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Should C-Level Executives Optimize Their Resumes for ATS Systems?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are just one more of many stumbling blocks in your rise to the top of an applicant pool in today’s extremely competitive job market. They generally need to be taken into account in preparing resumes for all but the top, C-level positions in a company. However, first let’s properly define ‘C-level’ or ‘C-suite’ positions.

While it is not uncommon for people to refer to VP and SVP candidates as C-level, the term correctly designates only CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, CMOs, etc.–since the letter ‘C’ in the acronym refers to ‘Chief’. These are the officer positions in a company. Less commonly, the term can be applied to EVPs, although most consider it technically incorrect to do so. If EVP is indeed the top level (below the Board) in a company, it could arguably qualify as a C-suite position.

Whether the executive resume you submit for a C-level position will be screened by an ATS system depends on several factors. Typically the number of applicants for a given C-level opening is fairly low, making it less likely for an ATS system to be used. However, if the position is publicly advertised or open to handling by contingency recruiters, applications may still be managed by an ATS system. If the opening is handled by a retained search firm as an exclusive, more than likely the resume will not be subject to ATS screening.

According to Jonathan Ciampi of Preptel (a firm that specializes in analysis of resumes for how they will rank in ATS screening systems), “In my experience, CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, and CMOs do not go through an ATS.” He further suggests the following rule to determine if executive resumes will be filtered through an ATS system: “Will the Board of Directors be interviewing this person? If you can’t answer “yes”, then plan on dealing with the ATS system.”


Posted in Executive Job Search & Career Management, Executive Resume Strategy, Job Market Trends, Online Job Search, VIEW ALL POSTS Tagged with: , ,
One comment on “Should C-Level Executives Optimize Their Resumes for ATS Systems?
  1. Marti says:

    Your posting is timely and helpful to me. I'm working with a real "C-suite" client and she posed this question as we discussed her resume. My response was along the lines of "better safe than sorry" but I like the screening question–will it go to the Board?


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I am a certified executive resume writer and career coach with more than two decades of success providing executive resume writing and career transition services to senior executives in industry and government (including numerous "C-level" Fortune 500 executives).

Serving two terms on PARW's Certification Board, I played an important role in setting standards for the industry. I have served as a judge for two international resume writing competitions, and on the Ethics and By-Laws Committee of the NRWA. My work has been published in a variety of career books.

In my ongoing quest to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and issues affecting executive employment and executive resume writing, I frequently encounter information and articles that I believe will be of interest to my clients, and executives and senior managers in general.

My “blog” (short for Web Log) or newsletter is where you will find links to timely articles and information, my comments on them, as well as reflections on various career topics from the perspective of a seasoned executive resume writer and career strategies coach. In addition to resume writing issues and techniques, the blog covers a broad spectrum of topics pertinent to executives in career transition.

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