How to Get Your Resume Through an ATS


Application tracking systems (or ATS) were once a rare sight on the job marketplace and were only used by recruiters and very large companies that received hundreds of applications for every open position. But at this point, ATS systems have become streamlined, reliable, and cost effective for companies of almost every size. So if you’re submitting your resume in response to an online post, there’s a strong chance that your document will flow directly into software system called a “parser” that categorizes it according to the information in your contact section and primary subheadings.

Once your document has been parsed and filed, employers can type specific phrases into a keyword search and the relevance of your document will be measured by its alignment with these phrases. For example, if the employer types in the words “Agency experience three years”, or “CNC certification”, the system will scan through the resumes in the database and return those that contain some of all of these words. The resumes that appear in the search results will typically be graded according to the accuracy of the match. For example, on a one-to-ten scale, your name may be selected as a 9.8 match, or a 5.4.

Here are a few moves that can improve your match rating and increase your odds of reaching a human reader and being called in for an interview.

1. Anticipate keywords based on the post

Read the post carefully and use identical text and phrases as you discuss your credentials. For example, use the exact phrase “CNC certification”, not “CNC certified”. By all means, list every one of the job requirements outlined in the post (as long as they apply).  You can also review the company website to get of sense of the syntax these employers use when discussing specific industry terms.

2. Don’t use photos, images or fancy fonts

Keep your font simple and straightforward so you don’t confuse the system and find yourself automatically blocked. Stick to Times New Roman or Ariel. And make sure your subheadings are standard, recognizable and clear.

3. Create a keywords list at the end of your document

After your final subheading (usually “skills” or “additional skills”), create a short list of keywords and key phrases that you were unable to insert smoothly into the text above. Don’t let this list go on for more than two lines, or this will come off as an obvious attempt to game the system. 

4. Rely on bulleted lists

Your resume summary can include a string of sentences or clear consistent phrases in paragraph form, but your subheadings should be presented as bullet points and lists. This will make it easier for resume screeners and parsers to find key information and make sense of your statements. 

5. Make sure your resume appeals to human readers

The best ATS- optimizing tricks in the world won’t help you if your resume is tossed out as soon as it’s reviewed by human eyes. Make sure your clear statements, you professional tone, your honest claims, and your compelling pitch will keep you in the running and help you land an interview during the final stretch. Turn to LiveCareer for tools and guidelines that can make this happen. 

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