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Resume Keywords: How to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

In today’s digital age, most organizations have started use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to streamline their hiring process. An ATS is a software application that can manage the entire recruitment process. Depending on what an employer is using, there can be lots of bells and whistles.


They can receive and store resumes, screen and select candidates, automate candidate messaging, create job-specific filters and a whole lot more. Since ATS’s are ultimately used to screen large numbers of resumes, the software can make it challenging for job seekers to attract the attention of employers and recruiters. 

Therefore, job seekers need to optimize their resumes for an ATS to improve their chances of getting selected. In other words, tailoring each resume to the specific job by using exact content and language from the job advertisement itself.


Using the Right Keywords

One essential aspect of optimizing your resume for ATS is using the right keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that represent specific skills, experiences and qualifications that are relevant to the job you are applying for. When a recruiter searches for resumes on an ATS, the software scans the text for relevant keywords to determine which candidates are the best match for the job. If your resume does not contain enough relevant keywords, it will be filtered out by the ATS, even if you are a strong candidate. 

But here’s the best part. You don’t have to look very far. Everything you usually need to optimize for keywords can be found in the job ad itself.

Here are some tips on how to optimize your resume for ATS:

    1. Identify relevant keywords. The first step is to identify relevant keywords for the job you are applying for. Review the job posting and make a list of skills, qualifications and experiences mentioned in the job description. These keywords are likely to be the same ones that the ATS will be looking for.

    2. Use keywords throughout your resume. Once you have identified relevant keywords, incorporate them throughout your resume. Use them in your resume’s summary, work experience, and education sections. However, avoid overusing them, as this may make your resume look spammy. It can be a fine line, but try and strike the right balance. Reading it over a few times can help.

    3. Use variations of keywords. Use variations of keywords throughout your resume. For example, if the job posting mentions “sales experience,” you could also use “sales skills” or “sales expertise.” This will increase the chances of your resume being picked up by the ATS, since the ATS is probably scouting for those words too.

    4. Customize your resume for each job. Customize your resume for each job you apply for. Review the job posting and tailor your resume to highlight the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job. This will increase your chances of getting noticed by recruiters.

    5. Use relevant headings. Use headings that match the job description and industry, such as “Work Experience,” “Education,” and “Skills.” This will make it easier for the ATS to identify the most important information in your resume.

    6. Include relevant information. Focus on relevant information that showcases your skills and qualifications. Avoid including irrelevant information, such as hobbies or personal interests.

    7. Keep it concise and on topic. Don’t lose site of the actual job and role you are applying for. Keep your resume concise and to the point. Avoid lengthy paragraphs or descriptions that may be difficult for the ATS to read.

    8. Use a clean and simple format. Use a clean and simple format for your resume. Don’t get fancy. Avoid using complex formatting, such as images or graphics, as an ATS may not be able to read them. In fact, you inadvertently risk confusing the ATS, making it mad and having your resume screened out. Okay, maybe we’re not quite there just yet, but nevertheless, use a simple, clean format with clear headings and bullet points.

    9. Use standard fonts. Use standard fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. Avoid using uncommon fonts that may not be recognized by the ATS. Employers don’t care as long as they (and their ATS!) can read it.

    10. Spell out acronyms. Avoid using acronyms that the ATS may not recognize. Spell out acronyms to ensure that your resume is fully understood.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of getting past the ATS and into the hands of human recruiters.

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