I saw a blog post last week about writing dates on resumes.
It suggested that if job seekers don’t use a certain format, applicant tracking systems shoot their resumes to the Black Hole of Death.
Not the case.
Parsing Software Reads Your Resume
First, to pick nits, the ATS doesn’t read your resume.
Rather, applicant tracking systems include resume parsing software.
The software “reads” your resume to populate a database of user-defined requirements.
Beyond that, organizations use many different parsers. They range in accuracy from “not so good” to “almost as good as a human reader.”
Thus, a small real estate management company might use an inexpensive, not-so-good parser.
And a Wall Street investment bank might have a parser that’s almost as good at parsing language as you would be.
Some companies write their parsers. Other companies buy parsers and integrate them with their ATS.
You can even find free parsing software if you google around a bit.
The ATS Isn’t a Monolith
Bloggers often write about “the ATS” as if it’s a monolith with an inalienable set of truths and rules.
As you can see from the above, that’s far from true.
Companies can choose from many parsing options (which use a variety of methodologies). Moreover, they define the data they want their parsers to find.
Thus, they tell their systems how to look at your resume.
Applicants Don’t All Write Dates on Resumes the Same Way
Beyond the parser variables described above, each job seeker writes their resume differently.
The people who develop parsing software know this. So they write code to recognize different presentations of the same types of information.
You hope the employers you’re applying to have accurate resume parsing software.
However, you don’t know how their parser works, so you don’t have a way to compensate within your resume if they don’t.
That’s why you should network your resume into the hands of the hiring manager.
How a Good Resume Parser Handles Dates on Resumes
Now let’s examine what parsers do with dates.
Applicants write dates of employment and graduation dates in a variety of ways. They might use months and years or just years. Some people leave dates off of their education.
Good developers study reams of resumes to understand how people write dates. Then they code their parser to recognize all of them. You can read a discussion of that here.
As you will see, in all likelihood, the ATS doesn’t care how you write dates on your resume. It wants you to list the dates, but it should have your back on various ways for you to do so.
Chill on the ATS Paranoia
While it’s good to be aware of resume parsing techniques, it’s also important to use common sense.
Don’t believe everything you read about the evil ATS.
Ask yourself if the parser would likely compensate for what you’re worried about — such as dates. If yes, then relax and move on with your job search.
Image Courtesy of Toa Heftiba
Updated January 2022
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Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
She is a Fast Company Contributor and has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, US News & World Report, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, and Business News Daily.
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