Getting That Engineering Resume Past the Robots

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are robotic-based screening tools that employers now use to screen resumes before they reach a hiring manager’s hands.
Getting That Engineering Resume Past the Robots

Ain’t technology wonderful? For engineers specifically, it has transformed many of the tasks that once had to be accomplished manually. New software and tools have allowed engineers to focus on larger areas of their responsibilities and projects, leaving the more mundane tasks to technology.

Technology Hits the Job Market Too
Technology has also hit the job-seeking market. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are robotic-based screening tools that employers now use to screen resumes before they reach a hiring manager’s hands.

Given this technology, most resumes do not actually get into the hands of those hiring managers.

These ATS robots are looking for keywords and keyword phrases, and they score them according to relevance to the position, sending the ones that score highly on to the hiring manager.

Getting your resume past the ATS robots is not that difficult if you know how to do it. If you are female, you can’t change your name to appear as a male (there are still some traditional “stigmas” regarding engineering being a male career). But, if you follow these tips, your resume will land in the hands of a human reviewer.

           1. Your Format – Simplicity Wins

The robots don’t like “fancy” stuff – they want plain and simple. So, dump the photos and the other “fluff” and stick to the meat of who you are, the value you bring to the organization, and an active summary of your background, experience, and achievements. And be certain to use a traditional font – robots get confused with fancy ones.

Sylvia Giltner, HR specialist at Resumes Centre has this to say about resume formats: “There are times when a more ‘glitzy’ resume is called for – positions in the arts or for young new startups, for example. But for a larger organization, you can assume that ATS will be used, and the simple format works better.”

           2. Getting the Keywords Right

For every position, and especially in the specialized areas of engineering, there are certain skills, language, tech expertise, and even licenses or certificates that will be associated with the profession and the specific position. Here’s how to nail the right ones.

  • Review the job description. Look for key skills and phrases and get those into your resume. Do NOT stuff them in. Just place them naturally throughout your document.
  • If you need to include titles, certifications, etc. use both the full spelling and the acronym in parentheses afterward.
  • Look to repeat the major keywords twice but no more.3. Replace the Career Objective Statement

No one cares about what your career goals are. They care about the value you can bring to the table. Either craft a nice executive summary of your skills, qualifications, and strengths. You can get keywords in here too.

    4. Spelling Errors Are Found

Those smart robots. Many of these ATS programs are also designed to detect spelling errors. Actually, they don’t detect them so much as they are unable to process a word that is not spelled correctly. Don’t chance it. Pat Fredshaw, the content editor at EssaySupply.comwho has edited and proofread numerous resumes, says, “I can’t tell you how many spelling errors I find in resumes. These are killers when they reach the hands of a potential employer, and yet many of our clients don’t take the time to check.”

          5. Get Some Help and Advice

There are all kinds of sources for help for resume construction. If you are not sure, don’t take chances. You can use a variety of sources. Monster.com has a huge number of templates for all professions, including engineering; Flash Essay is a service that has a full department of resume writing experts; LDS Jobs is a good resource to find out what a job coach can do for you as you look to make a change and craft a resume that works.

The Wrap
In the end, if your resume makes it through the ATS robot, it will land on a hiring manager’s desk for scrutiny. And here’s the thing: all of the work you have done to get through that robot will result in a resume that a potential employer will find worthy of review. The interview should follow.

SWE’s Career Center
SWE’s Career Center currently has more than 5,000 job postings. You’ll find employment opportunities in a variety of engineering disciplines and for all experience levels. More than 650 employers, including the world’s largest engineering and technology firms, have job openings. You’ll find opportunities in academia, government, and nonprofit organizations. Upload your up-to-date resume, and take advantage of SWE’s Career Center at careers.swe.org..

About Jessica
Jessica Fender is a professional freelance writer and independent blogger. She is passionate about content marketing and leading other marketers to success in this new age of digital marketing. You can find her articles on Freelancer.com and Addicted2Success, and follow her on Twitter @fender_jess.


So your resume’s been seen and now it’s time to interview. Don’t stress—SWE’s Advance Webinar on Interviewing will have you feeling prepared!

  • Mary Zeis says:

    I agree with everything, but have an alternate point of view on the Objective statement. For experienced engineers, I completely agree that an Executive Summary is best. For college students, I think an objective statement is important so that a busy campus recruiter can quickly look and see what the student is looking for….a summer internship? a co-op position? or a full time job? You can’t tell just by graduation date. A graduating senior might only be looking for a summer internship if they plan to go to graduate school in the fall.

    • Jessica says:

      Good point, Mary. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I did not think this whole thing through with students and fresh-graduates in mind.

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