How to beat ATS

Are you having trouble with your job search? The problem could be applicant tracking systems (also called “resume screeners”). Jobscan has you covered with the six simplest tips job seekers should absolutely use to beat Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)! (What is an applicant tracking system?)

1. Use standard resume headings

There are several different acceptable ways to phrase headings within your resume (for example, “Professional Summary”, “Career Summary,” “Work Experience” and “Work History”). Whatever titles you decide to use, be sure to stick to these standard headings in order to keep your resume clean, professional and ready for ATS.

By over-customizing your resume headings (for example, using “About Me” and “Accreditations”), you make it more difficult for Applicant Tracking Systems to parse your resume. ATS are typically unable to recognize nonstandard headings, and as a result they’re unable to sort the content appropriately in their databases.

2. Choose the correct resume format

Many qualified resumes have been rejected because their format was not optimized for an ATS. There are three main resume formats: chronological, functional and hybrid. While chronological is the most popular, it might not be the right fit for you.

Making sure your resume is formatted correctly will only increase your chances of getting through applicant tracking systems.

Check out Jobscan’s 20 ATS-friendly resumes. Get a bonus template here.

3. Don’t touch headers and footers

While it is tempting to make your resume stand out, colorful, eye-catching images (including tables and graphs) and fancy typefaces often confuse Applicant Tracking Systems.
Headers and footers are best left empty (leave your contact information out of there!) with standard 1-inch margins. It is always best to let your experience and skills set you apart from others.

For all job seekers applying to creative positions, such as web designer or architect, save the color and creativity for the in-person interview and times (for example, a job fair) when you’ll use a paper copy of your resume.

4. Echo resume keywords exactly

If anything on a resume can beat Applicant Tracking Systems, it would be those trusty resume keywords. Resume keywords are the skills and qualifications in the original job description that should be included in a resume (e.g., communication skills, Microsoft Word, and academic degrees).

However, simply using any form of these keywords will not win over an ATS: keywords must be formatted to echo the original job description exactly (to an ATS, there is a difference between “Microsoft Word,” “MS Word,” and “Word”).

Jobscan is an excellent online resource to make sure you have included all your resume keywords and formatted them correctly.

5. Left alignment and conservative typeface

Use left alignment for your resume text. While right text alignment might appear to give your resume a formal or edgy appearance, it won’t actually boost its chances of beating Applicant Tracking Systems. In fact, it could prevent the system from parsing content correctly.

Any typeface that is not conservative (such as Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri), or that is not a standard size, runs the same risk.

6. Write out all acronyms

You may have thought your parents and grandparents were terrible at deciphering texting slang such as “LOL” and “OMG,” but compared to them, Applicant Tracking Systems are stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to acronyms.

Even if an acronym is well known (for example, BMW or IBM), it may not be recognized or categorized correctly by an ATS.

To avoid misunderstandings, always spell out the acronym first before including the acronym (if necessary):

  • Companies and Associations: International Business Machines (IBM); American Cancer Society (ACS)
  • Products: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
  • Brands: Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M)
  • Years: 2015-2016 (never 2015-’16 or ’15-‘16)

Following these five simple steps will help you make sure you have an optimal ATS resume. Scan your resume now to see if it is ATS-proof:

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