Getting Your Resume Past The ATS
Getting Your Resume Past The ATS

The abyss. The black hole. The Great Emptiness. These are just some of the terms I’ve heard for applicant tracking systems (ATS). They are not unwarranted. Many, if not most companies use ATS software to automate their recruiting processes by scanning the applications for keywords and then assigning a score to them. Only those profiles that meet a certain scoring criteria will be forwarded along to an actual human. That human will look at each resume for a grand total of six seconds before deciding yay or nay. All of these conspire against the job seeker. We can’t change other people’s attention spans, but there are some things we can do to increase the chances that your application will make it out of the ATS and into the inbox of a human being.

Ensure that you’ve optimized your keywords. I suggest copying and pasting the written job description into a word cloud tool like Wordle. This will graphically represent which words appear most frequently. Those top words are your keywords. Be sure that you have them on your resume, and in the cover letter you enter into that section.

Minimize formatting. For ATS submissions, don’t use charts, graphs, or special characters, as there is a chance the Blue dart on a target with gold text on will be unable to read them properly. Stick with plain text. Boring, yes, but in this case, more effective. You can create a text file from your nicely formatted Word file to upload into a system.

Proofread. This is a good idea in general, but it’s super important when you’re dealing with the Bots. Grammatical and spelling errors can get your resume rejected in seconds. Be sure both are immaculate.

Use reverse chronology for your work experience. Use clear start and end dates so that the software can identify the progression of your career.

Employing these tactics increase the chances of you being called for an interview only slightly. It is important to remember that applying for jobs online is, by nature, inefficient, and will render, at best, a response rate of 4%. You are far better served by focusing on writing your professional blog, building your brand, and working with your network!