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Hacking the Applicant Tracking System: Resume Tips to Get Your Resume Found

Follow these 5 Applicant Tracking System resume tips to make sure your InfoSec resume doesn’t automatically get kicked out of the screening process

Dear ‘FirstName’ Unknown ‘LastName’ Unknown,

I am a recruiter – today I spent hours sourcing from one of the many career websites/resume databases that you carefully created a profile and uploaded your resume. I read the profiles and created the perfect candidate pool of job seekers that I wanted to target. I downloaded the resumes from the resume database and for HR compliance I uploaded them to my Applicant Tracking System (ATS). To my dismay, this step usually results in 50% of the resumes being unreadable and you my favorite candidate is now “Unknown Unknown”. I researched what was happening and found one common thread among these sourced candidates. The top of their resumes stated:

– Note: This is a converted Word document. An image of the resume is displayed rather than text.

Keep in mind ATS systems are now used by most companies to meet HR compliance and handle the 100’s of applicants they receive on most job postings. Recruiters generally upload their sourced resumes to these systems to meet HR compliance requirements. ATS systems parse resumes and compare the data against criteria in the job posting through key words, screening questions, etc. Most resumes are only seen by humans if they are actually sourced or if they pass the initial screenings completed solely by the computer.

Unfortunately, if you are one of the InfoSec folks who have converted your resume to the Word image format, it will be lost once the recruiter uploads it to the ATS or it will not succeed in passing most ATS initial screenings. Usually this means you will receive a rejection letter automatically from the system once they make their final selection. So here’s what happens – most resume parsers in ATS systems do not have optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities, therefore your resume image is simple unreadable by the computer systems.

InfoSec Connect wants to help you modify your resume to ensure you are being considered based on your skill set and not your resume format. Algorithms designed to screen resumes are systematic and minor things can kick your resume out of consideration. The rules are simple:

  • DO NOT convert your resume to an image
  • DO NOT put your name and contact information in the document header
  • DO keep your resume format simple – try to avoid advanced formatting such as tables, unique fonts, images, etc.
  • DO Clearly label the resume sections with standardized headings (best to use headings from postings such as Qualifications, Experience etc.)
  • DO use the keywords that you identified in the job posting – keep in mind that most ATS systems use outdated SEO methods for the initial screening.

Now go update that resume and get past those initial screenings!