ATS Resumes: How to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

Updated : June 2nd, 2022

ATS Resume

For today’s job seekers, resumes are routinely analyzed and saved into a database by software known as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This software helps businesses to gather, sort and contact job applicants in a very efficient manner. If you’re looking for a job, it’s important to know how to create a resume that will be accepted by ATS software.

ATS Resumes: 7 Tips for Optimizing Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

  1. Use Language and Keywords from the Job Description
  2. Tailor Your Application for Each Job
  3. Boost Your Skills Section
  4. Avoid Spelling Mistakes
  5. Keep it Simple in Appearance and Don’t Use Images
  6. Get Rid of Irrelevant Information
  7. Don’t Forget Contact Information at the Top

The popularity of applicant tracking systems is growing rapidly. It is essential to understand how to beat this system to get interviews with human hiring managers.

How do applicant tracking systems work? First, the software scans for precise recognized keywords and key phrases. Then, it sorts the content into different categories:

  • Education
  • Contact Information
  • Skills
  • Work Experience

Next, the company’s list of chosen skills, keywords, and key phrases are compared to the results in order to determine your likely value to the recruiter.

The candidate that scores highest with regard to the company’s stated keywords and phrases combined with years of experience are moved up for further examination and interaction or interview with an actual human.

Tips for Optimizing Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

Are you wondering how to make a resume that is ATS-friendly? The million-dollar question: How do you get your ATS resume or curriculum vitae (CV) to pass the test? Before submitting your resume, use these tips to optimize and design your resume for ATS software. By avoiding common resume mistakes, you will greatly boost the probability of getting an interview and landing a job.

1. Use Language and Keywords from the Job Description

A great way to impress potential employers is to show them that you did your research about their company and know exactly what they are looking for–You! Study the job listing and focus on the skills the hiring company requires. Pay close attention to the industry terms and buzzwords that the hiring manager uses in the listing. Integrate these same words into your resume–you can be certain the applicant tracking systems (ats) are looking for those specific keywords.

A resume lacking the right keywords will inevitably eliminate you as a job contender every time. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) depend upon vetting the content of resumes in order to detect the best-matched candidates. If you want to beat the ATS, it is your responsibility to ensure that your resume positions well in the applicant tracking systems. Be sure to match the keywords on your resume to the keywords that you found on the job description. When a recruiter then runs the keyword search to speedily sort through the applicants in their database, the applicant tracking system will discover that your resume holds the same keywords. With the right keywords, you are far more likely the system will highlight your resume for review.

Note: You can manually match keywords on job descriptions to your resume, but know that it can be a drawn-out process and can also cause you to miss crucial terms. You may want to look into getting a resume optimizing tool that compares your resume to the job description and creates a list of the keywords that are missing on your resume.

2. Tailor Your Application for Each Job

Customizing your resume is essential. Every resume that you submit should be different. In other words, every time that you submit your resume with a job application, it is important that you tailor it to the precise job you are applying for. Why does this matter? Because every job description is phrased a bit differently. Therefore, you will need to change portions of your resume to correspond with the language of that specific job description.

Find a resume template and tailor it every time you send it out. Using the same resume keywords for every job application will not produce the desired results.

Submit a well-structured, tailored, functional resume so you stand out among the vast crowd of applicants. You will also want to write a cover letter which is also optimized for specific keywords and be sure to include a summary of your accomplishments. This will also aid in ranking higher in the applicant tracking system.

3. Boost Your Skills Section

You’ll find that many companies use ATS to search for specialized or technical skills. Be sure that your resume contains any special skills you may have attained over the years: computer programs, strong points, capabilities, and other skills. Demonstrate these skills clearly and concisely and include industry-specific abbreviations that the company may also prefer when looking for applicants with specific experience and a particular skill set.

4. Avoid Spelling Mistakes

Double check–and triple check– your spelling before submitting your resume to an ATS. Spelling mistakes will automatically make you a poor contender. It’s bad enough when your resume is reviewed by a human, but know that spelling mistakes are even more costly when submitting your resume to an ATS. A human employer may sympathize and forgive a spelling mistake during the hiring process, but applicant tracking systems will not–and cannot change their programming.

