How to optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems in Canada

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Let’s face it, the resume black hole is very real. Many job seekers don’t realize that their resumes are rejected in 75 per cent of all cases, even before a recruiter sees them.

Why does this happen?

Enter applicant tracking systems (ATS). This sophisticated recruiting software can screen thousands of resumes based on an employer’s preferences and requirements within minutes. This can help recruiters sort through an enormous number of candidates for open positions.

Read on to learn all you need to know about resume optimization for ATS systems, and how you can tweak your ATS resume to ensure it gets selected by the system.

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

An applicant tracking system or ATS is mainly used by recruiters and HR personnel to collect, sort, and rank resumes based on different parameters or preferences.

Large, prominent companies are primarily dependent on ATS. A report from reveals that larger organizations receive anywhere between 50,000 to 75,000 resumes every week. Another survey reports that an average corporate job opening attracts more than 250 applications.

ATS can help these companies to sort through the job applications they receive. Reports suggest that more than 98% of Fortune 500 companies rely on the software to streamline their recruitment process.

How does an ATS screen a resume?

You can think of an ATS as an electronic gatekeeper for a company. The software scans your resume for specific keywords about the job description. It also divides your resume into different categories and looks for qualification describing words like diploma or M.Sc.

In a way, the ATS removes the least-qualified candidates and identifies the applicants who are likely to the best fit for the company.

However, there’s a catch.

While an ATS has dramatically simplified and speeded up the recruitment process, it has made job searching more difficult for candidates. If your resume isn’t up to the mark, you wouldn’t be called in for an interview, regardless of your qualifications or capabilities.

Fortunately, there are many ways to ensure that your resume passes an ATS screening.

How to make an ATS optimized resume?

You can use the following tips to ensure you’re submitting an ATS-compliant resume.

1. Selecting the suitable file format for your online resume

Contrary to popular belief, a PDF is not the most suitable file type for your resume. While a PDF version of your resume can preserve your resume format, it is often incompatible with many kinds of ATS software.

What’s the best alternative then?

Ask your recruiters. If they use PDF-friendly ATS software, you can send in your resume in that version. Otherwise, you can play it safe by saving your resume as a Word document such as .doc or .docx.

2. Avoiding common resume mistakes

ATS systems are often unable to properly process the information given in the header and footer sections of a word document. Unfortunately, more than 25 percent of candidates include essential information there, like their contact details.

Other common resume mistakes include graphics like bar or pie charts, pictures, or photographs. While they may enhance the visual appeal of your resume, ATS software can completely omit them, discarding potentially important information.

Avoiding these common mistakes can help most ATS software screen your resume easily.

3. Optimizing your resume with applicable keywords

Including career-specific or field-relevant keywords are one of the most effective ways to optimize your resume for an ATS system. Resume keyword optimization is essential as these keywords reflect your hard and soft skills and the expertise you have acquired for the target job.

An easy way to identify these keywords is to go through a few job descriptions posted by recruiters on different platforms. Incorporate the keywords that relate the most to you and include them in your resume. Try to include specific keywords like ‘business strategy’ as skills instead of filler terms like ‘proactive.’

Other tips to make your resume ATS-friendly include sticking to a basic resume template and structuring it with bullet points.

An ATS-friendly resume can ensure your profile gets picked up by your preferred corporate company, enhancing your chances of a successful business career.

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