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The Resume Black Hole

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch July 10, 2023

The resume black hole is real and chances are some of your documents have gone into the ether at one point or another. In reality, your resume got weeded out by resume-filtering bots called applicant tracking systems (ATS).

ATS makes hiring managers' lives much easier. Most job postings receive, on average, 250 applications. Large companies receive about 50,000-75,000 resumes each week. Given that most companies only interview five (give or take) candidates, there is a lot of filtering to be done. According to Top Resume, 75% of resumes are never even seen by human eyes.

So, how can you beat the bots and make sure your resume is seen in real life? Here are some top tips:

1. Don’t use a fancy template.
A simple word document with bulleted content is often best. Fancy templates often get scrambled by ATS. The cool columns and graphics you added get converted to weird looking code. How can you test that your document is ATS friendly? Copy the content into a plain-text document and review results. If characters appear incorrectly or sections become disorganized, this is your clue that your document needs to be edited before submitting.

2. Use a clean resume design.
As noted above, complex resume designs and unusual formats confuse ATS, but they also tend to annoy recruiters who are accustomed to scanning resumes in a certain order. Qualifications summaries tend to be a good section to have first followed either by “Education” or “Experience”.

3. Keywords are key!
Optimize your resume with keywords found from the job description. Not only do you need to consider placement, but frequency of these relevant keywords throughout your resume as there are two systems often utilized by applicant tracking systems (ATS). In the first, some ATS will determine the strength of your skills based on the number of times a term shows up in your resume (tip: add the term two to three times throughout your resume). The second approach will assign an estimated amount of experience for a particular skill based on its placement within the resume (in Qualifications Summary, for example) . To make your resume truly compatible with any ATS, you'll want to optimize your resume with both systems in mind.

4. Don’t put important information in headers or footers.
Try not to use headers/footers at all in your ATS-approved resumes. This information is often not scannable by the systems, so it will be missed entirely.

5. Don’t use hyperlinks.
Hyperlinks such as email and LinkedIn can disrupt some ATS systems, so always remove the link just in case and ensure that the text is in black font and not underlined.


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