Job Materials and the ATS
One of the most common mistakes computer science applicants make with their resumes is underestimating the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) and the importance of tailoring a resume for a specific job.
Today, the vast majority of companies use an ATS system to parse every applicants’ resumes and lots of systems work by filtering the number of applicants that make it past every step. An ATS is essentially a program that reads through every resume very quickly and gets rid of any resume it deems as unqualified by comparing keywords in the application and job posting. This step sometimes comes with some assistance from HR staff to double check the work, but for bigger companies it might just all be automatic.
Since it is read by a robot and not a human, you must pay attention to the following:
- Make sure your resume contains keywords that are featured in the job posting as well as the skills that they are looking for. Read through the job post and try to add those keywords to skills or work history.
- Make sure your resume is in an easy to read file format like .pdf, .txt, .docx. When in doubt stick with .pdf as this is pretty standard.
- Keep it simple. Avoid using fancy borders, weird bullets, word art, etc. These really don’t serve much of a purpose to a human reader anyway and could really confuse the ATS. There’s nothing wrong with having a simple Times New Roman resume like so
- Avoid pictures and graphics. ATS systems can’t really read graphics or pictures so if your resume contains screenshots, images, or anything that isn’t text based, the ATS will not be able to read it and whatever is in it will not help you. Type out the entire resume.
Here is an easy to use template in word, latex. All of us use this template and it works perfectly. Word & Latex both work.
The following are some limited free resources to see how your resume stands up to an ATS scan with a job description you are going for:
Some companies still require a cover letter as a part of their applications, and in other cases, if it is not required then it might still be good to have one. The cover letter is a chance for you to give a recruiter some extra information about why you might be a good fit for a position that might not be as easy to convey in a bulleted resume. They show that you’re passionate about the job and have more than just programming skills.
🌟The following document contains a great guide to resumes as well as cover letter samples and walkthroughs towards the last few pages: https://ocs.fas.harvard.edu/files/ocs/files/hes-resume-cover-letter-guide.pdf
Since the cover letter is supposed to be one page long, you will find that they are actually not that difficult to write and it is once again important to tailor it specifically to the job you are applying for. Some guides and examples of cover letters are here: