Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are computer systems used by organizations to review your resume, then rank and score based on your qualifications compared to job description. These resume-reading robots filter the number of resumes an organization has to review before choosing candidates to interview.

On average, 75% of candidates do not make it past the ATS screening.

Here are some helpful tips to increase your ATS resume score and maximize your chances of being invited for an interview.

  • Keep it simple. Avoid using templates, headers, footers, borders, tables, and other complex formatting. Your resume is not the time to show off your artistic flair. Save it for the interview.
  • Customize your resume and use key phrases in context. Mirror keyword in the job description and repeat. The ATS score more points when words from the job description match those in the resume. ATS look for specific matches. Make it a natural fit though. Avoid dropping a relevant, yet random, list of skills.
  • Group information into commonly used categories: Contact Information, Education, Skills, Work Experience. This provides clear delineations for the ATS.
  • Use proper punctuation and capitalization. These act as signals for the ATS to parse out information and assign it to a category. You might run the risk of the ATS reading it all as one chunk of information.
  • Type your name on the first line without degrees or certifications after it. The ATS will read the letters as part of the name.
  • Avoid accented words (if possible). Often a computer systems struggle with strangely formatted words. As an illustration, “résumé” is often read “r?sum?”
  • Utilize standard fonts (Arial, Georgia, Calibri, and Verdana) to ensure the computer system can clear read writing.
  • Spell out terms that may seem normal to abbreviate through acronyms. For example, type out Certified Public Accountant and include CPA in parentheses.
  • Save your resume as a standard Word document (.doc). Not all ATS can read .docx, PDF, JPEG, and other formats.
  • Edit. Even though ATS does recognized poor grammar or misspelled words, the individual reviewing the resume will notice.

For a more in-depth read on ATS, visit The Muse’s “A Job Hunter’s Guide to Getting Your Resume Past the ATS and into Human Hands


Posted on

January 2, 2017

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