used in the resumé are recognizable by the employer.” This helps the ATS pick up on the keywords as it crawls through and indexes your resumé.


Ditch stylish graphics and special characters.

Tracking systems are designed to sort through resumés for key information, not images, graphics or special characters. Miller notes that special characters can hinder the ATS from correctly parsing your information and moving your resumé forward.

“Definitely don’t use quotes,” he adds, referring to testimonials from references or sayings that some applicants think give their resumés character. Quotes won’t help you get though a tracking system.

“A resumé is a professional document with a strong focus,” Miller says. “All of your attention needs to be placed on skills, knowledge and experience.”


Emphasize specialized skills and qualifications.

Play up any technical or specific professional experience that the ATS is designed to catch for the company, Miller says. This may mean including well-known abbreviations and personal competencies, as well as summarizing your professional qualifications.

For instance, if you’re seeking a job as an IT programmer, you might include a summary with your skills and the number of years you’ve worked with particular website technologies.


Ensure that your resumé is error-free.

“Spell check. Proofread, and proofread again,” Miller emphasizes, noting that tracking systems are designed to look for exact keywords, not their variations. “There should be no mistakes, not even a period or comma out of place.”

Unlike a human recruiter, he adds, the ATS will simply pass over the misspelled words and consider them missing. To ensure spelling perfection, he adds, “Have someone else — a set of human eyes — review your resumé.”


Be honest.

Avoid using an old trick that hiring managers are wise to: white fonting. That’s when job applicants use white type to embed keywords in a resumé’s white spaces so the words are invisible to the human eye but can be detected by a tracking system. Many companies now have systems that can spot white font and scrap an offending resumé.

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