ATS-friendly resume
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Get Past the Bots and Land Interview: ATS-Friendly Resume Tips

Job seekers have always faced application obstacles — that’s nothing new. But today, the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) poses a machine-learning hurdle for job hunters to add to their list of challenges. 

Although AI-driven tools are proving to be beneficial and efficient for the employer hiring process, many job seekers are discouraged by the fact that their resume may never actually land on someone’s desk.

Considering that 85% of job seekers who don’t hear back from employers believe their resume was never reviewed by a human (CareerArc), it’s time to evaluate the importance of creating an ATS-friendly resume.

You may be wondering, why are ATS-friendly resumes important if I’m already a qualified candidate?

When applying through an ATS, it doesn’t matter how charming, intelligent, or qualified you are for the job role. If your resume doesn’t contain the right format or words, it’s going to get lost or discarded in the system.

In fact, the same CareerArc study revealed that 62% of companies using ATS admitted that some qualified candidates are likely being filtered out of the vetting process by mistake!

You need to know how to create an ATS-friendly resume to get past bots that prescreen applications. Follow these tips to improve your chances of getting noticed and landing the interview: 

Use the right keywords

ATS keywords are specific words or phrases that employers are looking for on your resume. The ATS filters through resumes based on those keywords to help determine whether applicants are qualified enough to advance to the next round.

To identify ATS-friendly resume keywords, take a look at the job description. Note the hard and soft skills, words that are listed more than once, job requirements, and duties. And don’t forget to look at the job title itself and certifications/degrees that may be listed as well. These details offer clues about which keywords the ATS screens for this role.

When picking keywords, it’s important to avoid using synonyms as not all ATS can recognize them. Your resume could be filtered out because you didn’t use the exact keyword verbiage, even if you are qualified.

Bonus tip: Scanning the keywords in the job description gives you the opportunity to review the job role in detail to make sure you are qualified for the position. 

Keep it clean and simple

To make sure your resume is compatible with ATS, it’s best to keep it clean and simple. Using a fancy resume template or incorporating extra features — such as pictures, graphics, or logos — can get your resume rejected because the ATS cannot read them.

Stick to a tried-and-true format so that the ATS can screen your resume to read every word as you intended. For example, choose a common and simple font using appropriate font sizes and color, and opt for a solid circle or square for your bullet points.

Also, double-check that your sections and headings are easy to read. For example, use subheads such as “Experience,” “Qualifications,” “Education,” and “Skills.” Avoid putting information in a document header or footer as many ATS can’t read these sections. You don’t want critical details to be left out like your name and contact info! 

The benefits of keeping your resume clean and simple go beyond being approved by the ATS screening. It’s also important to remember that your resume will (hopefully) land in the hands of a human. Keeping your resume in the proper format ensures that it’s compatible for both ATS and human review.   

Tailor your resume

Applying for jobs can be time-consuming. But you should never try to save time by using the same resume for every application. Your resume should be customized to fit each specific job description for which you apply. Otherwise, the ATS is likely to disqualify you because your resume doesn’t align with the exact qualifications. 

Additionally, if you are applying for a role that is more sales focused, be sure to include data, numbers, and stats from your experiences.

Last but not least, always check to see what file type you should use. PDF is the recommended format for submitting a resume, but if the description asks for a Word doc instead, that means the ATS will not be able to read a PDF document.

It’s important to tailor your resume so that it stands out in an ATS screen. Find a balance between proving you are the perfect candidate for this specific position and highlighting your general experience.

Bonus tip: If you submit your resume in a Word file, be sure to set the editing permissions to ‘Read-Only.’ This will prevent any accidental typos if/when your resume reaches a real person in the process.

Don’t give up on human connection

Although ATS and AI-driven tools are most likely here to stay, job seekers should not give up on making human connections! According to a study by CareerBuilder, 88% of employers rated employee referrals as the top source for generating quality new hires.

The best way to make sure your resume ends up in the right human hands is to continue to network and make connections. In certain cases, if you have a referral or someone advocating for you within the company, some job seekers may be able to skip the ATS process altogether and get their resume directly into the hands of the decision-maker.


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