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5 Tips to Get Your Resume Past an ATS


Job hunting has really evolved with the advance of recruiting technology. Employers no longer sift through tons of resumes to find potential candidates as the process is time consuming, inefficient and expensive. The solution to this is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which uses software to scan resumes before they’re ever seen by an employer.


The ATS looks for keywords, education and skills that closely match what the position is looking for. The resumes that it reads as a good match are sent forward to the hiring manager to review and the rest are automatically deleted. These ATS reject nearly 75% of the resumes submitted because either it feels the candidate isn’t a good match for the position, or more commonly because the resume isn’t optimized correctly for these scans.


We’ll go over five tips that will help ensure your resume gets past an ATS and into the hands of a hiring manager. After fixing your resume, you should have it reviewed to see how the ATS is reading it and ensure it’s pulling the proper information from your resume.


1. Standard Formatting
The software needs to read each section of your resume correctly to process all the information. Many job seekers don’t follow standard formatting rules and if the ATS can’t process your resume, it gets deleted. Keep it clean and simple and avoid resume templates which may contain charts or tables which can also be a problem for the ATS to process.

Stick to a standard chronological or functional resume format and avoid adding any designs, unusual fonts or images. These can easily throw off an ATS which usually results in automatic rejection. Each section of your resume should be labeled accordingly so it understands what it's reading.


2. Spelling
Spelling and grammatical errors are one of the worst mistakes you can make on a resume. If the ATS doesn’t understand what you’re saying, it will certainly reject your resume. Most hiring managers are also quick to reject a resume with spelling errors. Your resume is the first impression you have on a potential employer, so ensure it’s error free. Don’t rely on Microsoft Word to correct all your mistakes, give it over to a friend or family member to review.

You also want to ensure you spell out all abbreviations in your resume at least once. It may not understand every abbreviation so this ensures it picks up on the keyword. For example, if you’re applying for an accounting position that requires CPA certification, be sure to spell it out. (CPA - Certified Public Accountant).


3. Keyword Optimization
Including the right keywords is really what gets your resume past an ATS. The ATS looks for keywords that match the job description in order to forward relevant resumes to the hiring manager. You should be using keywords that are common in your industry as well as looking at the job description to see what other keywords you could include.

For example, if you were applying for a marketing position that required knowledge of Google Adwords and Facebook ads, be sure to include those in your resume. One thing to remember is not to overstuff your resume with every single keyword you can imagine which will also get you rejected.


4. Summary
Ditch the resume objective and go for a well written summary. The summary section allows you to add a human touch to the resume and it’s also a great place to throw in relevant keywords.

Tell the employer a bit about who you are, your qualifications and why you’re the perfect fit for the position. You can use a combination of both hard and soft skills which the ATS may be looking for.


5. Tailor Your Resume
This really sums up the last 4 points and is extremely effective for both getting past an ATS and catching the hiring manager's attention. You should be tailoring your resume keywords for each job application to maximize your chances of getting past the ATS. You don’t need to rewrite your resume for each time, but you should be changing it up a bit and swapping keywords in and out.

Hiring managers also take notice of resumes that were tailored specifically for the position and company. It’s a great way to make a good impression and increase your chances at an interview


With the majority of employers using an ATS these days it’s crucial that it’s optimized correctly. Remember these tips when writing your resume and good luck with your job search!

Last Updated: May 24, 2017
About the author

Natalya Khaykis

Natalya is a writer and analyst at ZipJob. She graduated from NYU with a masters and currently resides in New York City. She covers topics related to resume writing and job search. In her free time you'll find Natalya attempting to cook an edible meal, reading and spending time with her husband.