In addition to making you appear sloppy and careless, spelling errors on your resume can affect your keywords as well. Applicant tracking systems rank applicants by the number of keywords on their resume that match the recruiter’s job description. Misspelling even one word can cause your resume to drop in the ranking and may even prevent your resume from showing up in the search results entirely. Always enlist a proofreader or professional resume writer to edit your resume for spelling mistakes prior to applying for a job.

5. Keep it Simple in Appearance and Don’t Use Images

When it comes to optimizing your resume for applicant tracking systems, keep your resume format simple. This will increase your chances of having your resume successfully analyzed by an ATS. Applicant tracking systems are simply confused by images, elaborate characters, silly fonts, and unconventional formatting. If your resume is unnecessarily fancy, it will prevent you from appearing in keyword searches.

Applicant tracking systems will analyze and store your resume properly if you use a standard layout, font size, and file format. If you want your resume to be friendly to an applicant tracking system, keep it in reverse chronological order with a font size of 11 or 12. Use a modest typeface (Times New Roman or Arial), and save your resume as a .PDF, .DOC, or .DOCX file format. These are the only acceptable file types for your document. When in doubt, a Microsoft Word document is the safest choice. Always choose a simple, standard, chronological resume for applications submitted to an ATS.

Standard bullet points can be used. However, other characters, such as arrows, can be considered images or graphics to ATS and may create problems that would prevent the applicant tracking system from properly analyzing your information.

Just to reiterate, because it’s so important: The applicant tracking systems are sorting out the information you are providing and arranging it into different data sets. This data will not be imported if pictures or graphics are included in your resume. Remember, ATS cannot read or understand images. Be sure to avoid text boxes and other types of symbols as well.

6. Get Rid of Irrelevant Information

This tip is short and sweet, but extremely important: Only include relevant information. Your resume writing should reference past experience and qualifications which are applicable to the job you want. Unrelated work experience is simply just filler and a waste of valuable space on your resume. If your resume is too broad, the ATS may give you a lower matching score which drops you out of the running for open positions.

7. Don’t Forget Contact Information at the Top

This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many applicants get this wrong. It’s a mistake that can be easily overlooked. Remember to include important contact information at the top of your resume, such as your phone number, email address, and even a link to your professional social media profile on LinkedIn. It’s common for applicant tracking systems to automatically send a follow-up email with additional instructions. Once you start applying for jobs, be sure to check your spam folder faithfully to make sure that you don’t miss anything.

Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

Hunting for employment with the right tools and knowledge can help to eliminate much of the stress and doubt commonly felt during the application process. By optimizing your resume for applicant tracking systems, you can beat out your competition and land an important interview. If you want to make it through the applicant tracking systems with an ATS-friendly resume, make sure you follow the above tips and meet the relevant qualifications of the job posting.

Write a resume using language from the job description and tailor it for each separate application you fill out. Match your resume keywords, making sure to pump up your skills section to correspond with the skills required in the job post. Avoid spelling mistakes at all cost. It’s a good idea to put your resume aside for a day or so, and then go back to it and proofread. Once done, have someone else proofread it as well.

Keep your resume simple in appearance, leaving out any images and graphics you may be tempted to include. Don’t use special characters or silly font sizes. Remove any irrelevant information from previous jobs, and don’t forget to include your contact information at the top. If you want to test how your resume will perform in an applicant tracking system, go a step further and use a resume scanning tool.

As soon as your resume or CV passes the unrelenting eye of ATS technology, it will then be dissected by the human eye. Here’s the good news: The strategies you’ve just learned for optimizing your resume for ATS will also make your resume appealing to the human hiring manager.

When you upload your resume, you can feel confident knowing you have an optimized, modern resume that will likely make it onto the desk of the recruiter and land you the interview for the job of your dreams.

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