What Is ATS and How to Make an ATS-Friendly Resume

You might be wondering that despite sending countless resumes to different job openings, you still haven’t heard anything from any of them. If that is the case, then it is time for you to assess the way you create your CV and start learning how to make an ATS-friendly resume.

What is ATS and Why Is It Important?

Applicant Tracking System or ATS for short is merely software programs that are used to scan the contents of a resume, using an algorithm for keyword searching. These keywords search for certain skills, previous job experiences, education, and former employers. Since it manages the recruiting and hiring process, it provides an easy way for companies to sort out job applications they received.

One study showed that 75% of resumes never reached a real person. And because ATS is now a ubiquitous influence in the world of the hiring process, it is of utmost importance that you create an ATS-friendly resume if you want it to get into the hands of a real person.


What Else You Should Know About Applicant Tracking System?

Maybe you think that the first barrier of getting that job interview is the final judgment from your interviewer, then you are quite wrong with that assumption. For your information, 99% of Fortune 500 companies and some small and medium scale businesses screen out resumes through an applicant tracking system or in short, ATS before someone can even have a glimpse of them, including yours, too.

Therefore, the best thing that you should do is learn the process on how to beat ATS so your resume gets seen by human eyes. Sounds dreadful? In fact, no.

Before we talk about how you can beat ATS, you must know why recruiters and employers are using applicant tracking system software. The list below will give a better idea of the whole picture:


7 Things You Should Know About Applicant Tracking System

  • As mentioned above, ATS is widely used by companies as their hiring and recruiting tools. This advanced software screens out thousands of resumes on files.

Never assume that once you apply for a job on the Internet, your resume will go directly to the hands of a recruiter or hiring manager. Initially, it undergoes an applicant tracking system. And it depends on how optimized your resume is for ATS algorithms.

  • You should be able to know why employers are using an applicant tracking system. Since they are hiring online with several job openings at a time, they usually receive hundreds of resumes. And applying over the Internet has never been easier than before, some applicants are unqualified but want to “try their luck”.

ATS remarkably helps hiring managers in staying organized by putting all the resumes in one single place. These systems automatically trim down their applicants while highlighting those top candidates.

  • ATS is everywhere, and that is a fact, especially if you are applying for large corporations. Even small institutions are relying on recruitment software for their hiring process.

Are you applying to a large company? Then more or less, you will face an ATS. Are you trying your luck through any online platform? Then definitely you are applying through an ATS. Do you know that job sites that you see online like Indeed and LinkedIn have their built-in ATS?

  • Maybe you are wondering how applicant tracking systems work. Well, all resumes are being stored and collected in a database that is accessible for hiring professionals.

There are several ways a hiring recruiter can search through the resumes and it would depend on the particular system they’ll be using. However, some hiring managers choose to take a look at every resume that comes through their ATS. If this happens, they usually look at the applicant’s job titles, past experiences, and previous companies. For about 6 seconds, they can determine whether they want to read more “about you” or not. So make sure that you highlight your top skills and qualifications for easy identification.

Some ATS rank your resume automatically to the job description. Instead of manually reviewing each application, hiring managers can focus exactly on applicants that have been identified as a great match by ATS software.

  • It is one big obstacle for online applicants, the resume formatting. Did you know that once you upload your resume through an applicant tracking system, some ATS review your document in a digital format to make it searchable?
  • Yet, many parsings of ATS are outdated, which will eventually distort your information. So, for you to create an ATS-friendly resume that is compatible with these outdated systems, you must keep your headings simple and avoid tables. It would be better if you use a .pdf file or .docx format.
  • Theoretically speaking, stuffing your resume with vital keywords can do the trick. Some even overuse keywords to get a better initial score. But even if you get a good score in the ATS, you cannot fool the human recruiters.

The best thing that you should do is craft your resume based on your actual talent or skill.

Beating the system of ATS is possible, but definitely, there is no single trick to beat them. So we compiled simple steps to beat applicant tracking systems:

  • Whenever you plan to write your resume, be sure to match it carefully with the job description.
  • Learn the resume keywords and match them to the job description for proper optimization.
  • For maximum ATS searchability, utilize both the acronym version and the long form of keywords. For example, “Search Engine Optimization” and the acronym “SEO”.
  • Avoid using columns or tables since they often cause ATS matching errors.
  • Save your file in .docx format.


Additional Tips to Make Sure Your Resume is ATS-compliant:

  • Use only standard section titles – To make it clear, standard or conventional section titles must be utilized. A good example is “Professional Experience” instead of using “My previous exemplary career”.
  • Standard fonts only – These are the standard fonts; Arial, Calibri, Garamond. Using newer fonts are usually scanned by ATS incorrectly.
  • Single-column only – Avoid using multi-columns because there are several ATS that fail to read it correctly.
  • No tables, please – Instead of tables, try structuring your resume by the right and left aligns as well as your tab instead of tables because they rarely match the right way.
  • Avoid submitting scanned pictures, documents, or even diagrams – Your resume should be readable. Avoid using diagrams, pictures, graphs, and pie charts!

Make sure you stick to text only using the standard fonts. A clean single-column is enough so ATS resume scanners wouldn’t ignore your document. Another important tip is to use reverse chronological order for dates.


How Important are Resume Keywords?

You might already have an idea of how to create your resume in a way that is readable by the ATS system. Well done!

However, you still need to know how to optimize your resume so ATS scanners can rank your resume high.

Do you still remember that ATS trim down the number of job applicants? And how would they do it? Of course, they sort out resumes by searching for relevant keywords that highly match the job description.

In any job listings, an online applicant needs to match the competencies and abilities included to get hired. And these talents or skills become keywords for recruiters to determine quickly top candidates, regardless if they are using resume scanner or manual checking.

Some highly qualified applicants could get wrongly declined merely because their resumes are not stuffed and optimized with the exact keywords.


Here’s another effective keywords tip:

Let’s put it this way: You’re applying for a “Content Writer” position, but previously, your job title was “Content Creator”. As you see, most probably, the recruiter would be looking for a “Content Writer” applicant than a “Content Creator”. And even if you have that 10-year expertise in writing, your resume would likely be rejected.

Although the same job, different titles, right? So all you need to do is change that “Creator” to “Writer” if you want to increase your searchability. It is very important to match the job description.

You should also be aware of the hard skills you put on your resume and their frequencies to rank better. One good thing to do is mention your skills in several sentences in your resume.

Another good example to take note of is about tenses and formatting. Let’s say that they are looking for “restaurant manager” but your resume only includes the word “management” and phrases such as “managed restaurant before” or “restaurant managed”. Sorry, but more or less, you won’t come up with the recruiter’s search result.


Final Words

As you see, keywords are very crucial in crafting your resume. Being mindful of the keywords that are already in your document would give you a higher chance. Tweak those keywords if you think they are not included in the job description, but not to the point that it would look as if you’re promoting yourself.

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