We see marketing resumes every day that are only formatted for a human being to read and ultimately not optimal for software systems of the recent past or the more advanced Artificial Intelligence Systems that are here now.
The job market in 2023 has evolved and now incorporates sophisticated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that screen resumes before they even reach human eyes. While these systems help streamline the recruitment process for the organization doing the hiring, they can also pose a challenge for job seekers who do not understand the latest rules of the road. To stand out from the competition and ensure your resume makes it past the AI gatekeepers, here are the top nine strategies you need to consider.
1. Keyword Optimization
Applicant Tracking Systems are designed to scan resumes for specific keywords relevant to the job description. To increase your chances of getting noticed, carefully analyze the marketing job posting and incorporate relevant keywords into your resume. However, it is very important to avoid keyword stuffing, as AI systems are designed to identify this and will rule out your application. Strike a balance by naturally integrating keywords into your resume, especially in your skills, experience, and qualifications sections.
2. Tailor Your Resume for Each Job
Fortunately, or unfortunately, gone are the days of using a one-size-fits-all resume. Customize your marketing resume for each position you apply for. This not only includes optimizing keywords but also tailoring your professional summary, highlighting relevant experience, and showcasing skills that match the specific job requirements. A personalized resume demonstrates your genuine interest in the role and your dedication to the application process. You will want to carry this commitment to personalization and research throughout the search and interview process.
3. Do NOT try to Outsmart the System
We have seen candidates attempt to outsmart the system. Pasting the entire job description into your resume, in a white font is not going to help or if found out allow you to be seen in a positive light. Neither is applying to the same role multiple times with different versions of your resume to see what the AI system might select. Whatever action you take in the front end of the process, anticipate you will need to discuss and possibly defend it during the interview process.
4. Format for ATS Compatibility
As the leading executive search firm for marketing, digital, e-commerce, brand and communications talent, we see far too many resumes that over index on creativity, instead of being focused on results. The only goal of a resume is to get you to a conversation, it is not the time to show off your photoshop skills. ATS systems will struggle with complex formatting, graphics, and non-standard fonts. Stick to a simple and clean resume format. Use common fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman, and avoid using large graphics, tables, headers, or footers. Bullet points, subheadings, and clear section titles will help the ATS categorize your resume accurately. Many HR software systems can only read resumes formatted in MSWord, anything you send in a PDF format may or may not get read.
5. Focus on Relevant Skills
AI-driven systems place an emphasis on the skills section of your resume. Clearly list skills that align with the job description, and if possible, use the exact terminology mentioned in the posting. This makes it easier for the AI to match your skills with the job’s requirements. Balance hard skills (technical abilities) and soft skills (communication, teamwork, etc.) to present a well-rounded profile. Keep in mind that listing too many skills is the equivalent of keyword stuffing, you do not want to end up looking like a jack of all trades and master of none.
6. Use Industry-Specific Language
Demonstrate your industry knowledge by using relevant jargon and terminology. When an ATS detects that your resume includes words commonly used in the field, it’s more likely to consider you a qualified candidate. However, remember to keep it authentic – only use terms you’re genuinely familiar with, as you are likely to be asked about them during the interview process.
7. Include Action Verbs in Descriptions
When describing your work experience, use action verbs to convey your accomplishments. Phrases like “managed,” “implemented,” “achieved,” and “developed” not only make your achievements stand out but also help the AI understand your contributions clearly. Use quantifiable metrics whenever possible to provide a tangible sense of your impact. There is no substitute for measurable results.
8. Network Instead and You Won’t Need Them
As a talented professional, you have spent many years honing your craft. During this time you have made many connections both inside and outside your previous organizations. Hopefully along the way you have been helpful to others when they needed a job or mentorship. If you have paid it forward, now you can use the network you have built to hopefully find a new role and then you don’t need to be concerned about AI software systems.
9. Provide Context for Acronyms
While industry-specific acronyms can demonstrate your expertise in the industry, they might not be understood by the AI or even the initial human screeners. Spell out acronyms the first time you use them and include the acronym in parentheses. This approach ensures that both the AI and potential employers understand your qualifications without any ambiguity.
We live in a digital world and recruitment in no different, it’s essential to optimize your resume to make it past AI-driven Applicant Tracking Systems. Interestingly this tends to be the format that works best when a real person reviews your resume as well.
Remember, while getting past AI is crucial, the ultimate goal is to land an interview and showcase your accomplishments, experience, personality, and potential to the hiring manager. So, while you’re optimizing your resume for ATS, don’t forget to focus on crafting a compelling narrative that tells your professional story and presents you as the ideal candidate for the job. In a successful search your resume is likely to be reviewed by technology and multiple people. Keep in mind you are writing to both audiences.
Most importantly remember that while it is OK to tailor your resume for a specific role, that never changes the need to be 100% honest.