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Your Executive Resume Must Be ATS-Friendly & Graphically Pleasing

29 Jan, 2020

Your Executive Resume Must Be ATS-Friendly & Graphically Pleasing

Your executive resume in today’s employment market must be ready for populating the database of employers’ and recruiting firms’ Applicant Tracking Software (ATS System), while still engaging the human reader with both compelling content and visual elements.

Whether you have bypassed HR or not, even executives at C-level will more often than not find that their executive resume is stored and referenced through either a standard ATS such as Taleo or Workday, or a proprietary system used by a company, venture capital (VC) firm, or recruiting firm.

The trend of recruiters and hiring executives is toward preferring a more visually and graphically pleasing presentation with at least a splash of color.

Recruiters are getting younger, and generational differences mean that the visual appearance of your executive resume is of increasing importance.

A recent informal survey showed that 91% of resume reviewers actually do look at the original resume document, not just the data in the ATS database.

Sixty percent (60%) prefer at least a little color and like to see visually interesting graphic boxes, text pull-outs, etc. Generation Z doesn’t even want to see plain black and white resumes at all.

Implications for You:

In preparing your executive resume, you or your executive resume writer will need to be mindful of both the intricacies and failings of ATS systems AND what will please the human being reviewing your resume.

The resume must be rich in relevant keywords and phrases.

It must be formatted with headings that the ATS system can easily recognize so as to parse your information into the database correctly.

The ATS will be evaluating your resume’s closeness of match to both the hard and soft skills contained in the position description.

You must decide what file format in which to submit your resume. In order to meet both ATS import and human reader requirements, it is becoming increasingly common to preferentially send the PDF of your resume, versus sending a Word document. This trend is because:

1) Microsoft Word .doc and .docx files are notorious for experiencing degradation of format when viewed across different computers and platforms. This is especially true if you use any graphic elements in your resume at all.

2) Mobile document viewing applications for some reason have particular difficulty properly translating anything but the most simply formatted Word document. Here is an executive recruiter’s thoughts on why PDF is best.

Properly formatted, whether it is a Word, text, RTF, or PDF document, your executive resume will populate reasonably well in major ATS systems such as Taleo or Workday. Unlike in the past, most ATS systems have little difficulty importing the data from a PDF file. However, it is relevant to note that:

1) Even the most simply formatted plain text or RTF resume will NOT translate perfectly onto any of these ATS systems, nor be free of glitches in viewing on mobile platforms.

2) ATS systems are for some reason still pretty dated in comparison to other major enterprise platforms, and until this situation changes, there is no 100% way to ensure your resume will be parsed properly by ATS, no matter what format you send it in.

For more on the changing landscape of today’s executive job search, see this article on Trends that May Affect Your Executive Career in 2020.

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