How To Score Well On Automated Applicant Tracking Keyword MatchingNov 20, 2022
Score Well On Automated Applicant Tracking Systems: A Guide For Data Scientists
Data Scientists Shot Themselves In The Foot With This One
Conventional wisdom is that most companies use a system to process most resumes. This truism has been the conventional wisdom for close to two decades. Due to sheer volume, Fortune 500 companies are some of the biggest users of automated applicant tracking systems. These systems are essential for quickly and easily filtering through the large number of applicants that these companies receive. However, this often comes at the expense of qualified candidates.
This system is called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). While these systems often help employers manage high volumes of applications, these systems can also make it hard for qualified candidates to get a job.
Many mid- and late-career professionals will remember reviewing classified job listings in newspapers and magazines. Over time, employers began advertising open positions online. As time progressed even further employers began accepting applications online. The old paper-based processes (pictured with this article's photo) were messy. Not anymore - for better or worse - the processes are online.
After exploring the good, and the bad, this article provides advice that will help current and aspiring data professionals perform well in the ATS scoring process.
The Good + The Bad Too
Having the ability to find new job listings online was a boost for employers and candidates - at first. However, there is a down side (at least from the candidate's perspective). These systems are designed to quickly and easily weed out unqualified candidates from the pool of applicants. The ATS often do this screening at a great expense. They often discard qualified candidates.
The reason these systems wrongly discard qualified candidates is because they use crude scoring algorithms that are usually based on keyword matching. Anecdotally we know for example that candidates have applied for multiple jobs at the same company and only some of the applications resulted in interviews. Applicants report that sometimes they did not match keywords they read in the job ad. On the applications with fewer keyword matches candidates often hear nothing back from employers. But when candidates matched the keywords closely, they got interviews.
Advice On Performing Well
Make a list of keywords from the job description that you believe are important to match. Then make sure all of the words from that list are in your resume. This may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised at how often people don't do this.
If the job listing includes a lot of technical keywords that you don't have experience with, don't worry. Instead, focus on the non-technical keywords. These are usually transferable skills that are important in any job. For example, if a job listing asks for "communication skills" or "ability to work in a team," these are skills that you probably have regardless of your previous experience.
Match words exactly - no deviations. Double check that the words you used match exactly the words form the job description. Here are a few specific examples where candidates sometimes make mistakes here.
- The job description might list "Microsoft Office Suite" when the resume lists "Microsoft Office Products" or merely "Microsoft Office." This is a clear opportunity to more closely match the job description.
- The job description might list "Python 2.x or 3.x" and the resume might just list "Python." In this case it is better to revise so the resume more closely matches the job description.
- The job description might list "Jupyter Notebooks" and the job description might just list "Jupyter." Again, this is another opportunity to match the job description.
Make a list of key phrases in the job description that you can copy and paste directly into your resume. Often a candidate's resume will describe a skill, ability, or accomplishment in the candidate's own words when there is a phrase in the job description that could easily fit into the resume in place of the candidate's words. This is good way to improve keyword matching scores. The following are some examples from actual resume's and job descriptions.
- Line from the job description: "Design and develop algorithms and models to use against large datasets to create business insights."
- Line from the resume to remove and replace with the line above: "Create business insights by developing new algorithms and implementing statistical models."
In a variation on the above a candidate might have used the so-called X Y Z formula (accomplished X as measured by Y while doing Z). For example the resume might have originally read: "Increased access to mission critical information organization wide by 50% as measured by registered users within the organization's centralized dashboard system. To increase this access we implemented bi-weekly round-table discussion sessions where we trained and on-boarded live and in-person."
The above reads well as-is. However consider the following revision which copies and pastes from the job description (addition in italics - portion from job description underlined):
"Increased access to mission critical information organization wide by 50% as measured by registered users within the organization's centralized dashboard system. To increase this access we implemented bi-weekly round-table discussion sessions where we trained and on-boarded live and in-person. This work included the design and develop algorithms and models to use against large datasets to create business insights."
Hire a resume writer or a career coach. Clients who hire me have access to a team of world-class resume writers. Many career coaches or career services firm, such as mine will provide high-quality advice that is individual and specific both to you and to the jobs you seek. Often we can provide advice that is specific to a specific job.
Use keyword matching software. Another advantage to hiring a career coach or professional resume writer is that they can provide access to, or they will sometimes use on your behalf, keyword matching software that has been specifically designed to spot opportunities for better matching.
However you proceed, do not ignore the advice in this article. If you ignore the advice in this article and the hard truth about keyword matching algorithms in those automated applicant tracking (ATS) systems - it will be at your own peril.
While there are a number of ways to improve your score on keyword matching algorithms in automated applicant tracking systems, the most important is this: make sure your resume closely matches the job description. This can be accomplished by studying the job description, making a list of keywords and also key phrases.
Make sure every keyword you identify appears in your resume. And for those key phrases, often you can copy and pasting those key phrases into your resume - often those phrases will explain your work as well as (or better than) you can in your own words. You might also want to consider hiring a professional resume writer or a career coach who can help you with this process. Finally, you can use keyword matching software to help you spot opportunities for improvement.