New Twist on Resume Formatting, Application Tracking Systems

A clients recently shared with me her resume that had been “rewritten” by an internal recruiter.    According to my client, the recruiter said the resume was excellent.  When I took a look at the resume, I hardly recognized it.

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Applicant tracking systems (ATS) started out to be the recruiter’s savior by creating large searchable databases of resumes for finding potential candidates for jobs.  Today, they have grown into monsters that are not only frustrating for people looking for jobs but also complex, unresponsive and difficult to manage systems for recruiters and hiring managers.  Gradually, they are evolving into compliance and record keeping systems rather than nimble employment resources.

One of my clients recently shared with me her resume that had been “rewritten” by an internal recruiter.    According to my client, the recruiter said the resume was excellent – that they had only made a few minor changes.  When I took a look at the resume, I hardly recognized it as the one I had developed with my client.  The format of the document was significantly changed, although much of the content had remained as originally written.

After a brief silence, I asked my client “what is going on here?”  I was told that the hiring company – a large private equity firm  – had hired an individual from one of the top executive search firms to rewrite resumes.  My first thought was that the person they hired didn’t know how to create a good, professional resume.  But that just didn’t seem right.  The more I thought about it, the more I speculated that there was a good reason for this format.  Aha!  These rewritten resumes are designed for consistent – and another Aha! – data field driven input into their hiring system.

Now it all started to make sense.  Think about this.  If I build a parameter-driven system based on standard fields and input data in standard formats, I have an incredibly useful, searchable database that can also feed a report generator (with standard and ad hoc reporting capabilities).  Then I hire a knowledgeable person (someone who not only understands resumes but understands company structure, organization structure, education and other credentials, and content) to take a prospect’s existing resume and enter the data into the fields.  The resume is not being rewritten – it is being “entered” into defined, searchable fields.  The new resume is a report that I can generate from the system.  This system allows for searching and sorting on data fields, not just text as is the standard in many resume databases.  WOW!  Pretty cool!

The evolution has come full circle.  About 25 years ago, I joined a major Executive Search Firm as a Researcher.  The firm developed a powerful, proprietary data base and report generator.  Entering the data and generating the reports was quite primitive as compared with today’s systems.  One of my responsibilities and those of several of my colleagues was for us each of us to sort through about 200 (mostly unsolicited) resumes every week.  Our job was to select the ones that would go into our database and then code them for data entry, who put in both codes and related text for key information.  We had codes for companies, SIC codes, job titles, education, certifications, and certain skill sets and/or experiences.  It took quite a bit of knowledge and business sophistication to translate the resume into the correct codes.  Another part of our job was to define ad hoc reports that would select potential prospects for job searches from the database based on criteria.  For example, I might create a set of criteria like “select all the current or previous CFO’s or VP’s of Finance in consumer package goods companies with CPA’s and “Big 4” experience located in New York, Chicago or San Francisco. The data entry department would then enter these parameters and print out a set of profiles and reports.  The original resume was stored in a manual file to be retrieved by the search consultant if the individual was selected based on the profile information.  This was an enormously time consuming and expensive process – but it worked.

Fast forward to today (as I imagine this company’s system working).  We now search on text, eliminating the need for complex coding.  It also allows for more content in the profile – information about responsibilities and accomplishments can be included.  The profile is a standard resume in a format that can be sent to a hiring manager – and each one looks the same making them easier to read and understand.  The original resume can be scanned and stored electronically.  These “resumes” are not necessarily pretty marketing documents but the system that created them is magnificently robust in its ability to be used for searching and “reporting”.

So, there is a lot of speculation and imagination in the scenario I have just painted.  But at least it makes sense.


Want to read more about the author?  Visit Paula Asinof’s bio page.