Beating Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – The Resume Reading Robots

Did you know as many as 75% of the candidates‘ resumes are read by robots? When you’re going for a job with a large company that gets a ton of applications per opening, your resume will most likely go through an ATS before it gets to the hands of any human. Don’t make your resume difficult for the ATS to scan. A standard word document that embraces a traditional layout is best for ATS scanning. It may seem crazy to try and go up against a computer, but here’s a few steps to help you work around it…  

1. Make it computer friendly

ATS are robots. This means that you can use this to your advantage by strategically using keywords. However, it also means that the ATS can get stuck on little things that wouldn’t phase a human reader. That means you need to be strategic with your design choices.

Don’t use colours, graphics and funny fonts, or you may risk throwing off an ATS. Choose a computer-friendly font. Use fonts such as Arial, Georgia, Impact, Courier, Lucinda, Tahoma, and Trebuchet as they were specially designed for the web — they are your safest option. Avoid white text and shades of grey. Black is perfect. Also, if possible avoid using boxes and tables. Keeping it simple with plain text is best.  

2. Add Key Skills and Experiences

Including relevant, industry-specific keywords, will help your resume get into the hands of a hiring manager. Once you’ve read over the job description and learned the skills needed, apply your understanding of the job position by including relevant keywords. Here’s a good rule of thumb when writing your resume:

An action verb + a keyword + a fact or figure that resulted from your action

For example: Implemented marketing strategies that increased page views by 64%.

Mention job titles you’ve had, products you’ve worked with, and any professional organisations you’re a part of. Remember, computers are smart and programmed to oblige specific rules, and pick up specific words.  

3. Correct Contact Information

It may come across as common sense at first, but when your resume meets an ATS, the importance of including all the right contact information is high. An ATS may be programmed to recognise applicants specific to their city if the employer is looking for a candidate within a certain distance from the position’s location. If that’s the case, the ATS will scan your city and/or even your area code. Also, each resume is checked for “completeness.” This includes contact information such as an email address and phone number. So If you’re missing these on your resume, it may very well end up in the ‘no pile’.

 4. Spelling errors will be the ‘death’ of your resume

While a human being can at least figure out what you mean (before tossing your resume into the trash in disapproval), an ATS will terminate you immediately because it will simply have no idea what you’re talking about. Get a friend to read over your resume for any spelling errors. Another method is to read your resume backwards — reading it slowly can help you pick out any silly errors you may have missed otherwise.  

5. Format for ATS

Word doc or PDF is the best form to submit a resume unless stated otherwise. By now, you’d probably think this is silly to bring up, but DO NOT submit a handwritten resume — believe me, people still do this. While you may have perfectly legible handwriting, to a computer, your handwriting may look like chicken scratch. Stick to typing and using computer friendly fonts to avoid your resume ending up in the trash.

I hope these tips are easy to follow and apply! Once you have ATS-proofed your resume, make sure you do a quick final check to make sure it will impress a human hiring manager too.

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