How To Get Your Resume Past The ATS

Today we’re going to cover why an ATS is your first hiring hurdle! As technology advances, so do it’s interruption into the hiring process. While several decades ago a hiring manager had to sort sometimes hundreds of resumes by hand, that’s no longer the case.


What is an ATS (Applicant Tracking System)?

What an applicant tracking system does

When applying to a position that receives lots of resumes, many employers now use applicant tracking software (ATS) to screen out the initial resumes that don’t fit the requirements. Companies with fewer than 50 workers are much less likely to use such a system.

Why the applicant tracking system matters to you

These ATS screens out or rejects an estimated 70-75% of all resumes submitted, either because the documents don’t reflect the desired qualifications or are formatted in a way that is incompatible with the system. Getting past the ATS hurdle can seem overwhelming, but there can be advantages for job seekers as well as disadvantages.


Make Sure Your Resume Is Traditionally Formatted

Avoid anything exciting when it comes to formatting your resume. Use a traditional and standard resume format so that the ATS can read your resume properly. Stick with the traditional chronological, functional, or hybrid resume format. Choose the correct and obvious headers for each section so the ATS understands what it’s looking at.

Make sure to avoid putting important details like your contact information in either the header or the footer of the resume, as those can sometimes be cut off.


Avoid Fancy Resume Designs And Images

It’s difficult for an ATS to scan the following: tables, text boxes, logos, images, graphics, graphs, columns, headers and footers, hyperlinks on important words, and less common fonts. This is an extremely common mistake. Avoid the use of fancy colors and design unless you’re actually applying for a designer position.  Choose a professional font, like Georgia, Helvetica, or Times New Roman. The ATS needs to be able to read what you’ve sent. Less is more.


Use Relevant Keywords

The ATS is designed to reject applicants who don’t have any experience, so make sure to advertise yours. Make sure to use words used specifically in your industry, but don’t go overboard. If it doesn’t make sense to a person reading it, then you’ll just be rejected later on, instead of not at all. Your best bet is to compare your resume to the job description and make sure you have the hard skills or certifications listed.  Depending on your industry, the ATS wants to know if you’re qualified to do the job.

If you’re having a hard time picking out which keywords you should use, there are tools online available for you. We recommend sites like ResumeWorded, skillsyncer, and jobscan, but there’s plenty of options.


Write Out Work Acronyms

Besides making sure that spellcheck isn’t replacing words you don’t intend, it’s also important to spell out any acronyms at least once. For example “Registered Nurse (RN)”. This way you’ll ensure that your resume will still be accepted, even if the ATS is looking for that particular word and doesn’t understand the acronym.


Utilize Your Resume File Name

Don’t get lost in the shuffle

This one feels obvious to hiring managers, but it isn’t for the people applying. Don’t save your resume as:

Example: Resume.Doc

because the hiring manager will receive a ton of those and you’ll get lost in the shuffle. Include your first and last name, AND the word “resume”.

Example: Jane.Doe.Resume.Doc

Eventually, a person will be scanning what the ATS spits out as acceptable, and then probably searching a database in the system if there’s any interest. If your resume is under something generic like “resume”, they’ll never be able to find you. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you!


Work That Job Title

This tip only applies to those who are already in the field they’re looking to stay employed in. If possible, include the job title on your resume that can be as close as possible to the position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re experienced in what you do, such as business development and you’re applying for a senior business position, writing “Senior Business Development” will get you further through the ATS scan than leaving the word “senior” out.


Send The Correct File Format

Although some systems are getting more sophisticated, the standard still requires resumes to be submitted in a Microsoft Word Document or in a .PDF. While a .pdf will keep your resume intact, it’s much easier for ATSs to search a Word document. Avoid sending anything else unless you’re certain that the company’s ATS is able to read it.


Check Before Applying

Online you can find sites that compare your resume to the job description and get the feedback you need. Sure, it’s feedback from a computer, but that’s the feedback you need to get your resume to a human! With the growing number of companies using ATS software, it’s vital that your resume stands out!


Use a Staffing Agency

Having a recruiter on your side fighting to get you an interview will help your chances immensely because they have the inside contact to that company. Use that to your benefit and try out a staffing agency (like NESC Staffing) to help you get ahead!


Following these tips will help your resume get past the filters and onto the desk of the hiring manager. There’s nothing worse than applying for a job that you’re qualified for and never hearing anything back. If you’ve ever had this happen to you, you’ve been beaten by the ATS. Take charge of your resume and make sure this doesn’t happen again!

Read more here:

Need to double-check? Check out these Top Resume Mistakes That Could Cost You the Job

Wait, do you need a cover letter? How to Write a Cover Letter

Is your resume amazing? Be sure to read How To Make an Amazing First Impression at Your Interview