What Exactly is ATS and How to Ensure your Resume Complies?

Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is software used by employers to screen applicants. ATS scans resumes for specific keywords and then sorts & ranks applications to determine which applications will be passed on to the hiring manager. The system is essentially there, so the recruiter does not have to waste time looking over unqualified candidates. Over 75% of applications are rejected like this and are never even seen by employers. Unfortunately, this also means that even if you have the relevant experience and know you would be a good fit for the job, if your resume does not comply, the employer will never see it. 

Now that you know what ATS is, here are a few tips to pass the check:

Use the Right File Type

While PDFs are popular, they are not always ATS compliant. PDFs are useful for avoiding formatting issues, but sometimes ATS systems cannot scan the contents to pull out the text and so the resumes are tossed. To prevent this, use Word Docx., remember to check all formatting, fonts and images before sending them to employers. Always check if the employer has listed a preferred document type and for some, PDFs may be acceptable, but when in doubt, it is better to use Docx.

Do not Use Headers and Footers

ATS systems cannot read the information in the header and footer, so make sure you do not put any important information like your contact information. Have proper margins on your resume so the ATS can quickly scan your resume and pick out the keywords and contact information that is relevant. 

Use Keywords

One of the best ways to ensure your resume is ATS compatible is to include keywords. Not buzzwords like “team player” or “proactive,” but words that represent hard and soft skills that you possess. Go through the job posting and pick out a few words that are mentioned repeatedly or desired skills that are emphasized. You need to include these words in your resume; some ATS systems look at the number of times a particular word has been used, so try and include the keyword 2-3 times in your resume. It is a good idea to include an “Areas of Expertise” section at the top of your resume to list these keywords as bullet points and then include them again in your Work Experience.

Use a Clean Resume Design

Do not use fancy formatting or tons of images and text boxes because it will make your resume harder to read for the ATS. Many ATS systems convert resumes to text only, so any part of your resume that is not in plain text (i.e., inside an image) will not be seen. Avoid using large amounts of graphics, and do not include a photo of yourself. Stick to more common section headings like “Work Experience” and “Education” so the ATS can quickly sort your information. Do not use uncommon fonts that you need to download; stick to conventional fonts like Arial, Tahoma, Times New Roman or Cambria. 

However, there are some things you can use to help your resume stand out to the employer, such as using bold or italic lettering, you can underline headings and URLs. You can also use color, ATS will show everything as one color, but it is okay to use color in your resume. But remember to use neutral tones and it is better to stick to only 1-2 colors. You can include bullet points because they are an easy way to organize important information. Ditch the fancy templates and revert to a clean and easy-to-read resume design.  When writing your resume, there is a lot to consider, but with a little bit of practice, you can ensure that your resume is being seen by employers and start getting interviews!

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