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What IT Job Seekers Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Software

Nov 19 , 2015

If you sumbit your resume online, chances are, it will be screened with applicant tracking software.


As the cost of applicant tracking software comes down, more and more companies are seeing these systems as a good solution to dealing with hundreds of resumes for each open position. Currently, many smaller companies still review resumes by hand, but nearly all Fortune 500 companies use some type of applicant tracking software to handle their volume of resumes, including those for IT positions. Applicant tracking software (ATS) is used by nearly all recruiters as well because of the number of resumes they deal with.

Navigating ATS Effectively

The first thing to know about ATS systems is that they work mainly from keywords. Not using the keywords the software is looking for will get your resume rejected by the system, which means you won't be considered for the job. It's not always possible to know what keywords the system is looking for, as this can be customized for each position.

Some tips on how to decide which keywords to use are as follows:

--Use words from the job description. Chances are, the job description will use at least some of the keywords the system will be looking for, so this is a good place to start.

--Mention specific skill certifications. These are sought-after in IT positions and are likely to show up in the ATS.

--For many IT positions, non-technical skills are becoming more important. Keywords like experience, collaboration, and project leader may be good ones to include.

--Use a keyword search tool like Ninja's Search Combination Tool to identify likely keywords and include them.

Incorporating Context

Earlier ATS systems simply looked for keywords, but newer systems use context to check the relevance of the keyword use and prevent keyword stuffing. Making sure you include as much relevant information as possible, including degrees or certifications that you are currently pursuing, is one of the keys to making it through the screening process.


There are some ways to make sure your resume is read properly by ATS systems.


Avoiding Rejection by the ATS

Unfortunately, formatting errors and other details that have nothing to do with your qualifications can get you rejected from an applicant tracking system even if use all the right keywords in the right context. Here are some formatting tips to be aware of:

--Don't use PDF format. PDFs are more likely to be misread and rejected.

--Avoid tables and graphics. These can't be read by ATS systems, so including them is pointless.

--Use a complete resume. Length doesn't matter to an ATS, but having relevant information is very important, so don't leave anything out.

--Label your "work experience" by that title rather than another title. If you use "Career Achievements" or "Professional Experience" it may get passed over by the software.

--Get work experience in the right order. A recent test of ATS systems revealed that they are configured to read work experience starting with the employer's name, then the job title, and then the dates you held that title. If you put these items in a different order, you may not get credit in the system for your work experience.

Using these tips, you have a greater chance of having your resume read properly by applicant tracking systems so that you can have the best chance of being considered for the position.

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