ATS Resume

How to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Crafting a resume that will appeal to prospective employers is a key first step to landing a job. However, in many cases, there may be an initial hurdle to clear before it even lands in front of them — applicant tracking systems, or ATS. This is a software used to keep track of applications, both sorting and filtering through them as well as making sure none fall through the cracks. This can also mean that, if your resume isn’t compatible with the system, it may get dropped automatically despite your qualifications for the role. So what can you do to make your resume ATS-compatible? Here are six rules to follow.

Keep to basic formatting

An ATS is only able to read very basic formats. So what can and can’t be added without throwing it off?

  • Can include:
    • Bullet points
    • Bold, Italicized, and underlined fonts
    • Multiple colors
  • Don’t include:
    • Tables and text boxes
    • Multiple columns
    • Headers and footers
    • Images such as photos, graphs, and logos
    • Less common fonts — stick to standards such as Helvetica or Times New Roman

Avoid jargon

An ATS is looking for language that is commonly used, so it’s best to avoid lingo that might be too niche. Sure, you might have a more creative way of saying “previous experience,” but it’ll pass right by the system. When it comes to resumes, the usual phrases are best.

Use keywords — especially in section titles

Be sure to sprinkle relevant keywords throughout your resume, particularly at the top of the page and each section as much as possible. The ATS will be scanning for certain skills, experiences, and qualities, so use the page to show the algorithm what you bring to the table. Unsure of what to include? Check comparable job postings, or search online for common industry keywords.

Tailor your resume to each job description

One resume best practice you may have often heard about is that you should tailor it to each job description. This is to help the page get past ATS with keywords that you know the employer is applying to, by using what’s in the job description. One role might note “debugging” as one of the responsibilities, while another refers to it as “identifying and solving bugs.” Sending in a resume that calls out specifically what’s listed in the posting will help it stand out in a positive way.

Make sure there are no typos

Having an error-free resume will not only help you make a good impression on the human reading it — it might also make a good impression on the robot as well. If it’s looking for a particular word, and that word is misspelled, it won’t recognize it and will instead skip right over. So be sure to proofread your text, and even have someone else look over it to double check as well.

Choose the right file type

While a PDF is best for making sure your formatting stays intact when submitted, not all ATS are able to read them, so for this purpose a Word doc is sometimes better. Unless a PDF is specified in the application, you might want to err on the side of caution and use Word instead, to ensure it’s able to be read and properly parsed.

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