Gone are the days of hand delivering your cover letter and resume in person. Say hello to electronic submissions and applicant tracking systems. Today, most resumes and cover letters are submitted electronically. It is important to understand how this will change the way you write your resume and cover letter. A key tool you should be aware of when crafting your professional portfolio is an applicant tracking system (ATS).

Let’s delve into what exactly this term means and its impact to the success of your job hunt.

What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is used by companies to help streamline the job recruitment process. ATS organizes candidates according to experience, qualifications, and specific keywords included in your document. It is an automated process which makes it faster and more efficient in weeding out the competition to find the most qualified candidate.

Before your cover letter and resume make it in front of a person, many companies and businesses use an ATS to help save time and money. No more manually sorting through hundreds, or even thousands, of resumes.

While this is a helpful tool, it doesn’t exist without its flaws. Since the ATS is searching for specific information, it may bypass a perfectly qualified individual due to things such as: missing keywords, or improper formatting. Therefore, it’s vital you understand the ways in which you can get past the (un)careful eye of an ATS.

In an interview conducted by Founder and CEO of Ladders, Inc., Marc Cenedella, spoke with iCIMS’ CEO, Steve Lucas. iCIMS currently holds second-place amongst all the ATS’ for handling jobs at the 100K+ level. In their discussion, when asked how iCIMS analyzes a resume for an employer, Lucas had this to say:

“So if I’m looking for someone with a skillset like Java or IT management, I can discover those words. We help people find those that are the best match based on their search. But just remember that search is also what we can search on. I can search for, like I said, content in a video from an application. I can assure you there are three or four people that I might interview for video applications who are generally very different from those who I discovered through a resume.”

Therefore, it is important to not only carefully craft your resume, but also incorporate something into your application that helps you stand out. This can include a link to an online portfolio, or inclusion of something like a video submission. 

Tips to help conquer an ATS…

While we suggest considering our services to help you navigate the rocky waters of applicant tracking systems, there are a few rules of thumb to help get you started.

  • Write your cover letter and resume to meet the specifications of each job posting you apply for. This isn’t the time for shortcuts.
  • Use keywords that are highlighted within the job posting. An ATS is looking for exact matches, so take the time to ensure you are using the right ones.
  • Use a traditional font, and format your resume and cover letter appropriately.
  • Use clear headings and outline your skills using cues from the job posting.
  • Save and submit your document in the format that is asked of you within the job posting.
  • Don’t be fancy. While this will vary depending on the type of job you are applying for, it’s (generally) best to keep your resume and cover letter traditional. Inclusion of images, use of uncommon fonts, or elaborate colour schemes don’t necessarily work in your favour when it comes to beating an ATS. Simplicity is key.

Hunting for a job can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! Our team of professional writers are well versed in what these systems are looking for and will help you put your best foot forward. So, don’t try to figure out where to start on your own. Give us a call, and let’s get you on your way to success.