It’s often frustrating for job seekers when employers refuse a
paper or e-mailed resume and direct them to apply
online. Although it may seem unnecessary to the job seeker,
employers have valid reasons for directing candidates to the
Since employers have been inundated with thousands of resumes and
with the advance of technology, having filing cabinets full of
resumes no longer makes sense. Therefore, employers have
adopted what’s called applicant tracking systems, which allow
recruiters to quickly and effectively store, organize, screen,
sort, track and reply to all the resumes they receive. An
applicant tracking system streamlines the hiring process so the
employer can better track applicants and maintain a database of
As a job seeker, an applicant tracking system will typically allow
your resume to be searched for a longer period of time, since most
employers don’t purge resumes from the system until about three
months to two years after the resume is submitted. This allows
your resume to be searched for upcoming openings that may match
your qualifications, even after the original position you applied
for may be filled. Also, some applicant tracking systems will
pull resumes from outside sources such as Monster or CareerBuilder,
which extends your chance of finding a job, even if a position is
So, how does the process work? When an employer is interested
in filling a position, the recruiter will enter specific,
job-related words and phrases into the system. The system
scans all of the resumes for these keywords and returns resumes
that fit the words.
Since the selection of your resume is now up to a computer, it’s
important to follow a few guidelines to increase your chances of
your resume being selected.
- Include relevant keywords in your resume to make it more
- What knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) are required for
the role that you would like to achieve? Include keywords about
each of those KSAs in your resume.
- Include abbreviated forms of keywords.
- If one of your keywords has a popular abbreviation, include the
abbreviated version as well. For example if you work in public
relations, include the abbreviation PR.
- Customize your resume for each position and company.
- The recruiter will search the database using keywords from the
job description that you applied for, so make sure your resume
matches the requirements that are listed in the job
- Keep formatting to a minimum. Applicant tracking
systems cannot always read formatting such as bold, italics and
underline, so parts of your resume may show up as
unreadable. WORKFORCE CENTRAL FLORIDA recommends having two
versions of your resume, a formatted version to provide to
recruiters in person such as at a job far or on an interview and a
text only version to submit to online databases.
If you e-mail your resume to an employer, the recruiter may enter
your e-mailed version into an applicant tracking
system. Therefore, it’s a good idea to e-mail the employer
both the formatted and text versions of your resume. Explain
in your cover letter the difference between the two files. The
employer will appreciate your attention to detail.
- Keep job titles generic. If you have a specific job title that
is not popular in your field, consider using a generic version of
that title that is more likely to be searched. For example, if
your title is client relations, try using sales manager
instead. When revising your titles, consider how you would
search an online job bank for the type of role you are looking
for. Odds are good that the recruiter is searching for
candidates with this title.
Although the automated online application process may seem like
another obstacle to getting hired, don’t let the system beat
you. With a few simple resume tweaks, you can use an applicant
tracking system to your advantage.