Fern Selesnick Consulting

Creative Consulting for Challenging Times

Applying Online (or "Conquering the Robot!")

The process of applying for jobs has changed tremendously in recent years. Technology has played a major role in that change, because most people apply for jobs online. If that's you, here's what you need to know:


I "Applicant Tracking Software" (ATS) and "Keywords" Count. Most resumes submitted online are screened by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). ATS saves employers time and money by searching hundreds of resumes and selecting those with the qualifications employers most seek.


II  How Does an ATS Work?  Employers, human resource staff, and recruiters program ATS to screen how well an incoming resume matches a job's requirements. The ATS selects the resumes with the most "keywords" (necessary skills and credentials) and strongest work experience. The "best" resumes are forwarded to live people, who then decide who to interview.  Even if you're qualified for a position, if your resume is ignored by an ATS, people won't see it and you won't get an interview.


III ATS May Be "Picky" About Technology. It's equally important that an ATS be able to process your resume. The most reliable resume format for applying online is a simple Microsoft Word doc. Avoid templates, tables, text boxes, columns, symbols, live hyperlinks, and special characters. The ATS screening your resume may not be able to work with all those special features and your resume may be deselected. 


IV Email Formats Are Important Too. Has an employer directed you to simply email a resume and cover letter?  You may avoid an ATS that way, but continue to be aware of formatting. When emailing your materials, save and attach them in PDF format. It's the easiest to read on multiple devices. Emailed MS Word attachments may be unreadable once downloaded.


V Traditional Applications (Hard Copy) Resumes. These are the documents most people think of as resumes. They contain bullets and bold and are created and saved in Microsoft Word. Applicants mail them through the US Postal Service, fax them, or deliver them in person to recruiters and interviews. Today, most employers require job seekers to apply online or to email their resumes; however, we recommend bringing a hard copy to interviews and networking events. Traditional resumes still have a place in your job search and it's important to always have one available.