Have you ever applied for a job online and never heard anything back?
How long did you spend perfecting your resume to include keyword rich content that made it clear you were an ideal candidate for the role?
How long did you spend choosing drop-down menu options, filling in data field, and uploading your files only to hear…absolutely nothing from the employer?
How did you feel when it became clear your resume had fallen into the abyss?
It’s time to look at why that may have happened.
Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
If you’ve ever applied for a job online, you were most likely interacting with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
First you need to know what an Applicant Tracking System is and what it’s used for.
What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)? An ATS is an automated system used mainly by mid-large sized companies and institutions to decide which applicant is suitable for human review.
Essentially, the ATS will scan your resume looking for content matches to the target job description. Based on this scan and a few other parameters set by the company, you will either make it through to a human review or be lost in the “black hole”.
One of the difficulties in navigating these systems is that they’re not uniform in the way they scan and parse. No two systems are alike and it can be difficult to ascertain exactly what that particular system is looking for and how it evaluates content.
However, what we do know with a degree of certainty is that if your resume is not formatted the correct way, with appropriate keywords and matching content, the ATS will rank you as being a poor match for the target role, even if you have the required qualifications.
If you’re using one of the ubiquitous resume templates found on many online stores and direct selling platforms, you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Many pre-made resume templates contain text boxes that cannot be read by Applicant Tracking Systems.
So, what happens when an Applicant Tracking Systems tries to read the content that’s hidden behind text boxes? It gets read as a blank page.
Oh, I know! Those sellers tell you to ‘always use your PDF’. Well, that’s no good if the employer isn’t asking for a PDF version of your resume.
It’s also no good if the Applicant Tracking System used by your target company cannot scan PDF’s.
So, what will happen? You may have guessed…your PDF will be scanned as a blank page.
Blank pages don’t collect points, if the system doesn’t think you represent a good enough match for the target role base don that scan, you’re out.
You’re Losing Out
If you’re applying for jobs online and are using resume designs and formats that are not Applicant System Tracking compliant, you are losing out on opportunities.
This is an entirely avoidable situation.
In addition to a pretty, fully formatted version of your resume, you should also have an ATS-friendly version of your resume.
That way, you can use your ATS-friendly resume for any and all online applications and use your full formatted version for sending directly to a contact via email or for printing out and taking with you in person to an interview or networking event.
My Resume Template Packages
All of my resume template packages come with an ATS-friendly resume template for this very reason. Yes, you’ll have your formatted version for use as and whenever you want, but you’ll also have another document you can use for online applications that does not torpedo your chances.
When applying via an ATS I’d suggest you use a .docx format that is optimized for an Applicant Tracking System. Every one of my Resume Templates comes with a .docx format optimized for ATS – no text boxes, clearly defined section headers, and plenty of opportunity to add your own matching content.
Make sure you follow the applications guidelines / rules when applying for roles. Give the employer your document in whatever format they ask for. Most ATS will be able to read .docx Word files, and all .txt files will be compatible. PDF is an unknown quantity, many systems cannot scan them at all.
You will need both a fully formatted resume template (direct email / in-person distribution) and an ATS-Friendly version if you want to maximize your chances of success.