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3 tips to get noticed

By Steven Starks | University of Phoenix Senior Career Counselor

It’s easy to apply for a job with the click of a button. What’s not so easy? Getting past applicant tracking systems (ATS), the electronic software systems that weed out resumés based on keywords.

Here are three tips to help get your resumé past the “digital eyes” of ATS to the human eyes of hiring managers or recruiters:

1. Be crafty with keywords (but not sneaky)

Customize your resumé with keywords and industry terms straight from the job description. Strong keywords from work or volunteer experience can get your resumé past the ATS filter and onto a hiring manager’s desk.

A few words of caution here: Be sure your keywords represent your actual knowledge, skills and abilities. And never resort to “white fonting” — the practice of trying to outwit digital filters by disguising keywords with a white font that’s invisible to the human eye. Many tracking systems spot white font and scrap offending resumés. Plus, it’s just a terrible idea.

2. Keep it clean

Simple, clean resumés are king when applying at companies using ATS. Unlike humans, computers won’t be impressed by images, charts, text boxes or multiple columns. In fact, resumés with those things may be discarded.

Use a Microsoft Word file, as PDF documents might be misread by ATS. Include headings for every section — such as Summary, Experience, Education — to help ATS recognize where information belongs.

3. Don’t fix what’s not broken

A traditional resumé format may seem simple or boring, but it works. Stick to it. This is especially true when it comes to dates, since ATS filters are programmed to review resumés in a format where dates come after company information.

If you’ve held multiple roles with one employer, list your overall date range at the top and the positions you held below the company name:

  • Company Name – City, State
  • Date Range
  • Most current position title
  • Prior position title

Following these guidelines may help your resumé stand out. Although not all companies use ATS, it’s smart to format your resumé assuming they do, especially when applying online.

Steven Starks is a senior career counselor at University of Phoenix, a National Certified Counselor and a featured career coach with