Act smart and change your approach to job hunting, says Maria Fuller

Searching for a new job is the toughest it’s ever been. Hundreds of candidates are applying for the same role, and if you don’t submit your CV/resume within 24 hours of that job posting going live, you are likely to miss out. Recruiters are removing job postings within 24-48 hours if they receive 200+ job applications. You need to act fas tto beat the other candidates, but you also need to act smart to beat the bots!

Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is a piece of software high-volume recruiters use to screen out unsuitable candidates. It’s an efficient tool, sifting through multiple resumes in seconds, allowing the recruiter to focus on the multiple jobs they are trying to fill. Recruiters can have up to fifty vacancies on their desk at any one time; they simply don’t have time to read every resume they receive anymore. Therefore, automated tools like ATS have become the norm, and the bots that are scanning your application are here to stay.

An ATS will reject 75% of resumes for one role. Only 25% will make it to the recruiter.

How Does ATS Work?

The software is searching for relevant keywords in your resume. It is looking to match the keywords used in the job description. Your resume will be scored according to the number of keywords matched, the frequency of keywords found and where they were located in your resume (e.g., your most recent position). This score translates to where your resume is ranked amongst the other candidates and whether you make it to the top 25%.

Sounds straightforward, but how do you ensure you’re capturing the keywords the ATS is looking for? By changing your approach to job hunting.

We’ve all been guilty of the ‘scattergun’ approach: preparing one resume and using that same document in every single application. Hitting the ‘one click apply’ or ‘apply easily’ button meant you could fire off your resume to multiple companies in quick succession with very little thought or research on your part. One word – STOP! This approach will not achieve the outcome you are looking for. You won’t get interview invitations, and you will get dispirited and frustrated with your job search.

Replace this scattergun approach with a new one – less is more! Your job application must be focused, researched and relevant to the position you are applying for. “But this will take forever!” I hear you, but targeting your resume to the position you are applying for will, in the long term, get results – and isn’t that your ultimate goal? Invest the time, do the research, tailor your resume, then apply.

The Targeted Approach

For this new ‘targeted’ approach, print the job description. Place the printed sheets in front of you and highlight the keywords that are popping out at you. These can be soft skills as well as hard skills. Here are some examples from an EA job description: manages complex travel, ability to prioritize, coordinates meetings and events, prepares multi-currency expenses, prepares meeting agendas and minutes, works with multiple time zones, exceptional communicator, self-motivated, C-suite experience. Identify 6-8 key skills the company is looking for.

Next, re-work your resume so that these are now built into your document. Start at the top and ensure the skills are showing in your core competency or profile section. Remember, it needs to read fluidly. The skills you identify as top priority should be repeated in your most recent position. Blend the skills in rather than bulldozing them. Give your CV a new version number or code relating to the company you are applying with. Send your newly tailored resume together with a targeted cover letter (if possible) and feel proud that you have taken the time and effort to personalise your application. This will increase your chances of passing the ATS selection process and making it to the next stage – the phone interview!

Good luck!

Maria Fuller is a CEO-level, UK-based Executive Assistant with 30 years of business administration experience. With a corporate background in technology, banking, legal services, private equity, and telecommunications, Maria has supported CEOs in startups ... (Read More)

One comment on “The Applicant Tracking System – How to Beat the Bots!

  1. Sandy Geroux, M.S. on

    Excellent article, Maria! As someone who helps people create Skills Portfolios, this article really jumped out at me to help them get to the stage where they can actually discuss the value they add to any position. Thank you for the valuable information!


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