How to Beat the Bots (Applicant Tracking System hacks)


Have you ever known someone who said, “I applied for a job that I was perfect for but never heard back?” It could be that their resume was never actually seen by the employer. To beat the bots, their resume’s format could be the determining factor as to whether they move forward in the hiring process.

Like every industry, technology has revolutionized the recruitment process through the implementation of applicant tracking systems (ATS), which are systems used by recruiters and managers to orchestrate the hiring/recruiting process. At the heart of an ATS is a database that warehouses applicants and candidates which is easily searchable using both automated and manual searches.

How Parsers Work
As an applicant, it is critical that your information is accurately entered into the database. Parsers are the tool that scan resumes and “decide” where to store the resume’s information including contact, work history, and education.

In some cases, parsers aggregate and categorize skills including the duration the skill was used and how long ago it was last used. For example, a parser may find the skill ‘accounts receivable.’ More sophisticated parsers determine how long the applicant has worked in A/R and how long ago since they did so.

If a resume isn’t formatted in a manner that these digital parsers “understand,” then either important information will be omitted or stored incorrectly in the database and therefore may not appear in search results for consideration.

What is a Bot?
After a resume has been parsed and the information has been stored in the ATS’ database, then another tool (sometimes referred to as a bot) is used to evaluate the candidate’s information to determine if it meets the criteria, including necessary keywords established by a hiring manager or recruiter.

The process to parse, evaluate, and route an applicant is nearly instantaneous.

Parser Pitfalls
One of the major formatting errors that “confuse” parsers are nested job. Parsers choke on nested jobs (progressively promoted or otherwise). Every job needs a company, title, and date.

Nested jobs with aggregate tenure or people who have been promoted within one company. It will be interpreted as the date range of the first job.

Here’s the way the parser likes it:
• Company Name: For Date put “Progressively Promoted” (no date range); company description.

• Title Job 1, Date Range (notice no ‘Company’ because it will take it from above); summary/bullets

• Company, Title Job 2, Date Range; summary/bullets

• Company, Title Job 3, Date Range; summary/bullets

Here’s what parsers don’t like or get confused by:
• Fancy headers with spacing between letters between names (example L A R R Y)

• Lesser-known or multiple credentials after an applicant’s name (example CCNP)

• Graphics and images might be rendered unrecognizable and ignored

If you want to ensure that your resume parses smoothly before applying contact us at Resume Footprint. To ensure our clients’ success, we verify that our client’s resumes and other key personal marketing materials are parsed, evaluated, and routed successfully through an ATS.

We run all our clients resumes through a system popular with corporations of all sizes and recruiters. This is a tried-and-true process that has helped many of our clients beat the bots and land the job.