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Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.


Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

Person vs. Machine – Taking on Applicant Tracking Systems

Kent Nolen

As I’ve shared several times on this blog, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – the systems responsible for scanning your resume among other things – are incredibly common. With companies increasingly inundated with resumes, that makes perfectly good sense. But it means you need to be armed with some tips to keep your resume out of the “black hole.” You already know to avoid creative resume formats. Here are three more tips for taking on Applicant Tracking Systems:

Target your resume first – Because many applicant tracking systems require you to essentially type all of the data from your resume into an on-line application, it can be easy to make small changes to the content as you enter it. A better idea is to target your resume first. You can then use the content to complete the application and you will have the targeted resume to hand over when you meet for an interview (this is key!).

Save your responses to specific questions – On-line applications will often ask you to answer some questions specific to the role for which you are applying. In addition to keeping a copy of the targeted resume you used to complete the on-line application, save all of your responses to those questions in a separate document. This way you’ll be sure to remember how you responded when those questions come up later in the process. Additionally, these questions can tend to be similar from organization to organization, so having your responses handy could save you a lot of time down the road.

Revisit core profile settings frequently – Many Applicant Tracking Systems will allow you to fill out some default profile settings. However, settings change and your experience evolves, so make sure you are checking the default profile from time to time. It would be a shame to go through the application process only to realize that, for example, a new profile question was auto-populated with a “N/A.”

Applicant Tracking Systems save companies a ton of time, but they also add a fairly complex layer of technology to the already confounding job search process. Being aware of how your resume and application are being handled can mean the difference between the resume “black hole” and an interview.