How to Beat the ATS

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used by recruiters and employers to track a candidate’s job application throughout the recruiting and hiring process, making it easy for businesses of any size to filter, manage, and analyze potential candidates.

Follow the below guidelines to ensure your resume is successfully received and processed by employers.

  1. Avoid images and graphics: ATS systems typically have difficulty parsing images, graphics, and non-text elements. Stick to plain text in your resume to ensure readability.
  2. Use standard fonts and formatting: Stick to commonly used fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. Avoid unusual, unrecognizable fonts. Use standard formatting such as bullet points, headings, and consistent margins. It is fine to use bold, italics, and underline functions in your resume. 
  3. Be cautious with columns and tables: Some ATS systems struggle to read simple columns and tables correctly. If you use these elements, make sure the information is presented in a straightforward, linear format elsewhere in your resume.
  4. Optimize keyword usage and tailor your resume: ATS systems often scan resumes for relevant keywords and phrases related to the job description, which are the hard and soft skills that recruiters are seeking. Tailor your resume each time you apply to a new job to include relevant keywords, skills, and qualifications. However, avoid keyword stuffing, as it can make your resume appear “spammy” and hurt your chances with human reviewers. 
  5. Hyperlink with caution:  Sometimes AI will cut out a phrase with a hyperlink attached, which can lead to incomplete sentences. If you want to reference past digital work within your resume, make sure the corresponding hyperlinks are separate from sentences. For example, you might place a hyperlink within parentheses at the end of the sentence.
  6. Use a simple file format: Save your resume as a Word document (.doc or .docx) or a plain text file (.txt); some older software has trouble understanding PDF files. However, if the job posting doesn’t specify which file format to use, PDF and .docx should both work. 
  7. Keep your contact/personal information visible and relevant: Place your name, email address, and phone number prominently at the top of your resume so the ATS can easily identify and extract this information. Exclude irrelevant personal information. 
  8. Be consistent: Use consistent formatting for titles, dates, and descriptions throughout your resume. AI systems are pattern detectors. By employing consistent fonts, font sizes and indentations across the document, you will enhance the AI’s ability to process your resume accurately. 
  9. Don’t apply to multiple jobs at the same company: An ATS allows recruiters to see every role you’ve applied to at a company. If you apply to multiple different types of positions, a recruiter is unable to tell what you’re truly interested in or if you’re self-aware about your abilities. If a company has two very similar roles open or if you have a wide range of skills and interests, it is fine to apply to a few. However, you should not apply to every company opening as it gives the impression that you are not clear about which roles are right for you.
  10. Proofread your resume: Spelling and grammar mistakes can hurt your chances with both the ATS and human reviewers. Carefully proofread your resume to ensure it is error-free and presents you in the best possible light. Use spell check or Grammarly to review your document!

Remember, while optimizing your resume for ATS is important, it’s equally essential to create a resume that is appealing and engaging for human readers. Striking the right balance can greatly increase your chances of landing an interview.

Interested in a Free ATS Resume Scan? Use an Applicant Tracking System checker to scan your resume for issues that could cause it to get rejected. Here are some of the best free options available: