I apply to a lot of jobs online, and often I’m sending my application to a general mailbox or via a form. How should I format and write my resume to ensure that it’s optimized for both Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), but also still attractive and suited to recruiters and hiring managers?
This is an important aspect to consider, as the overall execution of your resume needs strike a balance between appealing to the human eye, and being optimized for ATS systems.
The human aspect calls for attractive presentation, good readability, well-crafted content and language, and cohesive branding. They want to understand the “story” behind your career and how you’ve been a contributor in past roles. This means having a solid brand message that resonates throughout the document, communicating your relevant skills and experience, and also giving context of how those skills translated to accomplishments.
On the ATS side, it’s important to understand what the necessary keywords and phrases are that pertain to the job, and make sure those are reflected in your resume. This includes things like hard and soft skills like relationship building, sales, leadership, etc., software titles or classifications, and types of companies or industries with which you’ve worked, relevant to the role. List out the critical keywords that appear in the job description, and cross-reference each section of your resume to see that they’re being used, without sounding overly formulated or like you copied the description directly.
I rarely create resumes in the functional format, because they typically lack context and detail that’s critical in knowing if a candidate is qualified for the job or not. They also don’t bode well for ATS systems and parsing information. I prefer the hybrid style formatting that combines the strong focus on skills of a functional resume, with the detailed chronology and context of a traditional chronological resume. This includes having a strong opening Summary statement that discusses who you are, what you’ve done (briefly), and what you bring to the table as far as your skills, strengths, experience & knowledge. It might also include a bulleted skills list, which can increase your resume’s effectiveness from a keyword perspective. And it includes a write up of each of your professional positions, as well as education and training, and any awards and honors you’ve received.
It is absolutely possible to create a resume that appeals to both applicant tracking systems and human eyes. At the end of the day, both processes are grading your resume based on relevance, though the tools through which they determine are slightly different.