ATS means “Applicant Tracking System”.

It involves a series of steps to “optimize” your resume:

  • Keyword optimization (key words mentioned over and over)
  • Formatting tricks (no header/footer/special characters/tables, etc.)
  • Standard headings (work history/work experience, etc.)

Software utilized by, LinkedIn, and others will show you in really pretty graphs and in really detailed analysis how closely you match a job description from an ATS perspective.  The analysis is quite extensive; great marketing for those that sell the service.  I don’t.

ATS is hogwash, irrelevant, waste of time, meaningless, and a distraction, unless….

90+% of your job search strategy is to apply online.  Applying online along with thousands of other applicants is a low-probability and anxiety-producing process to begin with.  However, if you have no choice (say it’s your first job out of school when you have no real network), you have no choice.  In this case, get into ATS and learn all about it here.  Just don’t call me.

However, the majority of 6 figure professionals do not need to waste their time.  They have a much more valuable tool to access the hidden job market to minimize applying online.  It’s called their network.

However, I define network as people you know and people you have yet to meet.

You know the network you know.  How to effectively empower your network to help you find your next job is crucial.  You can find advice in this blog I wrote. Your network is probably broader than you think, especially if you have worked in large companies and are over the age of 30.

The bigger network is the network you don’t know. Contact professionals on LinkedIn who you don’t know but with whom you share a commonality such as a university, former employer, fraternity/sorority, 2nd connection, etc. This will get you more quality conversations than you can imagine.  For every 100 invitations I send out to those with whom I share a commonality, on average 30-40 accept my invitation.  Of the 30-40, on average 5-7 agree to have conversations.  Of course, what you say in the initial invitation and in the request for a conversation is crucial.  I teach these best practices.

Don’t get me wrong, having an awareness of key words on your resume is important for general marketing purposes.  So simply pick out your favorite 5 job descriptions and copy the text into, and see which words appear the most. Then make sure these key words appear in your resume appropriately.

Also, we are not talking about your LinkedIn profile.  This is a whole different ball game where key word search optimization is crucial. Topic for another blog.

In summary for the majority of readers, when it comes to your resume, make it shine, but skip the ATS hogwash and network.


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