Revamp Your Resume to Beat Applicant Tracking Systems with Smart AI

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

You’re about to start your job search, and you know you need to update your resume. You keep putting off the dreaded task, and now you’re thinking it’s better to outsource it to a professional resume writer – thinking they’ll do a much better job. But don’t. While some resume writers are adept at crafting well-phrased documents, they often fall short of capturing your unique professional narrative—usually  because your personal work experiences and accomplishments are yours to tell.

Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI): Not only does it offer a more cost-effective solution, but it is also transforms the resume writing landscape. AI doesn’t just rephrase content; it aids in articulating your authentic voice and tailors your resume to align with job descriptions and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

The key to leveraging AI in resume development lies in its judicious use, ensuring that the final product is not only accurate but also reflective of your brand and personality.

Remember, revitalizing your resume is merely one aspect of the job search journey. Networking is paramount, with surveys suggesting that 60-85% of individuals secure employment through connections and the hidden job market. Integrating AI into your job search process can streamline online applications, allowing you more time to invest in real life conversations and expanding your professional network.

It’s time to discover how to harness AI to elevate your resume, get through the ATS barriers, and save time.

Getting Started with Resume Templates & Builders

If you’re looking to breathe new life into your resume, whether by seeking inspiration from new, fresh formats or completely overhauling it, the tools mentioned below can help. This guide assumes you have a foundational resume and are now interested in refining or enhancing it.

Resume Templates

Choose a template that is clean and streamlined, avoiding those with excessive formatting or graphics.

AI Resume Builders

For rephrasing skills and experience or for fresh inspiration, explore these AI resume builders:

Modify the Resume Summary

The resume summary serves as your first impression. It’s an elevator pitch for your career, a space to highlight what sets you apart. ChatGPT is a favorite tool of mine that helps to craft concise language, offers phrasing suggestions, and stimulates creative ideas.

The key is in how you write the AI prompt. Below is an example for you to play with:

Act like a recruiter, specializing in hiring human resource leaders, create a resume summary showcasing my skills and experience relevant for a Director of Human Resources at a start-up company, emphasize my passion for the healthcare industry and my strengths of resourcefulness and resilience.   

Optimizing for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

In today’s digital age, an ATS often represents your first obstacle in connecting with potential employers. This intelligent software sifts through countless resumes, assisting companies in managing the influx of job applications and often acting as a primary filter in a competitive job market.

As a job seeker, it’s crucial that your resume directly engages with the ATS, aligning with its algorithmic preferences to ensure it reaches a human recruiter.

How an ATS Works (in a nutshell):

  1. A job posting containing details like job title, required skills, and desired experience levels is uploaded to the system.
  2. The ATS constructs a model of an ideal candidate based on these specifications.
  3. Each resume is parsed and ranked to assess its alignment with this ideal candidate profile.
  4. Resumes with the highest rankings are forwarded to recruiters, streamlining their search for the right candidate.

To pass the ATS and reach a recruiter, focus on these strategies:

Match Keywords – Customize your Resume for each Job

Hiring Managers and Recruiters rely on keywords to identify qualified candidates. These keywords, typically found in the job description, give you a blueprint for what the ATS is programmed to prioritize. A generic resume won’t suffice in such a scenario. To enhance your resume’s effectiveness, it’s imperative to customize it for each application, highlighting skills and experiences that mirror the job description. For example, if the position requires a “Customer Service Manager with Salesforce experience” or a “Graphic Designer proficient in Adobe Creative Suite,” these exact phrases should be prominently featured in your resume. The closer your resume reflects the job description, the greater your chances of surpassing ATS obstacles and capturing the attention of a hiring manager.

Format for Readability

ATS systems may encounter difficulties with complex layouts, graphics, or inconsistencies. Therefore, keep it simple with a clean structure and readily available fonts.

Date Formatting:

It may be minor, but ATS can be finicky. Generally, there are two acceptable date formats.

  1. MM/YYYY (e.g., 03/2024)
  2. Spelling out the month followed by the year (e.g., “March 2024”).

If using the numerical format, always put a “0” before single-digit months. Be consistent in your chosen format, as mixing date formats can lead to confusion and incorrect parsing. Also, ensure both the month and year are included on your resume to avoid confusion.

