Job seekers talk about the resume black hole. You applied for a job. You submitted your resume, either by mail, e-mail or over an Internet resource like TheLadders. And that’s the last you hear of the application, the last time you see that copy of your resume.
Just what happens to your resume after you press Send?
With very few exceptions, once you submit your resume to a company of any size and almost all recruiters, it is fed into a software program called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), and there it stays until the software decides to hand it back to a human recruiter or hiring manager looking for the right candidate.
How you write and structure your resume – the format, the font, the words, even the file format – all play a role in determining whether or not the software decides to forward your resume to a person.
We asked Lisa Vaas, a veteran database reporter used to breaking down complex data-storage operations to get to the bottom of how ATS software handles your resume and how you can manipulate your resume to improve the odds your document will be among those spit out the other end.
What is the ATS looking for? In a nutshell, the software is designed to match a resume as closely as possible to the job requisition submitted by the recruiter. But it goes much deeper than pairing keywords.
Older ATS software relied on semantic search technology that essentially counted keywords. Using a targeted keyword multiple times could be interpreted by the ATS as a positive resume for a certain position … Resume contextualization analyzes not just a keyword but its relation to elements, including relevant and related terms, the depth of the experience and how recent the experience was in a candidate’s career path.
In a sense, the ATS will “examine the entire passage as if it were a human reading your resume: closely, and with an understanding of the subject matter …” Vaas writes.
Whereas a resume written for the older versions of ATS software would simply need to use the word “Java” many times to match a job requisition for a Java developer, a resume written for the next generation of ATS software would need to present the term “Java” framed by descriptive material that demonstrates the users experience and familiarity with the subject.
For more on how to write your resume: