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5 Tips for Getting Your Online Job Application Noticed

Back in the day, job hunters and their advisors spent a ridiculous amount of time determining what kind of paper, envelops and type style a job seeker should choose for their resumes. The idea being that some human, somewhere, was actually holding your resume in their hands and exclaiming, “Oh, would you look at this lovely parchment paper (with matching envelop.) This must be a good candidate for our open position” and lickety-split, that’s how your resume was passed on to someone, somewhere, who called you for an interview.

Today, few employers will even accept a paper application or resume, requiring everything to come in online. And, as many discouraged job seekers already suspect, less than 30% of all applications submitted online are ever seen by the human eye. Why so few? Most companies use a version of electronic candidate screening know as an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to determine if your application is worth their time to review.

How ATS works

So what happens to your application after you hit the final “Submit” button? It’s the ATS, not a human, which determines if your submittal will ever make it past the virtual trash can. Dozens of factors (such as years of experience, education, skill sets and industry expertise) are given specific values and your application is ranked based on these criteria. In most cases, this ATS “score” is what determines if you ever make it past the initial application stage. So how do you get your application to stand out from the digital crowd? There are a few strategies every job seeker should employ when submitting online applications. 

5 tips for optimizing your online employment application for ATS:

Keyword Research – If you want to get into the head of a recruiter, just look at the job description. Almost certainly, the important terms and industry specific keywords used to describe the job will be the same terms their internal search engine will use to “score” resumes to send on for interview consideration. Find the most commonly used, relevant words in the job description and make sure your resume and/or online application use the same terms. Taking the time to customize your resume to match the job description can give you the edge.

Be Relevant - A title created by an employer twenty years ago may no longer accurately describe your role and if this is the case, it does not have to be the title you list on your resume. Companies search for applicants using industry standard job titles so make sure your information reflects that reality. 

Be Specific - Concentrate on adding keywords linked to your individual skills, experience and the industries in which you have worked, as well as other related keywords, phrases or abbreviations. Avoid highlighting soft skills like team player, team-builder, communications facilitator, and the like. ATS doesn’t search for these kinds of terms. Focus instead on job and industry specific skill sets.

Quality Content - Avoid the temptation to “stuff” your resumes with keywords to the point that the writing is stilted or doesn’t make any sense at all. The ATS is smart enough to recognize keyword stuffing tactics. The ATS will spit out your application for having too many keywords just as ruthlessly as it will for not having enough.

Write For Humans – Do all of the strategies listed above but remember, your goal is to get your resume in front of human eyes so make sure your resume is well written and accurate. Spell-check everything and then proof read it again, with your own human eyes, to avoid those silly errors that your computer can’t “read”.

Getting a foot in the door is a lot harder than it used to be. Knowing how the system works is the first step. You can improve your chances of getting your resume into the right hands using these tips.