Gaming Automated Resume Sorting: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

When job searching, it's tempting to create a general resume with your qualifications, hand several copies out around town, and wait for the calls to pour in. However, you're more likely to get those calls if your resume is specialized for the job you're applying to.

Spending time tailoring your resume to the unique requirements the job description includes will help ensure your resume gets into the right hands.Since companies may receive hundreds of applications for a single job listing, employers have implemented a system called automated resume sorting to find the candidates who accurately and precisely match the job description.  

What is Automated Resume Sorting?

Automated resume sorting systems, also known as applicant tracking systems, help companies to efficiently sort and filter through a high volume of applicants. This helps them to find the candidates that best match their criteria. First, a computer program called a parser breaks down the text in your resume and removes formatting. It then categorizes the information into groups such as work experience, skills, and education. Then, the systems search for relevant keywords and phrases that match the skills and experience the employer is looking for. Finally, your resume is scored, using both keywords and years of experience.  

Which Employers are Most Likely to Use Automated Resume Sorting Systems?

Up to 50% of employers use automated resume sorting systems, with the most common users being big companies, job boards, and recruiters. Big companies are flooded with resumes from hundreds of applicants, and just imagine how many responses employers receive to ads placed on public job boards.  

What Do Automated Resume Sorting Systems Look For?

Automated resume sorting systems look for relevant keywords, which can often be found in the job description. Search for keywords that are found in the job description and are used more than twice. Keywords and phrases are usually nouns, and usually consist of technical skills, specializations, titles or positions, certificates, or other specific experience. Here's an example of a job listing for a truck driver that was recently posted in my city:


"NWLT is looking for Drivers with Class A CDL, farm experience is helpful. Pay scale is based on experience and ability. Need a positive attitude and a willingness to work."

So, here are our keywords: drivers, Class A CDL, farm experience, willingness to work, and positive attitude. Make sure you include the keywords in your titles, headers, expertise section, and scattered throughout your resume. Drivers, Class A CDL, positive attitude and willingness to work are requirements, so these keywords are crucial to include, but if you have farm experience, include this too.

Tips for Making it Through the Screening Process:

Place Keywords in Key Places

Place keywords and phrases in the right places, such as job titles, headers and key competencies. Input keywords wherever possible. The most recent systems also screen for duration of experience as well as how recent it was; so try placing the keyword in the description of a position you worked at for 2 years and left 6 months ago as well as the training you did for just 2 weeks 3 years ago. Include an expertise category in the top 1/3 of online resumes with relevant samples of the specialist experience the job listing mentions.  

Use Parser Friendly Formatting

Use bulleted lists, simple formatting, and a standard font so it's easy for the parser to break it down. Avoid images or graphics, since the parser can't read these. The parser may also have trouble processing special characters such as arrows, so avoid these as well.  

Pay Attention to Social Media

Some automated resume sorters scan social media sites, so make sure your social profile reflects what your resume says about you too. This doesn't mean your resume has to be posted on your social media site, but it does mean you should portray a responsible image of yourself that you would be comfortable showing an employer.  

Design With Humans in Mind

While much of the focus is to make it through the parser with proper formatting and keywords, don't lose sight of the main goal. Humans read the resume in the end, so make sure it's not only fit for the sorter, but also readable by the very person who may call you in for an interview!