Can Your Resume Get Past Recruiting Software?

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You’ve heard it before, but a well-organized, well-formatted resume is always a positive and it’s a great start.

But whether you’re applying for an assistant or senior management position, your resume still has to make it past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software. These robots read your resume and are able to quickly eliminate 75% of the applicants.

An ATS is a type of recruiting software used to find, screen, and rank candidates and many municipal employers now rely on this technology to eliminate the need to read through the hundreds of applications they receive for a job posting.

When you fill out an online application and submit your resume, an ATS uses your information to create a candidate profile. If your resume can’t be fully read by the ATS your profile will be incomplete. And if your profile doesn’t reflect that you’re a good match for the job when a hiring manager searches for you, you won’t show up as a viable candidate.

Anything from the file format you choose to whether or not you use tables or images can impact how well an ATS reads your resume. One of the most important considerations though, is one that many people overlook: Is your resume template compatible with ATS? (i.e. is it created in pdf not Word?). If you’re not sure you might be wasting your time.

Job seekers who understand ATS and how to strategically add keywords to their resume have a better chance of keeping themselves in play and landing an interview.

So How Much Do You Know About Applicant Tracking Systems?[1]

How They Work

Applicant tracking systems process resumes submitted by applicants and sometimes even use social media to actively recruit prospective employees.  When you submit your resume through an ATS, it stores your resume and an entry in the database. The recruiters then search for key words for the particular job opening.

If your resume contains the keywords the employer wants, then the ATS will rank you higher in the search results. The keyword searches by recruiters include the skills and experiences specific to the particular job opening.

The employer can even command the ATS to search the company’s entire database of resumes to look for candidates with certain qualifications. This means that even if you submitted your resume a long time ago and never got a response, the company may have kept it on file in its database, and the ATS might identify you as a good candidate for a different position long after you originally submitted your resume.

When recruiters search for keywords in applicant tracking systems they are usually looking for certain concrete skills in your resume. For instance, if you are applying for a job as the manager of a hotel restaurant, a recruiter may search for phrases such as “restaurant manager” and “hotel restaurant” or for the word “hospitality.” Recruiters will probably not look for words and phrases such as “outgoing” and “team player”, so don’t include fluff words.

What about social media?

Networking has always been an important part of the job seeking process, and now social media plays an increasingly important role. The prevailing sentiment is that having a social media presence helps more than it hurts when it comes to looking for a job, and most job seekers already understand the importance of presenting a professional image on social media.

Of course, when it comes to attracting recruiters, it is more than just a matter of not posting pictures of your drunken exploits on Facebook. There is social recruiting software that crawls the web for specific keywords, and the best way to get noticed is to have a social media profile that includes basic details about your education, work experience, and skills.  If you have a profile on muniJOBS it may also appear in an employer’s search so be sure it’s professional too.

Some ATS actually show your profile directly within your application, so it is readily available to recruiters and HR. Letting the ATS find your social profile can be beneficial if you’ve got great profiles set up on various platforms.

Search Engine Optimization

The process by which job candidates tailor their resumes to get them noticed by ATS is similar to the process of search engine optimization, or SEO. This is when companies tailor their web content to make search engines notice them and rank them high on the list of search results. Matching keywords is an important part of how search engine optimization works; if your website contains the words the user typed into the search engine, then it will appear in the search results.

The best way to get an ATS to notice your resume is to anticipate which keywords the ATS and recruiters will be trying to find and these are found in the job posting.

So, are Applicant Tracking Systems a Friend or Foe?

Applicant tracking systems make the recruitment process much more streamlined for recruiters, shortening the time it takes before a hiring manager contacts applicants who seem like good candidates for the job. For most jobs, it is not possible for the hiring process to be entirely automated however.

See if your resume stands up against an ATS with this free, confidential review tool from Top Resume and check out this other great article by Sue Shellenbarger – Make Your Job Application Robot-Proof.

If you think your best qualities only show once you meet your potential employers face to face you can boost your chances if you can rank highly in the ATS.  Joining muniJOBS to browse municipal jobs, using our text-based resume builder rather than a pdf, and optimizing your resume with keywords from the job posting before you apply, are some of the best ways I know to get interviews and municipal jobs!

All the Best in Your Job Search Endeavours!

By: Susan Shannon, Founder & Principal, & muniJOBS –

[1] 8 Things You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems, by James Hu, September 2017,


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