How to Beat the ATS

According to a report by Preptel, 75% of job applications are rejected before they are viewed by human eyes. Even if you have outstanding skills and impeccable credentials, your resume still may not get past an applicant tracking system (ATS).

What Does an ATS Do?

Most companies use an ATS to streamline their hiring process. It saves HR time by building an applicant database that can easily be searched any time. It automatically filters applicant data to match the job requirements for an open position.

This recruiting software filters resumes by scanning them for contextual keywords and using preset metrics to rate them for relevance. It then sends the ones it deems qualified to be reviewed by the recruitment team.

The ATS saves the recruitment team time and trouble of having to go over hundreds of resumes one by one. However, that means your resume won’t even get past the ATS if you don’t include the right keywords the hiring manager is searching for.

Learn How to Beat the ATS

Once you know how an ATS works, you can now take the necessary steps to optimize your resume.

When you design your resume, keep in mind that you have two audiences for it. The first is an applicant tracking system and the other, a hiring manager. You can’t reach the latter without getting past the former.

So, here’s how you can beat the ATS and nab an interview with the hiring manager:

1. Keep it simple

Gone are the days when resumes were embellished with fancy fonts and attractive graphics to stand out from the rest. The goal then was to catch the eye of the recruiter with just one glance on the resume.

However, creative resumes just won’t make the cut today. Now that most companies use ATS, resumes should be kept simple and straightforward.

An ATS uses optical character recognition (OCR). It won’t recognize logos, pictures, symbols, and shadings. These graphics will be rendered as garbled text, turning your resume into a mess of random characters.

Similarly, serif fonts could also turn out as garbled text because of the extra marks they contain. Use simple fonts instead. Arial, Calibri, and other sans serif fonts are ATS-friendly.

To increase your chances of getting tagged by the system, stick to standard formatting. Avoid graphics, and use simple fonts.

2. Mind the headings, and dodge fancy bullets

Now isn’t the time to spruce up your credentials by adding unfamiliar headings. Most ATS automatically populate fields using basic headings included in their programming.

You don’t need to customize your resume by adding your Affiliations, Publications, or Memberships. You can also ditch the About Me or Career Objectives sections which can become redundant when you already have the same information in other sections.

Just stick to the usual headings such as Professional Experience, Education, Key Skills, and the like. Doing this makes it easier for the ATS to parse your resume.

Also, avoid using arrows or intricate symbols when you have bulleted lists. An ATS translates those into a jumbled mess. Use simple round or square bullets instead.

3. The key is in the keywords

Optimize your resume by using the right keywords. An ATS looks for specific skills, words, and phrases when searching and ranking candidates. Without the right keywords, your application automatically gets rejected.

Check out the job market for various postings on the position you would like to apply for. Go over the job descriptions in those postings, and identify the most frequently used words. Then, incorporate these terms in your resume.

Use keywords from the job descriptions, expected job responsibilities, and the skills sections. These are most likely the keywords and phrases the ATS will look for.

Make sure to include compelling action verbs in your resume. Verbs like “delivered,” “led,” and “solved,” are among those that the system looks for.

Use as many applicable keywords, but don’t go overboard. You should aim for quality, not quantity. Besides, an ATS can recognize keyword padding and filter out those that are keyword intensive.

Lastly, rewrite your resume every time you apply for a new job. There’s no need to overhaul the entire thing. A few minor edits to include relevant keywords and highlight pertinent qualifications will do.

4. Proofread like a pro

Your resume reflects who you are and what you can offer a company. Simple spelling and grammar mistakes show lack of attention to detail.

An ATS recognizes common errors in spelling and grammar, whereas complicated mistakes in spelling and sentence structure can confuse the system. In these instances, your application will be rejected even before it reaches the recruitment team.

To avoid this, proofread your resume for spelling and grammar. You can use the spell-check feature of your word processor or a grammar checker such as Grammarly. The free version will suffice for this purpose.

Also, avoid abbreviations as they can be missed if they’re not included in the ATS programming. If you’re using acronyms, include both the acronym and spelled out words. This ensures that your information is recognized and ranked by the system.

Lastly, don’t just rely on grammar and spell-checker tools. You must carefully go over your resume to double check for errors. It would be best if you have a friend or a colleague go over the resume as well.

5. Use the Proper Format

Save your resume in a file format that’s supported by the system you are sending it through. If you’re unsure what specific format is acceptable, use Word doc (.doc or .docx) or plain text format (.txt). All applicant tracking systems can read and understand both these formats.

Plain-text files may limit your formatting options, but they are the most ATS-friendly. Most ATS programs can only import plain text. So, this format is most compatible with all systems.

Word documents give you more creative freedom, but they may still result to garbled text or hidden data during the parsing process.

Avoid this by copying content from Word and pasting it into a plain-text document. Check for missing details and characters or errors in formatting. Edit your resume until all information remains intact and readable in plain text. Then save and submit it as a Word document file.

An ATS parses your resume into a digital profile to make entries in the database uniform and searchable. To avoid errors in parsing, avoid formats such as pdf, html, and open office. Stick to Word doc or plain text formats.

Land That Interview

Applicant tracking systems will continue to be utilized in recruitment processes in the future. They’re not going away any time soon.

You can get past the resume bots by following the tips mentioned above. Optimizing your resume for ATS will increase your chances of landing that interview.

An ATS-optimized resume has a higher probability of getting tagged and sent to recruitment officers. But don’t just rely on it.

If you’re truly confident that you’re the ideal candidate for the job, find a way to follow up your application. Your keen interest in getting the job might just be enough for a recruitment officer to search the ATS for your resume.

With an optimized resume and a sincere desire to get the job, you can up your chances of landing that much coveted interview.