How To Get Your Resume Past an Applicant Tracking System to Get An IT Job
You’ve completed your technical training (or are on your way there), crafted a beautiful resume that highlights your IT skills, and are now looking for entry-level tech jobs so you can finally break into the IT world. But there’s a hurdle that might be getting you in front of an interviewer — an Applicant Tracking System that’s funneling resumes and tossing yours out before it even gets into the hands of a human.
While an Applicant Tracking System (or ATS) may seem like it’s doing more harm than good, that’s not always the case. They can be extremely helpful for hiring managers who may have to sift through hundreds of applications for a single job posting. Understanding how to use an ATS to your advantage may be the difference between landing an interview for an IT job and being left in the dust. Use our tips below to get past an ATS and into an entry-level IT job.
How to Get Your Resume Past ATS
Only Apply to Jobs You Are Qualified For
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many systems use knock-out questions that will scan your resume and determine whether or not you are qualified for that job. Even if you think you have a lot of potential for a certain position, if your resume does not list the fixed skills that the ATS is looking for, you will not be passed over to a hiring manager.
We talked to veteran HR Manager and M365 SharePoint Instructor Amy Land for her take on applying for jobs that use an ATS (as many do). She told us, “Only apply if you meet 75-80% of the qualifications; the company will eliminate you if you lack most of the key qualifications. If you have the majority of the qualifications, then apply. For an example, if you have 3 years experience and they are asking for 5, you are close enough, especially if you have all the other work experience asked for.”
Clearly Identify Your Skills and Qualifications
Instead of wasting your time applying to jobs that won’t see the light of day, apply to jobs where you know you have a shot. But, remember to clearly identify the skills you have that a hiring manager won’t budge on. It would be a shame to have all the right qualifications for a position but not make it past the ATS because you didn’t correctly identify your skills.
If you’re applying for a Help Desk Technician position and the job description explicitly states Job applicants must have prior Help Desk experience and you meet this requirement, make sure you clearly list something like 2 years of Help Desk experience on your resume.
Utilize Keywords — But Don’t Overuse Them
We touched on this topic a little in the previous point — make sure you are tailoring your resume for the specific job you are applying for. This may seem like a lot of extra work if you are applying to many jobs, but trust us. It’s worth it.
Studying a job description will give you valuable insights for certain positions. For example, if you are applying for a role as an IT Support Specialist, the job description may list the following responsibilities:
- Setting up, building, and maintaining computer equipment
- Troubleshooting network & system issues
- Maintaining user’s network/internet connection
- Administering network security measures to prevent system interruptions or breaches
You can bet that including keywords is necessary to easily pass through an ATS. It helps to mirror some strong language from the job description (if you in fact have this experience), such as troubleshooting, maintaining, administering, network security, and internet connection. But be careful — don’t overuse them. Applicant Tracking Systems are smart enough to recognize when you are overpopulating your resume with keywords. Be mindful about the language you use on your resume.
Add a Skills Section
An easy way to highlight your skills to make it easier for both an ATS and a hiring manager to read is to add a skills competency section to the bottom of your resume. If you’re unable to organically work your skills into your experience section, adding a skills section is a perfect way for the ATS to easily scan your resume and tell if you are right for the job.
For example, your skills section might look like this:
- Infrastructure security
- Customer support
- Microsoft 365
- Network troubleshooting
- Team mentoring & coaching
Make Your Resume Easy-to-Read
Though fluffing up your resume with charts, tables, graphics, or special formatting may seem like the right move, it may be detrimental to your job search process. Remember that an Applicant Tracking System is just that — a system that reads your resume to determine if you are a quality applicant. If it can’t properly read your resume, then you won’t get far in the application process.
An ATS reads your resume left to right and top to bottom, just like a human. If it can’t properly process your resume because you have special formatting, that may be the end of your journey landing that dream job. Make sure it’s simple, straightforward, and full of just the good stuff.
At the end of the day, don’t stress over Applicant Tracking Systems too much. If you are a qualified applicant who remembers to incorporate some of our tricks, such as tailoring for the job you are applying for and keeping your resume clean and simple, you will be okay.
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