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Ever wonder what happens to your resume after you submit it online? It would be nice to say it is sent directly into a hiring manager’s hands for review.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. After you click “submit,” your resume is whisked away into the company’s applicant tracking system (ATS), a recruiting software used by 90 percent of businesses to sort through resumes they receive.

Most ATS use resume parsers to identify and extract relevant information and enter it into a database (typically including fields for Contact Information, Education, Skills, and Work Experience).

If the ATS can’t find the relevant information on a resume, that candidate’s profile within the ATS will be incomplete and they won’t appear qualified.

Resume keywords

When reading a job description, there are certain words and phrases that are, well, key. These resume keywords can include both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are easily quantifiable and often industry-specific, such as mastery of certain software. Soft skills are less easy to measure, but no less important. They include adaptability, decision making, problem solving, and communication.

Basically, using more of the keywords from the job posting on your resume will lead to a higher rank within the ATS. (But note that applicant tracking systems are always improving, and many can spot—and will penalize—applicants who try to game the system by stuffing their resume with keywords.)

Echoing the exact way that a job posting phrases the keywords is important. Many ATS cannot tell that “RN” and “registered nurse” are intended to be equivalent, for example. If you have the right keywords, but written the wrong way, resume parsers aren’t always going to recognize that. If your resume is seen as lacking keywords, you’re likely to get overlooked.

If you aren’t sure which keywords are most important or are wondering how your resume keyword usage stacks up, you can use Jobscan’s resume analysis tool. It will compare your resume directly with the job posting, give you a match rating, and offer specific feedback about improvements you can make.

Resume parsers have changed large swaths of the recruiting and hiring processes, yet many job seekers remain unaware of the technology. To succeed, applicants need to change how they craft their ATS resume and apply for jobs. Today’s candidates “need to concentrate on being relevant to a parsing system,” according to RecruiterBox.

Taking the time to understand resume parsers will give job seekers a huge advantage. If you know how something works, you can plan for it—and beat it.

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