Easy Ways to Get Your Resume Through an ATS

Carly Naaktgeboren
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Have you been applying for jobs you’re qualified for, with little to no response?  Are you concerned with your lack of visibility in the job market? An ATS could very well be to blame.  First things first, what in the world is an ATS? An ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, is technology utilized by different online job sites and individual employers to sort and rank resumes based on skills, experience, and qualifications. Employers are then sent a list of applicants who meet certain standards based on what an ATS finds.  An ATS does this by using a process called resume parsing.

Now, what in the world is resume parsing?  Well, an employer or company selects keywords or phrases, dates of employment, and job titles to put into the system; then the system takes those words and matches them to candidates.  Resume parsing is extremely time effective and it even knows how to adjust employers word selection in order to yield more results. (Robots are smart!). However, there is still room for error.  Not knowing about or understanding this technology can drastically alter your chances of ranking high in the system, and this system is employed by sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster, as well as a vast majority of major corporations.  

You’re probably thinking, “how in the world am I going to beat the robots?”  Well, there are some very specific steps you can take to ensure that your resume won’t just float off into the cyber wasteland:

The first thing you want to do is make sure your resume is saved and sent in a digital format the system can understand.  This means save it as a word doc, docx, or PDF to ensure the ATS won’t be confused by some newfangled documentation device.  

Next, clean it up.  Make sure the top of your resume is very clean and don’t use a header or footer.  If you must put your name in a header, make sure your contact information isn’t in it.  Many systems won’t be able to read it, and although it might look a little fancier, it will parse all of that info together and take you out of the running. How can you get the job if they can’t even call you?

Also, in the vein of being fancy, don’t be.  Any pictures, charts, or unique fonts will make your resume too messy for the ATS to accurately parse and could keep it from honing in on all of your qualifications!

When presenting your qualifications, keep it clear and simple.  Label everything in a way that a robot can easily understand, i.e. work experience is a universal heading everyone, even a bot, can grasp.  Make sure you present your information going in the correct order: job title, employer, then dates of employment. Putting dates first could keep the ATS from spotting your job title all together.  

A huge step you can take to improve your visibility is by rereading the job posting.  What keywords are they using? Include them in your resume. Those are most likely the words the employers will put in the system and thus the ATS will be on the lookout for.  Try to sprinkle these keywords throughout your resume so that they won’t be missed if they’re all in one single section. And no acronyms, use the long form of all your skills and job titles.

Finally, if you’re still extremely concerned that your resume is still not ATS compatible, there are companies that will run ATS tests for a small fee online.

It may seem incredibly intimidating that a computer system is scanning your resume and determining if your potential employer will ever even lay eyes on it, but by optimizing your resume to comply with ATS standards using these simple steps, you’ll be sure to come out ahead.  



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  • DAVID S.
    DAVID S.

    Timothy Schultz, I've used Jobscan.co with good results. You get something like 5 free scans before you have to pay. If you change browsers, and use different email address, you can get 5 more. Their program is actually an ATS program and will identify which program a company is using. Good Stuff!

  • EDITH R.
    EDITH R.

    Great information to consider when posting a resume.

  • Eric M.
    Eric M.

    Great post, thanks for putting this together, Carly. One other thing that I've seen suggested is to copy/paste a job description into a word cloud creator like Wordle. Take the 5 biggest words and make sure they are sprinkled throughout.

  • Fred S.
    Fred S.

    The facts stated are real, however you should remember of another barrier to sort out "undesirables" like a google search for age,last names to identify ethnicity, and zip codes with a bad reputation. They are also part of the process of elimination, unfortunately, but this is the reality.


    Stephen Scoles - The article states NOT to put you Name and Contact information in a "header", which is different from putting it at the top of the page NOT in the header. For your ATS resume, remove the header section, and merely put your Name and Contact Information at the top of the page as normal text.

  • Stephen scoles
    Stephen scoles

    I have a question. If you don't put your name and contact information at top or bottom of resume , where should it be listed? I had my resume done professionally however they put that information on top, the first thing you see. I have had no success getting my resume viewed. From sites that record my applications received and viewed less than 5-10% are actually ever viewed

  • Julie H.
    Julie H.

    Yeah, I agree with this. I'm not getting the positions I am qualified for and its very frustrating. Maybe I'll design something in order for my resume and qualifications to get to the right person/company.

  • Frank P.
    Frank P.

    I apologize I don't know why Kennedy came up the gentleman's name is Andrew yang.com

  • Frank P.
    Frank P.

    Very true but unfortunately they're taking over there's a gentleman that I would like for you to Google he's a President Kennedy he's not a left he's done it right neutral just look him up and see his policies he has over 98 policies right now there's no other candidate that has not even a third so far this is the Kennedy that has given me hope cuz so far we've been going backwards instead of forwards

  • Michael Trojan
    Michael Trojan

    First you say robots are smart, then you talk about how dumb they are; they don't recognize this, they will leave out that, they will overlook important stuff. Robots are as dumb as the people that program them. And many of the people in human resources no nothing about the jobs they hire for.

  • Timothy Schultz
    Timothy Schultz

    Is there a service that will run your resume through an ATS checking what the employer sees?

  • Steven Hanrath
    Steven Hanrath

    very informative, I've also heard of people listing keywords in white letters that aren't seen by naked eye but that ATS picks up.

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