How to Build an Online Compatible Resume that Works

Resume Templates: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Job Search

When it comes to applying online for jobs, what you don’t know about resume templates can hurt your job search. Ever feel like your resume goes into a ‘black hole’ and never sees the light of day? This feeling may be more accurate than you think. There is an art to applying online for jobs. It’s best to be informed than trying to find your way blindfolded.

Electronic Resume Submissions

Almost every job can be found online. Even Vice President positions and higher! Only 5-6 years ago higher level executive positions were only accessible through executive headhunters. Today it seems like almost everything is on the internet. The digital age has taken us by storm and it is a significant player in how we find jobs.

If you submit your resume online for a job application, it’s highly likely that you will interface with some form of ATS (applicant tracking system). Every recruiter uses one and almost every major corporation. ATS applications are there to manage the volume of applicants and perform a ‘first pass’ screening to weed out unlikely candidates.

Error-prone applicant tracking systems kill 75 percent of job seekers’ chances of landing a job as soon as they submit their resumes. – Terena Bell

Applicant Tracking Software

That ‘first pass’ screening process is where some resumes go to die. Most ATS applications work off of a word match algorithm. The keywords it uses to understand if an applicant is a likely candidate for the position is usually based from the job description. If your resume doesn’t have the keywords the ATS is programmed to look for: you’re done.

“Some qualified candidates are likely being automatically filtered out of the vetting process by mistake,” – CareerArc/Future Workplace Survey.

Newer ATS applications are more sophisticated, however, we don’t know who is using a legacy piece of software and how they have set up their specifications. Even end user misunderstandings can make ATS a messy place dark place for well-meaning resumes. In order to ensure that your resume has a good chance of seeing the light of day (and real human eyes), here are some of my top tips.

3 Ways to Make Your Resume ATS Compatible

1. Avoid Resume Templates

If you use a resume template, chances are those templates use tables. Depending upon the ATS application, it may or may not even recognize the table during the ‘parsing’ process. In other words: don’t risk using any templates or tables inside your resume to organize the information. It sounds convenient but you might just accidently have your entire ‘Skills’ section go missing.

2. Avoid .pdf Documents

Your next thought after reading about the template was probably: “Well, I have a .pdf of my resume, so no worries.” Guess what? That .pdf file gives many applicant tracking systems indigestion. The ‘parsing’ (yes, that’s a real word) of your .pdf document might get a little ugly. Again, we cannot control what type of system the employer uses, so better safe than sorry.

3. Avoid Fancy Fonts

Here’s the sad truth: online compatible resume look boring. You are better off with plain, easy to read text. Oracle Resumes President, Dustin Polk, says: “Some applicant tracking systems have trouble reading serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Cambria.” Serif fonts have little marks added to their letters and have actually been found harder to read by even human eyes. Sans serif fonts are the way to go. I recommend Calibri.

Resume Keyword Magic

Even if you follow the 3 tips to make your resume online compatible – your resume won’t break the ATS barrier unless you have the right keywords. To make your life easier and eliminate rewording your resume for every job, add one section to your resume and save yourself HOURS of work.

Add an ‘Additional Skills & Expertise’ section to your resume. It can be at the end of the document if you like. Next, compare your resume to the job description. If you see skills and key abilities listed on the job description that isn’t found on your resume exactly: copy them and paste them under the ‘Additional Skills & Expertise’ section (make sure you match formatting). Make sure anything you copy and paste is in your current skill set! Falsifying information on your resume might get you the interview but it won’t get you much further.

I recommend JobScan, it’s a huge help to ensure that your resume is a good match for the positions you are applying for. (I’m not affiliated).

Social Media Matters

Many ATS applications are now equipped to hunt down your LinkedIn Profile and look for keywords as well. How you show up on social media matters. Make certain that you don’t neglect your profile stuff it full of the industry lingo applicable to the positions you are looking for (that match your skills).

If you are keyword-prepared: you will rank higher on searches and get seen by real human eyes. Recruiters are able to find you online and compare your skills to what they are looking for quickly. If you make the recruiter’s life easier and have a resume that is ATS compatible, it’s more likely you will be contacted for a screening interview!

Erin Urban
Erin Urban

Founder, UPPSolutions

Erin Urban, Founder of UPPSolutions, LLC, is a certified professional & leadership development coach with a mission to lift others up to defy their limits and exceed their goals. Erin is an experienced speaker within the professional community, a published author and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

  1. Great article, I wondered if applicant tracking systems also search social media content with name search.

  2. Jeffrey,
    The newer versions of ATS can certainly link your social content based on your name, location, and current employer. It is easier for recruiters to view your LinkedIn profile than ever before. Legacy systems, however, do not have this functionality.
    All the Best,

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