What is ATS
It has quickly become one of the most our frequently asked questions, and quite frankly I'm getting tired of hearing about it.
For those that don't know, ATS stands for applicant tracking system, and it is essentially a program built into HR platforms that helps hiring managers organize candidates' information.
Like all things technology, though, there have been several terrible side effects, and even worse misconceptions.
Because ATS can be used to scan for key language in a person's resume and LinkedIn, it has led to people fearing that they need to have just the right wording in their document. And it is this fear of resumes being tossed aside by the ATS robots that has led to what we call in the industry "keyword stuffing."
Keyword Stuffing is basically copying and pasting the verbiage you see in the job posting so that the resume "matches." This concept has even taken a huge leap in the wrong direction (thank you Tik Tok) where people are copying and pasting hundreds, even thousands, of keywords in white or transparent font color so that the system reads these key words but the recruiter won't.
There are several problems with this whole thing.
First, and this is the first thing I tell people, every company is using different ATS systems and different job postings. Even if you are in a pretty standard field where language is universal, the verbiage and how systems sort info are going to be different for each and every job you apply for.
So how do you use the language in job postings appropriately?
The first and most important step is that you are finding job postings that are well written. There are some incredibly poorly written job descriptions out there. We see them every day.
And we don't mean beautiful language.
We mean the responsibilities are easy to understand.
We mean the list of qualifications are clear cut.
We mean the job posting is more than just a few sentences.
The next step is evaluate each and every line of the job description and ask yourself how it applies to your experience according to three categories.
Do you have successful experience (direct or transferrable) doing this task?
Do you have the minimum years of experience, educational credentials, and technical/hard skills they are asking for?
3) Culture & Characteristics
Do you have the personality type that fits the position and company? Most job descriptions will explicitly list the ideal candidate from a personality perspective while tying in their own company mission, vision, and values.
And the last step is to think how your own work history matches the job description within context so that you can write your resume and LinkedIn profile in a way that is unique to your accomplishments! If we worry too much about language and not enough about our own story, our resume will read just like everyone else's.
And that is what you should really fear.