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How to get past ATS software in a resume

Nurse Beth Article   (1,430 Views | 1 Replies | 1,048 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

18 Followers; 103 Articles; 234,610 Profile Views; 2,058 Posts

Will using keywords help get past ATS?

Do you want to make sure that human eyes actually see your resume? Read on to learn how to bypass the ATS "robot reader" System.

How to get past ATS software in a resume

I have been working on my resume using the tips that you provided online and in your book, and I am very pleased with the results.

I have a question about use of keywords from the job description to bypass ATS System. How would I use them in my resume without sounding overly cliché. I listed many examples in work history section of how I used my interpersonal and communication skills, ability to manage multiple tasks and be a team player, but those examples will only be noticed by someone who is actually reading the resume.

To compensate for the lack of keywords I added a very short summary section that lists the following:

  • Proficient in EHR documentation in Epic and Meditech.
  • Able to handle multiple responsibilities and adapt to challenging situation calmly and efficiently.
  • Fluent in English and Russian.
  • Able to apply critical judgement in various aspects of patient care.

Here is a part of job post:

  • Proficiency with Information Technology; such as electronic health records, communications systems, computers and equipment necessary to perform essential functions of the position.
  • Skilled to work with a wide range of staff as part of an interdisciplinary team including physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff.
  • Ability to use independent, critical judgment in all aspects of patient care delivery.
  • Demonstrated interpersonal skills that convey a positive and supportive attitude.
  • Ability to effectively manage multiple responsibilities, urgent responses, and challenging situations.

I am a new grad and don't have much to say in the summary section, so I would like to make it concise and relevant to what the job description is asking but without sounding overly cliché and still bypassing ATS system. What is the best way to do this?

Thank you very much for all the valuable advice.

Dear New Grad,

Congrats on graduating!

I'm really glad my book helped you with your resume such as the tip "stories are remembered" while facts are forgotten :).

You Want To Be Memorable.

I always tell applicants that it is better to give an example of being a team player on your cover letter and resume than to write "team player" and it seems you've done so.

In my book, I  emphasize avoiding cliche phrases in interviews as well, such as "I'm a perfectionist" when asked "What's your greatest weakness?" and instead give examples of what answers hiring managers are looking for for the behavioral and situational interview questions.

As far as wanting to avoid cliche terms that you include for the sole purpose of making it past the applicant tracking system (ATS), also known as "robot reader", that's a slightly different story. You can be creative to a certain extent, but mirrored terms and words are what the talent acquisition recruiter searches for. ATS scoring does not award points for creativity and does not penalize for cliches. Echo the identified keywords as written.

Applicant Tracking Systems (aka Robot Readers)

ATS software is here to stay.  ATS software is used by many large healthcare organizations and designed to source the most qualified applicants. One way it does this is by tracking keywords. Resumes are essentially processed and screened by a computer before ever getting to a human being. So it's essential to understand how they work in relation to keywords.

How do you know which keywords to use?

Some ATS systems compare your resume to the job description (JD). Candidates who predict the most correct keywords in their resume stand a better chance of making the cut. A search by a recruiter can include hard skills and soft skills. The search is much the same as we all use to search Google on any given topic.

To identify keywords from the JD, print it out and use a highlighter. In your example, I bolded some searchable terms the recruiter might search for. In your Summary section, you could write "Proficiency with Information Technology and electronic health records. Experience with  Epic and Meditech". The first sentence gets ATS recognition. The second sentence reads well once your resume lands in human hands and if the organization uses Epic or Meditech. Find out ahead of time which platform they use or are migrating to, and just include that one.

Tips To Stand Out With ATS Systems

  • Use the same tense and exact wording found in the job description. If the JD  says "demonstrated" then use "demonstrated" and not "demonstrates" to be safe. Some systems recognize variations and synonyms, some do not.
  • ATS systems cannot recognize certain formatting, such as unusual font. Use a standard sans serif font such as Arial or Calibri. If the system cannot recognize a field, it will turn up as blank.
  • Keyword density: Use the important keywords as many times as it's used in the job description (JD). If the word "critical judgement" is used twice in the JD, use it twice in your resume, but don't try to "stuff" (overuse) your resume with keywords, it can backfire. You can use the same keyword in different sections, such as in Professional Profile, Summary, Skills, Employment History.
  • Spell out acronyms at least once. Instead of IT, write Information Technology (IT). Mirror the language used in the JD.
  • See how well your resume performs using Jobscan website, where you can compare your resume against the JD, and get a score. You want to score at least 80%.
  • Individualize your resume, cover letter and interview to each organization. Read each organization's website, mission statement, publicly reported HCAHPS scores, mission statement.
  • Consider including an organization's keywords on your LinkedIn profile if you are targeting one specific employer.

I hope this helps and best of luck!

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

18 Followers; 103 Articles; 234,610 Profile Views; 2,058 Posts

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ruby_jane has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in ICU/community health/school nursing.

4 Followers; 2,733 Posts; 11,293 Profile Views

I found this invaluable.

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