Gone are the days of creating one résumé and using it for every job application. Customization is the name of the game in today’s digital age.

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Gone are the days of creating one résumé and using it for every job application. Customization is the name of the game in today’s digital age, which has become more and more important with the increasing use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

What is an ATS? It’s a software application that allows companies to electronically manage their recruiting and hiring process. With an ATS, companies can not only store and track applicant information, they can also scan résumés for specific keywords related to job postings. While it has helped streamline the hiring process, it has also commoditized job seekers because they become an entry in a database.

Why do employers use ATS? The task of sifting through candidates is made easier through the use of an ATS, and the keyword ranking functionality saves recruiters time by helping them weed out unqualified applicants.

Why are keywords so important? After the job description is written, the hiring manager and HR representative determine the keywords and phrases that are unique to the job. These keywords are essentially the qualifications, experience and characteristics of the position that the software will search for in applicants’ resumes.

What does this means for job seekers? The location and frequency of keywords within your resume can be important. The better your resume matches the job description requirements, the higher you’ll rank in the ATS. It’s common practice for companies to begin reviewing applicants from the top of the ranking list — bad news for job seekers who haven’t customized and used keywords in their resume.

To ensure your resume makes it through an ATS scan for your desired job, follow these tips:

  • Analyze your resume against the job description. For each job requirement, write down whether you meet, partially meet or don’t meet that requirement.
  • Customize and keyword your résumé. Use the same words in your resume that are used in the job posting when you describe your “proof” of how you meet a requirement, so you’ll increase your chances of achieving a higher keyword ranking in the ATS.
  • Add a “Skills Summary” section near the top of your résumé. This not only helps draw a recruiter or hiring manager’s eyes to your best qualities, it will also help your ATS keyword ranking.
  • Test your keywording savvy. Take advantage of new tools, such as Jobscan and Wordle, which help candidates analyze how well their résumé matches a job posting.
  • Network. Bypass the ATS altogether – activate your network and get your résumé into the hands of people who can help you land the job you want.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.