While you’re perfecting your resume and cover letter with the hiring manager of your dream company in mind, you may be interested to know that they may never even read your application, because a robot will have discarded it before they had a chance.
Almost all Fortune 500 companies and online job boards use software (called applicant tracking systems, or ATS) to take a first pass through the potentially thousands of applications they receive, John Sullivan — a management professor at San Francisco State University — told Money, weeding out ones that they can’t read or don’t pass a certain standard to be seen by a human.
So, how can you best the robotic eyes scanning your job application? According to Money, it’s not that difficult: Include key words that are in the job listing, as well as any related terms. “For example, if you’re applying for a job as a computer programmer, you should mention computer programmer as well as related terms like coder and developer.” Additionally, you’ll want to use acronyms and the full word for important terms, like CSS and Cascading Style Sheets, or CPA and Certified Public Accountant, because you don’t know what the software will pick up.
And simplicity is also key. There’s no need to spice up your resume with decorative fonts, colours, headers, pictures, etc.— these systems can’t read them. “Stick to standard resume formatting in a normal font like Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman — the ATS can’t read fancy fonts and will reject your resume out of confusion,” suggests the Muse. You might also consider sending in your resume in rich text format rather than as a PDF, because the software might not be able to fully comprehend the PDF.
That said, you shouldn’t just fill your resume with keywords and skills you don’t possess; a human being is making the final decision, after all. Your resume should still be readable, not stuffed to the gills with jargon-y terms and keywords.
But incorporating components of the job listing is always a good practice, in both resumes and cover letters. It shows you’ve done your research and care about the position you’re applying to specifically, and it will have a better chance of getting past a robot’s algorithm.