Abbreviations and Acronyms:

Although industry insiders might be familiar with the term “MBA,” an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) may not be programmed to recognize such abbreviations. This could pose a problem if your resume uses the acronym while the recruiter searches for the full term “Master of Business Administration.” To navigate this, include both the full term and the acronym in your resume. For example, if your title is “IT Specialist,” list it as “Information Technology (IT) Specialist.” This dual approach guarantees that your resume is recognized by both ATS and human readers, regardless of the keyword variant used.

Additional Tips for Enhancing Readability:

  • Stick to commonly used section headings: “Experience,” “Education,” and “Skills.”
  • Maintain a standard 1-inch margin and avoid using headers and footers.
  • Utilize bullet points, preferably using black dots, for easy comprehension.
  • Opt for classic and readily available fonts like Arial, Georgia, or Calibri for improved legibility.
  • Save your resume in .docx or PDF format to prevent formatting issues during uploading. While font size is not critical for ATS, it should be easily legible (10pt-12pt) for human reviewers. Bold section headings can also enhance readability.

Resume Optimizers

Resume optimization tools are another way to verify your resume is ATS-friendly. Although these services may require an investment, if you are spending a lot of time formatting and re-writing your resume, it will save you time and energy. Given the potentially draining nature of the job search process, such time savings are invaluable. While my personal experience is with Jobscan.co, I’ve heard good things about the other tools as well.

Match Rate Analysis

Employ services like Jobscan’s Match Rate analysis to evaluate how well your resume aligns with the job description you’re targeting. Aim for an 80% match rate or higher by integrating recommended keywords in a meaningful way.

Use Jobscan’s Match Rate Analysis and Power Edit feature to receive keyword recommendations for you to include in the text of your resume. Jobscan displays a side-by-side view of your resume alongside the Skills Match panel to make this process easier. As you implement updates, the match rate score changes dynamically.

Obviously, don’t just add keywords into your resume. It needs to be written in a way that makes sense and (this should go without saying) you need to have the skills or experience the keyword is indicating.

Finalizing Your Resume

Once you’ve made the updates to your resume, ensure that the formatting looks clean and consistent. Jobscan suggests that you download the resume, but the formatting often gets funky. Instead, you may want to copy/paste into MS Word. With your updated resume formatted and ready to go, save it as a PDF so the formatting doesn’t change when you upload to a job site portal.

An important note to remember, AI does not replace your personal narravtive. Don’t rely too heavily on it to tell your story. It’s an AI/human partnership.

Basic Resume Tips

When updating your resume, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Compile a comprehensive Master Resume detailing all your experiences and achievements, including extracurricular activities. Customize this document for each specific job application.
  • Emphasize accomplishments rather than job duties and provide quantifiable evidence of your achievements whenever possible.
  • Ensure your resume is easy to read and navigate by using bullet points for clarity.
  • Avoid revealing your age by excluding graduation dates and limiting your work history to the most relevant and recent positions, typically within the last 10 years.
  • Include your personalized LinkedIn profile link in your contact details.

Proof-Read, Proof-Read, Proof-Read

It may seem obvious, but the importance of proofreading your resume cannot be emphasized enough. According to a survey, 77 percent of hiring managers  would immediately discard a resume containing any typos or grammatical errors. Utilize AI tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor for initial checks, but always have your resume reviewed by someone with a keen eye for grammar. Ensure that all content, including parts generated by AI, is accurate and reflects your personal brand authentically.

Starting a job search can be a challenging venture, one that requires the task of updating your resume—a document that often serves as a prospective employer’s first impression of you. We’ve explored the dance between presenting a narrative that is genuinely yours and optimizing it for ATS. Remember that while technology can greatly aid in the job search, it’s the human touch that ultimately seals the deal. Your resume is a tool, not just a formality. It’s an extension of your professional life that requires attention to detail, from the macro level of showcasing your achievements to the micro level of proofreading.

Therefore, ensure your resume accurately reflects your capabilities and experiences, leveraging the strengths of AI without losing the essence of who you are. After all, it’s this human element that will ultimately resonate with your future employer.

Good luck, and may your job search be both successful and fulfilling. If you need help navigating the modern job search, I’m here for you.