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Beat the bots with these ATS-friendly resume tips in 2021 

With advancing technologies moving us further into the digital landscape, the world of job hiring is always changing. Gone are the days when your #1 goal as an applicant was to simply WOW the hiring manager or recruiters. Now, there are a few extra hurdles to get through in the form of AI technology. Many companies now use software known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter through resumes, narrowing down applicants before they are even seen by human eyes. Because of this, it is now crucial to tailor your resume to these systems, so you have the best chance of making it through to the next round in the hiring process. 

Below are some key resume tips to help you beat the bots and create an ATS-friendly resume in 2021 that will get your resume through the automated process and into human hands so you can get that interview! 

resume, office, laptop, writing

Try these ATS-friendly resume tips to beat the bots in 2021. (Photo credit: @homajob on Unsplash.)

7 ATS-friendly resume tips in 2021 to get the job

Keywords are key! 

One of the top resume tips in 2021 is keywords, keywords, keywords! When you’re trying to impress a bot, keywords are crucial. The ATS software will be scanning for keywords relevant to the job to see if you are the right fit. Many of these keywords may appear in the job description itself, so it’s important to have a resume tailored to each specific job. One general resume just isn’t going to cut it anymore. 

Some keywords the ATS may be scanning for could include hard skills such as “experience with spreadsheets” or “proficient in Adobe Photoshop.” Others may be spoken languages, certificates or licenses. In a profession such as teaching, the ATS may search for the required certifications that prove you can legally teach at an institution. The same is true for positions in the medical field or science where proper licenses are needed to practice.  

If you’re unsure which keywords to use for the job you are applying for, first scan the job description. Note the top requirements and job responsibilities. These are likely to be some of the target keywords. The job title itself may also be a keyword. You can also use sites like Jobscan and Skillsyncer to help you identify more keywords.

Just make sure the keywords you use are in context. Dumping a bunch of keywords with no context on your resume to “cheat” the system won’t get you far in the long run. You may fool the bot, but your resume will quickly be discarded once it reaches human eyes. 

Objective statements are out, the resume summary is in! 

Many resumes even in recent years recommended opening with an objective statement. However, the resume summary has become more popular and preferred in recent years. Try replacing your objective statement with a fresh, impactful summary detailing some of your top skills and experience to quickly communicate who you are as an employee. This summary is also a great place to add in relevant keywords that will impress the digital eyes of the ATS software. 

Choose the right format and layout 

Just as important as your keywords is your format and layout. ATS software prefers certain layouts over others as they are easier for the bot to read. You may be tempted to create a flashy or unique resume design in hopes to stand out among the rest, but this may actually hurt your chances more than you think. Obscure fonts, colors, and creative layouts make it harder for the ATS software to scan your resume. Keep it simple and ATS-friendly with a black and white, clean layout and standardized fonts such as Calibri, Arial, and Times New Roman, 

In general, both the software and the recruiters themselves prefer simple, monochromatic layouts. According to data collected by Resume Lab in a 2021 study, 72% of recruiters think monochromatic resumes are best. Additionally, 77% of recruiters think two-column resumes are better than single-column ones. Finally, of the three resume formats–chronological, combination, and functional–ATS software prefers chronological or combination. These two formats best organize your work experience in an easy to read style from most recent to oldest. For those with a normal work history with no large gaps or career changes, chronological or combination is the way to go!  

Correctly label your sections 

In addition to keeping your layout clean and simple, using the proper headings for each section will greatly help you pass the ATS screening process. ATS software organizes your information based on common resume headings, such as “Work Experience,” “Education”, and “Skills.” You may think a creative or catchy heading will make you stand out but it will only confuse the system and potentially risk your chance at making it through the scanning process. 

In general, according to Resume Lab’s 2021 Study, the key “must-have” sections are: 

  • Contact information
  • Resume profile (summary or objective)
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Soft skills
  • Hard skills

Which brings us to our next tip…

Be sure to include both soft skills and hard skills 

Data shows that 76% of recruiters prefer the two types of skills separated from one another on a resume. ATS software will scan for these two sections and recruiters are also now looking to see two distinct sections when it comes to skills. If this is all new to you or you are unfamiliar with these terms, soft skills are non-technical skills related to how you work, communicate, and solve problems. Some examples include: teamwork, communication, adaptability, creativity, and time management. Hard skills, on the other hand, are technical skills specific to the job such as: graphic design, editing, computer coding, data analysis, web development, and marketing. 

For a well-rounded, ATS-friendly resume that will impress both digital and human eyes, be sure to include skills in both sections. 

You might be interested: 10 interview tips that will get you the job

Plug your LinkedIn profile 

Something many forget but apparently makes a big difference, is including a link to your LinkedIn profile in your contact information. According to Resume Lab, 96% of recruiters surveyed believe it is important to link to your profile in your resume. Including a link won’t hurt, and it may just give you that boost over the competition. 

