How to get your resume past an Applicant Tracking System

How to get your resume past an Applicant Tracking System
Photo: RachelScottYoga, Pixabay

Your resume is the sum of your qualifications and experience that you submit to a prospective employer. Naturally, making sure your resume is noticed and reviewed is important for any job seeker.

While it’s hard enough for many people to get their resume noticed by human eyes it’s now even more difficult as online processing applications will screen digitally submitted resumes. Since so many jobs will require you to submit your resume online it’s nearly impossible to avoid the ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

While most small organisations won’t use an ATS you can be sure that most medium to large ones do. This software screens the large volume of resumes it receives and rejects huge quantities because they did not display the right qualifications or were not formatted in a way the system could read.

It would be incredibly discouraging to find out that your resume was rejected because it wasn’t able to be read by a computer. This is why it’s important to carefully prepare your resume so that it is as appealing as possible to this automated system.

Let’s take a look at the best resume strategies you can use to get past an applicant tracking system and land an interview.

Use relevant keywords in your application

Be sure to include keywords relevant to the position you’re applying for in your application. Read the job description carefully and visit the employer’s website to see if there is more information available.

Create a list of phrases or specific words that are common in this type of job description and use them where appropriate in your application. The ATS is designed to scan your application for these keywords as part of its screening process.

If you can’t find a good way to incorporate keywords in a prior job description then use the skills or summary section to include them. While being honest, make sure that terms outlined in the job description are addressed by your resume.

Remember to use these keywords in a meaningful way and to no “keyword stuff” your resume. An ATS will red flag a keyword stuffed resume and send it to the application graveyard.

Keep fonts and formatting simple

It would be unfortunate if your professional resume was rejected simply because the ATS was unable to comprehend it. Avoid using fancy formatting or fonts in your resume.

Often an ATS will use OCR (optical character recognition) software to scan your document and convert it into plain text which it then reviews. While this technology is improving it is safer not to take any chances and make the recognition of characters in your application as easy as possible.

Readability is everything. Make sure to use standard fonts like Times New Roman, Arial or Veranda and scrap any fancy graphics, artefacts or layouts that harm readability.

Stick to regular types of heading such as work experience, educations, skill and summary. Make sure that your contact information is included in the body of the document and not in a header or footer.

Also, make sure that you save your document as a word or plain text document. PDF documents can be hard for some ATS programs to read.

Include the dates of your employment

Sometimes an ATS will screen resumes based on the time worked in previous roles. Make sure that your work experience is formatted in reverse chronological order and uses the same layout for each position.

Make sure the resume is readable by humans too

Since the end goal of getting past the ATS is for a human to review your resume, it’s important to remember that it needs to be appealing to them as well. Since many employers will do a follow-up internet search of you it’s important to make sure your online presence matches what’s on the resume.

After all, humans hire humans. Make sure that your resume is tailored for both the ATS and the employer who will actually consider it.