Applicant Tracking Systems continue to be the bane of many jobseekers. That’s why I’m writing this series of blogs that take a deeper dive.

Last week’s blog dealt with the importance of file extensions (e.g. .doc, .docx, PDF, etc.). The type of document you submit matters. You can read more about it here.

Why the focus on extensions? Because if the ATS can’t open or read your file, then having the right keywords won’t help you.

Most jobseekers know that the ATS checks keywords in uploaded document. Jobseekers also understand that they need to integrate keywords into their cover letter and résumé.

Once again; there is more to these systems than meets the eye. In the early stages of Applicant Tracking Systems, keywords were believed to be the primary reason a candidate was not considered for a position. Keywords continue to play a key role in making it through to the hiring community, however, they are only one of several steps. In other words, a potential candidate can submit a file that is loaded with keywords and still not make it through the ATS.

What are Keywords?

Keywords are one important filter when a document is being analyzed by the ATS. The HR person, who is posting the position to the online job boards, selects words and word sets from the Job Description, Requirements, and from the introductory information about the company that is on the job posting.

Good news: Keywords are not a befuddling mystery. They are not “rocket science” either. General principles:

  • Keywords are seven or more letters in length.
  • Acronyms are an exception and they are part of the keywords that the ATS is looking for.
  • Keywords do not contain adjectives or adverbs.

How many times have you read, “Strong communication skills: verbal and written” on a job posting? The word, “Strong” is not a keyword. The word “and” is not a keyword.

How the ATS finds Key Words

The reference to “Keywords” has become somewhat standard for jobseekers. However, a better description would be “keywords and phrases.”

Within the ATS job posting interface, there are six or more sections of information that jobseekers see when viewing a job posting:

  1. Technical information about the position
  2. About the company
  3. The job description
  4. Job qualifications (or requirements)
  5. Preferred qualification (not always there)
  6. Special requirements
  7. Affirmative action information

Usually the ATS “looks” for words as well as key phrases. A better description would be to call these “text strings.” Technically, a text string is a combination of letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation. A text string may include an entire phrase.

Common mistakes with keywords and phrases:

The selection of keywords and phrases may come from any of the sections in the posting. The most important point is this: The ATS is looking for a string of letters, numbers, spaces and punctuation.

Even though each word in the key phrase is in the document, the ATS will not pick it up unless the “string” is presented exactly as they appear on the job posting —in its entirety. This assumes that the person who entered the posting into the ATS, designated keywords and phrases, and indicated the entire string to the ATS.

To receive additional information and examples of text strings, please sign up for Marcia’s Top Secrets to receive more information and see examples of keywords. You will be asked for your email address but don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.

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Changes are happening fast! It is possible to master the change process and remain relevant, active, and maintain an income stream.

Neil Patrick and I understood these changes which are coming quickly! That’s why we wrote

Part 1 presents the Six Engines of Change and tells you what you need to know so you can read the jobs market and stay ahead of the curve.

Part 2 outlines a process to re-evaluate your skills as changes occur and establish your credibility with potential employers.

I hope you get the book. I hope you read it and embrace these changes so you and your family can enjoy the revenue you need and a future that is bright.

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