Almost all major companies use an ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, in their hiring process these days. Recruiters do, too! So, learning how keywords can unlock the ATS and make it work for you can be crucial to landing your dream job.
An ATS is simply a software that pulls keywords out of a resume and evaluates the match between the desired characteristics for an open position and that resume. It makes searching thousands of resumes very fast and easy for hiring influencers. Despite having many different ATS programs on the market, they all do the same thing.
Here’s how you can increase your chances of being a great match for the job you want:
- ALL the skills. List all the skills you want to use on your resume. Don’t list your expertise in Java if you’d rather work in Ruby or Python.
- Duplicate. If you list a keyword in your skills section, then again in your job history, then again in your summary, the ATS will see that keyword as more important than others which are used just once.
- Relevance. ATS technology has the ability to determine how relevant a term is to the position by analyzing keywords in relation to the words around them. If the keyword “Java” appears in a sentence about your first job in a coffee shop, it’s not going to rate as highly relevant to a software engineer position. If “Java” is surrounded by technical keywords (Ruby, Python, system programming, dev programming), it will rate as highly relevant.
- Required vs. desired. Check the job posting. Make sure you customize your resume to match all the requirements and many of the desired traits. Stay honest, but lean in to marketing yourself as the most perfect candidate for this job. Also consider your own preferences. Make sure you emphasize keywords for tasks you want to do, and remove or lower emphasis on what you have no desire to do.
- Pursuit is relevant to requirements. If you are pursuing the required degree, say so. If you are studying for the certification test, say so. Don’t leave this information out! Having those keywords on your resume can be the difference between your resume being a “maybe” and being tossed on the “NO” pile!