Eighty percent of all submitted résumés (and 100 percent of résumés sent to Fortune 1000 companies) get scanned by software commonly known as an applicant-tracking system (ATS), and such scanned résumés are stored on a server in a digitized format. Humans are seeing your résumé only if it resurfaces based on a query. That’s why most job applicants don’t receive responses from companies after submitting résumés. Therefore, in order to increase your résumé’s chances of being at least viewed by a human–even if it’s not thereafter considered suitable–you have to understand the process and beat them at their own game.
Human resources departments that use ATSs base their queries on keywords they lift from job descriptions or receive verbally from hiring managers. Based on that information, the ATS extracts appropriate résumés from the ones on file. The human resources employee’s query may result in just a few résumés or a vast number. The ATS also scores those résumés and sorts and prioritizes them. Then the employee reviews, say, 20 and submits 5 to be interviewed.
Your job is to ensure that you embed sufficient keywords in your résumé. So, what’s the best way to find those magical keywords? It’s a simple, albeit somewhat tedious, exercise.
1. Search the Internet via job boards such as Monster and The Ladders.com to find 5 to 20 job descriptions of jobs advertised in the field you’re interested in.
2. Cut and paste all of the descriptions one after another into a new Word document.
3. Review the document, resetting in boldface what you consider the keywords throughout.
4. Delete everything except the boldface words.
5. Alphabetize the words, and delete duplicates.
6. Copy your résumé into a new Word document, and repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 on that copy.
The two resulting lists will display which keywords from the descriptions are missing from your résumé. And now comes the creative part: you incorporate the missing keywords into your résumé so it seems seamless and a perfect match for the context in which the words are mentioned in the job descriptions.
By doing this admittedly laborious task, you increase manyfold your chances of being picked out from the crowd.