The 3 keys to ensure your resume gets past screening filters

Young woman trying to find a job online.
Your resume's layout may lead filtering systems to discard your application.
  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are software used by firms to sift quickly through resumes.
  • Many strong candidates are shunted aside due to minor issues that lead ATS to filter them out.
  • These three steps will help you get past these bots.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

If you find yourself sending out dozens of resumes every week but you're still finding your inbox is empty, it's possible your resume is being filtered out by a type of software called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

The use of these systems is on the rise, as companies attempt to filter out unsuitable resumes.

The problem is that 43% of resumes don't pass the minimum requirements of the ATS, a study by TopResume found. They either didn't recognize the resumes or couldn't read their format, so they were discarded.

99% of companies listed under the Fortune 500 use this type of software, according to Jobscan.

While it may seem unfair, there's a reason the software is used in the business world.

"Knowing how to work with these systems is critical," job coach Stacey Perkins warns CNBC Make It.

The career coach outlined several essential steps to help ensure your resume gets through to human hands.

1. Go for the simplest format

Even if your CV is perfect, if it's in the wrong format then it won't get through an ATS.

An ATS will scan resumes from left to right. So if you go for vertical columns, it's very likely that some of the information will be lost along the way. Perkins recommends a traditional horizontal format with data spread out and simplified in bullet points.

Many forms or online services accept formats like PDF, DOC, or HTML. However, if you're unsure, it's best to send your resume as a Word document. The job coach explains that the vast majority of HTMs recognize it perfectly.

2. Always include keywords

One of the reasons applicant tracking systems were developed, is that hiring managers found many candidates didn't fit the job description.

when reviewing resumes, found that many of the candidates were not a good fit for the job in question.

ATS were partly designed as a method of automatically screening candidates so that resumes that didn't fit the requirements at a given stage were simply discarded.

This means that if you want your resume to be seen by human eyes, you'll have to work out what exactly it is that the recruiters want to see.

"Pay special attention to experience level, location, and skills companies are asking for," advises Nagaraj Nadendla, senior vice president in product development at Oracle.

He's in charge of designing these streamlining services. "If a job description specifies 10 years of experience and you only have five," he says, "you'll quickly get moved to the bottom of the pile."

It's important to study the job description and to look at 10-20 similar ones. List the keywords that are repeated in the job adverts and use these in your own resume.

Make sure you include the words and terms as they appear in the job offers. Avoid acronyms, abbreviations, or slang in another language because the software may not recognize it and therefore may not prioritize you.

Nadendla also suggests that each section should have between three and five of these keywords, but remember that it must still sound natural.

"Nobody is an expert in everything," Nadendla says. "Be earnest and precise in what you're good at."

3. Talk to a human

Where applying for jobs is concerned, society has instilled in us the idea that asking for help is cowardly, when in fact it's the smartest decision you can make.

If you fear your resume hasn't made it past the bots, send a direct email to the person you know will be in charge of hiring you or to the company's human resources department.

"You might be the best candidate out there," Perkins says, "but if you submit a resume in the wrong format, your application won't get read by anyone."

It's a good idea to attach a note to the email explaining your concerns (that you think you may be rejected by the system), your conviction that you are the ideal candidate, and to clarify that your resume was sent in the right format.

"If you don't submit your resume in the right format, it'll disappear into a black hole."

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