If you’re currently looking for an open tech role, it’s important to be strategic in your job search. One key factor to consider is how to make your application stand out in the context of applicant tracking systems, or ATS. Thousands of organizations use ATS software to manage their recruitment process. As a result, getting “noticed” by a company’s ATS is the first step toward successfully landing a good job.
Let’s discuss four key steps you can take to increase your odds of getting noticed by applicant tracking systems. Then, we’ll mention three more steps you can take outside the ATS to further boost your chances of getting hired.
How To Get Noticed By an Applicant Tracking System
1. Optimize your resume.
Applicant tracking systems scan resumes for specific keywords and phrases that may indicate a good candidate fit. Therefore, preference is typically given to candidates with a resume that’s most “relevant” to the posted job.
Perhaps the single most impactful change you can make to get noticed by an ATS is to customize your resume according to your desired job’s description. Incorporate relevant keywords and skills into your resume. Try to match the vocabulary and terminology used in the job description to a reasonable extent.
In addition, use standard headings and a clean format that makes it easy for an ATS to analyze your resume. Such optimization may give you an edge over other applicants from the very outset.
2. Focus on your qualifications
Make sure your resume highlights your qualifications, experience, and achievements that are most relevant to the open position. Emphasize how your skills align with the job requirements, and indicate why you’d be a good fit for the company. Use bullet points and concise statements to make it easy for recruiters to identify your key strengths quickly. Remember, even though an ATS is largely an automated system, you still need to tailor your resume for human readers as well.
3. Write a compelling cover letter.
Even if a company’s ATS doesn’t require a cover letter, including one along with your application can help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, research indicates that over half (53%) of employers believe that a resume by itself is not sufficient for a candidate to get noticed.
With that in mind, craft a personalized cover letter that demonstrates your enthusiasm for the position and showcases your relevant skills and experiences. Go into more detail about the qualifications listed on your resume. Briefly discuss your values and goals. Additionally, arrange the main points of your cover letter in logical order. Lastly, wrap up by expressing your desire to continue the dialogue with the hiring manager at some point in the near future.
4. Include quantifiable results.
Whenever possible, quantify your achievements in your resume and cover letter. Use numbers, percentages, and other measurable outcomes to demonstrate the impact your work had on previous projects. For example, if you previously worked as an IT help desk agent, try to include metrics that will make your profile more appealing to an employer, such as daily number of inquiries fielded, average number of tickets resolved, call resolution time, and so forth.
Steps To Take Outside of Applicant Tracking Systems
1. Boost your professional online presence.
It’s helpful to refer hiring managers to your professional social media profiles, in case they want to do more research on your qualifications as a candidate. With that in mind, ensure that your profiles, such as LinkedIn, are up-to-date and that they effectively showcase your skills and accomplishments. Make sure your online presence aligns with the information in your resume. For example, if you’ve recently relocated, make sure your personal information across all profiles reflects that fact.
2. Network with employees.
If you’re targeting one organization in particular as a preferred place of employment, try to connect with current or former employees of that company. Networking with them can provide you with valuable insights about the company and may even lead to another path of entry into the organization, such as an internal referral. At the very least, those with inside knowledge can help you more clearly understand which skills and personality traits hiring managers look for in candidates.
3. Follow up strategically.
After submitting your application, follow up with a polite and concise email expressing your continued interest in the position. While you certainly don’t want to pester or overwhelm the recruiter or hiring manager, a well-timed follow-up message can demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role, and your determination to fill it if at all possible. Since many candidates are not interested in taking this step, the fact that you’re doing so will help you stand out to an alert hiring manager.
The Bottom Line: Be Relevant and Accurate
In the final analysis, the content of your application is the most crucial part of your initial interaction with an employer. It needs to be relevant, accurate, and tailored to the specific role you’re applying for.
By implementing the steps discussed above, you can significantly increase your chances of standing out to applicant tracking systems. Moreover, several of these strategies won’t take up too much of your time or energy. For instance, tasks such as optimizing your resume or sending a follow-up email may only take a matter of minutes.