What Is An ATS-Friendly Resume?

Posted by Paul Beard on 2/24/21 8:45 AM
Paul Beard
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Experienced recruiters are expert relationship builders and career coaches. They have a skillset that allows them to connect their clients with top candidates that the client would never have been able to find alone. But how do recruiters do it? Well, every recruiter has their own special talents, but many of the most successful/efficient recruiters use an ATS to stay organized and speed their searches. Believe it or not, there is such a thing called an "ATS-friendly resume," and we'd love to share some tips on how to achieve this with yours.

What is an ATS?

Most recruiters use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to keep track of the resume's they receive. An ATS is similar to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool in that it is a database of records. Salesforce, for example, is a very well known CRM. Perhaps simply hearing a popular brand name like Salesforce helps clarify.

An ATS is a tool that is specifically designed for use in the recruiting industry, as it has specific features that help:

  • Ingest/scan the information found on resumes submitted.
  • Retrieve qualified candidate records for recruiters as they search for qualified candidates.

After reading that, did you get the sense that once you submit your .docx or .pdf resume, it get's scanned, parsed, and indexed into a database so that the recruiter can use keywords to search for it again later?

You must enjoy sci-fi, and I respect that. Also; you're absolutely right.

Tailor your resume to the job you want using keywords.

Here is a scene that replays every day:

The HR Director at ABC Company has an open role that needs to be filled. This HR Director picks up the phone, dials a recruiter they've built a relationship with over the years, and describes the role, promising to email the job description over as soon as they hang up the phone. 

The recruiter opens their ATS, and starts a search for candidates in their database using the job title as the first keyword query. 

Ask yourself: is that keyword query anywhere on your resume? 

Ask yourself: did the recruiter type "Passionate Growth Champion" into their search bar?

If you want to secure a role as a Digital Marketing Director, or as a Senior Product Development Engineer, your resume is more likely to populate for the recruiter trying to find YOU if that specific text has been parsed from your resume by the ATS. So do customize the version of your resume that you give to your recruiter, specifically for the role(s) that you would like to be considered for. Explicitly. With words on that resume that both humans and computers can file away in their memories for later recall. 😃 🤖

By the way, we just assumed you were a passionate growth champion, that goes without saying. If you leave that off your resume, it's not like we fill in the blank with "Ho-hum worker. Adequate."

Should I include my address in my resume?

In most resume formats, it is standard to include your address. This is because some clients have expressed that they are only interested in interviewing local candidates. While your recruiter does not need the street address of your home, it is helpful to include your city and state. As recruiters search their ATS for candidates to reach out to, and potentially submit to their clients, they may include geographic filters in their ATS search. If you are truly the best candidate for the role, including this information on your resume will increase the chances that you show up as the first result in the recruiters search.

Keep in mind:

  • When geographic location isn't an issue for clients, there's no harm in it being there.
  • If you are an excellent non-local candidate for a position and the client just needs to consider what a remote employee like you could bring to the company, work closely with your recruiter. Your recruiter has a solid relationship with the client, and can help navigate those ideas without wasting anyones time.

What's the best way to get a recruiters attention?

If you would really love the help of a recruiter, but are worried about getting lost in the shuffle, here are some things to consider:

Browse a recruiter's job board. These are roles that a recruiters clients have asked for help filling. If you find a job that you're interested in, create a version of your resume that is tailored to that role, and apply to the job through the recruiters job board post.

Better understand the types of roles your recruiter specializes in recruiting for, by again browsing the recruiters job board. If there isn't a role that jumps out at you, that at least gives you an idea of how to tailor your resume for similar roles that the recruiter will likely secure searches for in the near future. Optimize your resume for search as described above, and submit your resume to the recruiting firm.

After browsing the job board, you might find that your aspirations aren't a match for the types of roles that particular recruiter specializes in, and realistically, there's no way you could tailor your resume for anything this recruiter might have in the future. That's okay. If this is the case, jump back online and look for a recruiter that is more in line with your career goals.

Are you ready to browse a job board and create an ATS-friendly resume? We'd love for you to check out our job listings first!

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Credit where credit is due:

This article was inspired after we heard Kenneth L. Johnson, Stacey Lewis, and Gabrielle Gambrell discuss ATS-friendly resumes among other topics during a larger round-table discussion on beating racial discrimination during the hiring process. Kennith, Stacey, and Gabrielle do outstanding work in the recruiting and job coaching field. Thanks to all for the discussion.


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