Lastly, make sure you select the right file type 

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to make your resume ATS-friendly, is make sure it is in the right format for ATS software to scan. The standard accepted formats are .docx and .PDF and most of you are probably using these formats. However, many resume building tools and sites will often save resumes as image files such as .jpg or .png files which will not be readable by ATS software. This could automatically take you out of the running, so be sure to always save/download your resume in either .docx or .PDF format, which can easily be done using any Word Processor or Google Docs. Also be sure to check the job application to see if it lists a preferred format. 

Following these top 7 resume tips you will be able to create an ATS-friendly resume that will get you through the scanning process and one step close to landing your dream job! 

emotional intelligence

From C student to the C-suite: A true story on emotional intelligence

Tami Holzman’s “From C student to the C-suite: How I Use My Emotional Intelligence to Gain Access to the Most Influential People in the World, Even With All My Sh*t and Insecurities,” a book review by Ramon Santillán

emotional intelligence

I have read my fair share of “career experts” and “job gurus” who give advice that sounds good on paper.  Problem is, sometimes what sounds cool in theory doesn’t work in “our” real world.

I remember this one book in college that was part novel, part career guide.  The book related how this fictional character overcame the trials and tribulations of being a student who is trying to find his first accounting job.

Ideally, you would read the book and then follow the steps the main character did and you would end up with a job.

This is a summary of the book:

  1. Call your dad and have him introduce you to his friends, one of which is probably a partner at an accounting firm.  Why?  Well, because your dad is a partner at a law firm so he should know other professionals high up in their organizations.
  2. Meet that partner at a country club where you both have been members for many years.  That will show him that you are part of the community.
  3. Focus 100% on your job search.  If needed, take less classes on your last semester.  (No mention of what to do if you have a job while you’re in school.  You don’t need a job if your rich dad is paying for your college.  See #1 above).

I’m sure this advice would work fine for some people.  But what about the rest of us whose fathers aren’t partners at their law firm, who don’t have connections, and who have to work to survive, much less to be able to attend school?

emotional intelligence

Tami Holzman, author

That’s why I loved “From C Student to the C Suite” written by Tami Holzman.  Her “no BS” approach to succeeding in your career really resonated with the rebel in me.

I want to share some great insights from the book that will help you get ahead even if you did not get a fancy Ivy League degree.

1. Value Emotional Quotient (EQ) over Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

Tami explains in detail how even though intelligence is great, you do business with people so being able to connect with them is more important that trying to be smarter than everyone else.

You have probably seen it in action where the people who are not necessarily the brightest, somehow always know who to get in touch to help them out with a problem.  Strive to connect with people first before you wow them with your brain power.

2. Your past does not define your future

She technically did not graduate from any of the four colleges she attended (she needed 3 more math credits) and still was able to deliver success to her employers and clients.

Many times, we impose self-limiting beliefs on ourselves because of what we have or have not done in the past.  No degree?  No problem.  If you can deliver value to your clients, they really will not (or should not) care where you got your education from.  The higher you go up in your career, the more you will notice this to be true.

The book keeps it simple to where you do not have to read some study to figure out what it means.  She lays it out in plain English so you do not have to wonder what she meant.  She talks about how she made a BFF (Business Friends Forever) over a bra mishap.

3. Ask for the sale

emotional intelligence

Tami Holzman’s book cover

I love her approach for “asking for the sale.”  Just like interviewing, most people go into a meeting, spill their guts out and then just walk out without having asked for the job or the business.

You have not done your job right if you do not ask for the sale/job before you leave the meeting.

4. “Be Present: aka put your f*cking phone away”

The chapter title pretty much gives it away.

By the way, this is not one of those theoretical, I have never tried it but it sounds good on paper books.  Tami is straightforward with how she dishes out her advice and she does not mince words.  This respectful, but candid way of writing is part of what makes this book endearing and useful.  There were times where I felt like Tami was sitting me down and just telling to me straight how to improve my career and life, f-bombs and all.

Do you want proof of how much I loved this book? This is my actual Amazon review:

Perfect book for anyone who wants to succeed without being put into a “box”

I recommend this book for anyone who:

  1. Wants to succeed despite not having the “perfect” grades/degree/experience (she doesn’t even have a degree)
  2. Women who want to learn how to better sell themselves and reach the C suite (she uses all the tools at her disposal to move up while staying true to herself)
  3. People who want to learn how to connect with others at networking events (great tips on how to start talking to people)
  4. All of the above

As an interview consultant that works with MBAs, this book will be recommend to all my clients, particularly female ones. It is just an awesome example of how you are “enough” just by being yourself. Also, the book design was very cool. I would buy the book just to look at the “Tam-isms”.

On a side note, I reached out to Tami just to tell her that I love her book and she responded!  It’s always good to know that truly successful people do not just talk the talk, but they always walk the walk (in Jimmy Choo’s).