Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), or electronic application portals, are widely used to help organizations filter a slew of incoming candidates while ranking them according to a set of required skills. Unfortunately, ATS systems can make it challenging for applicants to even get past a “fire wall” of standards without an ATS-Friendly or electronic “E-Resume.” But there is good news. Despite what you may hear, while “old school” ATS systems that only parse information from E-Resumes still exist, they aren’t as common contemporary versions that also allow for uploading a PDF version. Additionally, you may already be using an E-Resume to complete your ATS, but haven’t called it by its industry name. So rest easy and don’t be deterred by scary rumors that you’re application has been auto-rejected.
E-Resume or PDF? So here’s the skinny. After conducting some intensive interviews with recruiters throughout the country, including those representing Fortune 500 companies, I learned the following: An applicant should focus resume crafting efforts on PDF, or “pretty version” of your resume that presents your talent and brand in the best light. But here’s the disclaimer. There are many different ATS systems out there and some sill only parse (extract) content from your resume. These systems will require an E-Resume. Still, if you’re applying to a large organization – well known in your area or country- they have a big enough budget to work directly with the systems provider to purchase and tweak a cutting-edge ATS in a way that won’t rule out “qualified” candidates. Why would they want to anyway?
How to Apply? The challenge is figuring out which ATS systems organizations use in order to submit the best version of your resume. But this presents an almost impossible time-consuming challenge for applicants, and I doubt many Human Resources departments are willing to field those calls all day long. So to be safe, I’d recommend creating and using both versions, like I do with my clients in our career coaching sessions. We start by unearthing “content:” key qualifications, strengths, talents, skills, and answer questions like, “Why you’re the best candidate?” etc. From there we move to order and polish. Remember, the “pre-pretty” content is your E-Resume usable for all Applicant Tracking Systems. So applying with your key word rich, MS Word version using organizational language is a smart strategy.
How to Get Noticed? In addition to focusing on authentic, solid and keyword rich content ATS-Friendly Resume, you want to develop an activate a plan for going straight through and around the Applicant Tracking System. Every company representative that I spoke with stated how much they enjoy building relationships with potential candidates and encouraged strong use of LinkedIn, Networking and Informational Interviewing, in doing do so. In coaching sessions, we spend time working on this as an important part of a career elevation strategy so please don’t dismiss it. Sure, this isn’t easy for everyone, but I’m here to support you. So whether you are in transition, seeking a promotion or want to cultivate career happiness, a solid career plan should involve all of the above and more.