7 Ways to Get Your Resume Past Applicant Tracking Systems

7 Ways to Get Your Resume Past Applicant Tracking Systems

What is an applicant tracking system and why is it so important to format your resume and get it past this robot after a job application?

Here is the definition of an ATS to start

Applicant Tracking System

/ˈæplɪkənt ˈtrækɪŋ ˈsɪstəm /


Trickster robot designed to thwart job application efforts and deflect resumes into the recruitment black hole.

Ok, I may have made that definition up. But if you’ve been a job seeker applying online to advertised positions with no luck, chances are an Applicant Tracking System is what you’re coming up against.

Unfortunately, in the modern job search world, the ATS has become a necessary evil helping recruiters narrow the influx of applications to only those that are relevant to the job. Here is an explanation on how to get around it.

What Applicant Tracking Systems do to job seekers

An ATS scans your document and only highlights those who match a predefined list of keywords, so the recruiter can find applicants with very specific skills for a very specific job.

How do I know my resume will be read first by an ATS?

If you are required to make a login ID, upload your resume, or fill out an online application, you can assume your resume will go through initial screening by a robot.

With approximately 60% of medium and 75% of large companies using ATS, which eliminates up to 98% of applicants at the initial screening, it’s important you understand how to optimize your formatting and content to increase the chances of it being read by a pair of human eyes.

Resume formatting fundamentals

1.  When listing your employment experiences, lead with the company name, followed by your job title, then a description and bullet point your key achievements. The date should always appear to the right of the company name for optimum reading by the ATS.

2. Don’t put your contact details in headers or footers. The ATS doesn’t like this. The information can disappear and you can become destined for application exile.

3. Keep the typeface simple on your resume. Stick with Arial, Calibri or Cambria and use the same throughout (forget Times New Roman though. It is super outdated!)

4. The file naming convention should be your name and a keyword or two. For example:

  • Bec OConnor.Civil Engineer.Resume

Here's how to pick up on clues in the content

5. Mirror the job posting language in your resume. A good starting point is to copy and paste the job advertisement/description into a Word document.

  • Highlight industry terms, buzzwords, skills, and jargon the hiring manager uses most frequently in the description.
  • Pepper your summary, skills section and experience with the same, as long as it’s in the context of your true skills and experience as they apply to the role. Don’t be telling porky pies!

6. Spell-check and spell-check again! Reading your resume backward is a weird and wonderful way to pick up on errors you may otherwise miss.

7. Tailor every single resume whether it’s going through an ATS or not!

My final piece of advice

With all that said, my final piece of advice, which might render everything I just told you pointless, is this:

  • Do not invest your time and energy into responding to advertised job postings online!

Job postings can be a useful research tool in your job hunt but if you rely on them as your sole strategy, you will be sorely disappointed.

Why did you need to know all about the ATS?

Knowledge is power. And if you’re not getting any bites lately in your job search, I want you to know why and how to adapt.

To truly take control of your search, you’ll need to define and narrow your target. What does your ideal role look like? What are your coveted companies?

Once that’s clear, you can tailor and create a powerful professional brand through your resume and LinkedIn, and redirect your time and energy into engaging your network.

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