How to Get Past Resume Scanners

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To be effective, your resume should include the keywords that employers and their resume scanners are looking for. Resume scanners will quickly read a resume to find the words and phrases relating to the specific requirements of a job posting. This article explains the importance of using industry-specific nouns and action verbs so that your resume can get past resume scanners during the job application process.

What are resume keywords?

Resume keywords are words, phrases and vocabulary that are specific to the industry you work in that you should include in your resume. A hiring manager, or more often, a computer resume scanner will screen and rank your resume by choosing words that match the advertised job description.

Why do employers use keywords?

Keywords describe skills, experience, education and other attributes that employers require to fill an open position. For example, if an employer needs to hire a salesperson, then the hiring manager or resume scanner might look for keywords such as ‘customer service,’ ‘generate sales,’ ‘product knowledge’ and ‘cashier experience.’ Action phrases might include ‘created inventory system’ and ‘trained in cash handling.’

Common resume keywords

Here are some important keywords to consider for your resume:

  • Budget
  • Certification
  • Customer service
  • Engage
  • Metrics
  • Presentation
  • Project management
  • Technical
  • Training

Most resume keywords are industry-specific. However, there are often keywords that stand out to an applicant tracking system regardless of what industry or job you choose to pursue. 

Applicant tracking systems

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software employers use to hire workers. The ATS helps employers organize and filter applicants who meet their requirements. The system keeps resumes organized and creates a more efficient hiring process. This is especially useful for large companies that have numerous departments. Some systems offer advanced features such as CRM tools that help employers communicate with job candidates and review compliance with local, state and federal regulations.

How to get past resume keyword scanners

Here are some tips to help you get past resume scanners:

1. First, keep your resume format simple

Applicant tracking systems are not sophisticated systems that can pick up design elements such as pictures and colors. Don’t use pictures or images to improve your resume. Also, be aware that fancy fonts will be confusing for applicant tracking systems. Use plain fonts such as Courier, Arial or Times New Roman.

2. Second, submit the correct file type

Use the correct file type as requested by the job posting or employer’s website. Many sites will ask for .doc, .docx or .PDF files. Applicant tracking systems are more likely to recognize .doc or .docx files than PDF formats.

3. Third, limit your resume headings

Use only a few headings in your resume, such as qualifications, education, professional experience and skills. Additional headings are unnecessary for an applicant tracking system and will lead to rejection of your application.

4. Then, include the essential industry-specific keywords

Use keywords that are specific for the industry to indicate your experience. Using general keywords will not trigger a positive response from the applicant tracking system that has specific keywords in its database. Use the skills, licenses, certificates and education that are associated with your industry as keywords.

5. Next, include keywords from the job description

Use keywords from the job posting you are interested in. The applicant tracking system is designed to pick out the keywords from your resume that are shown in the job posting.

6. Then, list your relevant hard skills

Hard skills are usually the work-related abilities that an employer requires in a job posting. These types of skills can be learned through education, certification, on-the-job training and work experience. For example, proficiency with QuickBooks is a hard skill for a job in the finance industry.

7. Next, show your dates of employment for each job

Include the dates of your employment. Applicant tracking systems may screen your resume based on years of experience. How long you have been employed in the general workforce and how long you have worked for a company are both evidence of whether you are a steady and consistent worker. 

8. Last, consider using keyword services

Use keyword optimizers to scan your resume for keyword relevancy. Keyword optimizers help find the strongest keywords for your resume. These optimizers are either computer software or web-based software that can help you find the correct keywords for your specific job and career.

Example of job-specific keywords using customer service keywords

Here are some examples of industry-specific keywords for a customer service job application:

  • Customer service
  • Active listening
  • Product knowledge
  • Account
  • Client
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Training
  • Conflict resolution
  • Patience

When you create a resume for any job application, you should use keywords that match the words an employer would use as a database for an applicant tracking system. These keywords would be the words and vocabulary that are specific to the job description and industry you are interested in.