Tips for Job Applicants in 2014: How to Submit Your Resume Through An Applicant Tracking System Successfully
Tips for Job Applicants in
2014: How to Submit Your
Resume Through An
Applicant Tracking System
Insider tips on how to apply to
for a job through an
employer’s applicant tracking
Recently, a friend of mine was looking for a
job. He sent me an article that he found
online. In the accompanying note, he sarcastically thanked me for making his job hunt
harder. He doesn’t usually blame me indiscriminately for things but I do work
at Newton, a technology company that develops an applicant tracking system for
employers. In the article, “5 Insider Secrets for Beating Applicant Tracking Systems”,
published last year online by the website CIO, applicant tracking systems are referred to
as the “bane of legions of job seekers”. The article claims that recruiting software used
by employers “kills 75% of candidates chances of landing and interview as soon as they
submit their resumes”. Apparently, this data was collected by Preptel, a now seemingly
defunct resume template creator. Ironic.
It’s no secret that most employers automate portions of their recruiting processes with
the help of online recruiting software. Unfortunately, many older applicant tracking
systems were designed to be generally prohibitive from an applicant’s perspective.
Frustrated job seekers have had to reformat resumes and jump through other burning
hoops just to apply to jobs. Even worse, these systems were often designed to
automatically screen out resumes based on key words. Think spam filters for hiring. It’s
no wonder that recruiting software has been an easy target for dissent. Fortunately,
there are modern vendors that are bucking the old norms by designing new systems
with all users in mind. Employers are taking notice. Lots of organizations are upgrading
from unfriendly first generation systems to more inclusive modern systems at a steady
rate. This is good news for job seekers.
Today, modern applicant tracking systems will accept your resume in just about any
form (Word, PDF, Text, HTML) and display the results to employers while preserving your
original formatting. Even better for applicants, the latest industry trend has been to
move away from having resumes scored and ranked automatically in favor of human
screening and filtering. Even with these and other recent improvements, not all
applicant tracking systems are created equal so I put together some tips to help job
hunters avoid the common land mines associated with submitting a resume to an
Keep it simple. A well-formatted resume is best.
First, hiring mangers and recruiters want to see a well-formatted, well-written, spell
checked, proofread resume. I suggest using Microsoft Word to create your resume. It’s
the safe bet. Just about any online system can accept a Word document. Divide your
resume into clear sections with standard headings like objective, education, work
history, and skills. Avoid pictures, graphs, tables and flashy fonts. The best fonts for
resumes are Arial, Georgia, and Times New Roman. It’s also best to avoid services that
add video, images and other interactive components to your resume. Finally, never
password protect your resume.
It’s not your job to know recruiting software so keep your resume formatted as elegantly
as possible. Remember, a professionally presented, easy-to-read resume speaks
volumes. This is your chance to market yourself to the employer. Be thoughtful. Be clear
and concise. Keep it simple and professional. Take the time to sit down at a real
computer where you are comfortable, read the job description and follow the employer’s
Resumes are still the gold standard.
When given the option, always submit a resume in lieu of an online profile. Newton
Software conducted an independent survey in 2012 asking over 100 hiring mangers
across a variety of industries if they prefer a resume or some form of online professional
profile , such as a LinkedIn page, when reviewing applicants. Nearly 95% of the
respondent strongly prefer receiving resumes. Many managers commented that they
found online profiles often incomplete and difficult to print for interviews. We’ve also
recently interviewed dozens of recruiting leaders during focus group sessions and
learned that many employers have stopped accepting social profile submissions because
they create more work for everyone in the hiring process.
Jeff Winter, a senior corporate recruiting consultant who recruits technical talent for
internet startups, only submits resumes to hiring managers. “Reviewing a profile is a
great start but if I am going to submit a candidate to a hiring manager for a job, I send a
resume”, said Winter. “Inevitably if I only send a social profile of someone to a manager,
they are going to ask me to go back to that candidate and ask for a resume before
they’ll set up an interview. This creates an extra step and slows everything down.
Resumes are still the currency of the interview process.”, explains Winter.
Work with the system not against it.
With ever increasing compliance mandates for employers, most organizations require
that all resumes, no matter how they are obtained, be processed through the corporate
applicant tracking system. Attempting to avoid the ATS (and the employer’s process)
through networking or by simply sending emails to executives and employees may
ultimately work against you and cause you more harm than good. If an employer has
outlined a resume submission process on their website, it’s best to follow it.
Timing and ultimately managers’ preferences play the most significant roles in hiring
decisions. While it’s easy to blame the ATS for being passed over, at the end of the day,
most recruiting decisions are made by humans. The reality is that applicant tracking
systems treat all job applicants the same way. You can still network but be aware that
there is a process in play and it’s likely there for a good reason.
Submitting your resume multiple times may work against
It’s unfortunate that more employers don’t have the time, systems or professional
decency to follow up with every applicant on every resume submission. While modern
recruiting software has made communicating with applicants easier, it’s important for
job applicants to know that if they have submitted their resume to a single job more
than once and have not heard anything, it’s best to move on. Additionally, I suggest that
applicants pick a single job to apply to when targeting a potential employer. While you
may have relevant skills for a variety of jobs, pick one job that suits you best.
Many employers perceive multiple resume submissions as a sign of desperation. I can’t
tell you how many employers have asked me if we have a feature in our software that
can block an applicant from applying to their jobs. We don’t. I question the legality of
such a feature. I encourage employers to communicate with applicants candidly. Direct,
timely, professional communication is more valuable than creating another prohibitive
feature that could potentially harm applicants if used inappropriately. Applicants need to
think twice before they apply to every job on an employer’s careers page. The requests
for a “blacklist” feature should serve as evidence that employers often view repeat
submissions as spam.