Large employers like Hilton, Amazon, Verizon and Liberty Mutual have used talent-screening algorithms to sift through large pools of applicants for nearly a decade. So, "you want to connect the dots no matter who – or what – is reviewing your resume," says Rachel Loock, a career and leadership coach at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. "You want to make it really easy to see how well you'd fit for a position, even when these algorithms are not being used, so don't include a lot of text to sift through that's not relevant."
Applicant tracking systems
Online job postings have made it easier to find opportunities than in the hiring processes of the past, which relied on paper and word of mouth. For employers, this has meant an influx of job candidates able to view a listing and apply online. To contend with the increasing number of candidates this has resulted in, most large employers have turned to applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Write for humans first, algorithms second
The algorithms used by applicant tracking systems scan resumes; they don't read for full ideas like humans do. But that doesn't mean you should abandon sentences and proper grammar. Remember that, if your resume makes it past the digital doorkeeper, it will still have to pass the human test.
Start by using a simple format. Avoid images, charts and multi-column formatting. A boring format is often best for applicant tracking systems. See how your resume scores through a free tool like RezScore or a paid service like VMock, which is available to some university students.
When writing, make it clear that your skills align with what the hiring manager requires. "Let the job description be your guide," says Loock. "Lift the keywords used in the job requirements, criteria, and qualifications and use them in your resume." The same is true for your cover letter. Be sure to include any experience you have with specific software or platforms named in the job description, says Loock.
For example, if the employer is looking for Microsoft Excel, write "Microsoft Excel" in your resume. Check if your hard work paid off the next time you upload your resume to a career website. Do the fields for dates of employment, employer name and job title autofill correctly? This tells you whether the applicant tracking system is scanning basic information on your resume correctly, or if updates are needed.
Get a referral
Alert the company to the existence of your candidacy – and your resume – by making a person-to-person connection. Referrals are still the best way to advance your career prospects. So don't overlook this important step.