An applicant tracking system, or ATS for short, is a form of software used by recruiters and employers to gather, filter, scan, and rank job applications for open positions during the hiring process.
The applicant tracking system was originally designed for large businesses that deal with thousands of inbound job applications on a weekly basis. ATS software is now used by nearly all Fortune 500 firms to help streamline their recruitment process. What began as a large-employer recruitment solution has evolved into a standard tool for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
What is applicant tracking systems (ATS Resume) and how do they work?
Employers and recruiting managers use applicant tracking systems as electronic gatekeepers. The ATS divides the content of a resume into categories and then scans it for certain keywords to determine whether the job application should be forwarded to a recruiter. Its job is to sift away unqualified applications so that the recruiter may focus on examining the prospects who are most likely to be a good fit for the job. In other words, the ATS is more likely to discard the least-qualified candidates rather than identify the top ones.
Unfortunately, if a resume template isn’t prepared and designed with the applicant tracking system in mind, a qualified prospect can be overlooked.
How to write a résumé that is ATS-friendly
Optimized Resume studied 1,000 resumes from professionals with at least eight years of experience across the United States to find the most common resume flaws that will lead an applicant tracking system to trash an application. The infographic below outlines some of the most costly resume flaws that cause an ATS scan to fail.
Choose the appropriate file format for your resume.
A PDF is not the most ATS-friendly file type, contrary to popular assumptions. While PDF files preserve the design and format of your resume template the best, they are not compatible with every ATS software. Send a PDF version of your resume if you’re requested to upload your resume to an applicant tracking system and “PDF” is listed among the file types you can use. If the system doesn’t say which file types are compatible, be safe and use a Word document in.doc or.docx format. For resumes, plain-text files are also very ATS-friendly, but they limit your formatting options.
I recommend utilizing a Word document instead of a plain-text file for your resume file type since the finest resume templates are built with two audiences in mind — the robots pre-screening your application and the live human in HR who will review your resume content if it makes it past the ATS. This will allow you to write a resume that will appeal to a recruiter or hiring manager with greater creativity.
Important information should not be placed in the header or footer.
Not all applicant tracking systems can effectively read and process information stored in a Word document’s header and footer sections. In fact, our research found that the applicant tracking system (ATS) failed to identify a piece of the job seeker’s contact information 25% of the time. Important contact information (such as your name, phone number, or email address) should be placed outside the header or footer of your resume to avoid this destiny.
Make your resume keyword-optimized.
Optimizing your resume with the proper keywords is one of the best methods to ensure that it is compatible with an ATS (a.k.a. keyword optimization). Unlike a “buzzword,” which is usually thought of as a flowery marketing term like “proactive” or “self-starter,” keywords indicate the soft and hard abilities you have, as well as the expertise you’ve gained over time, that qualifies you for your desired position.
If you’re not sure which resume keywords to include, start by gathering three to five job descriptions that correspond to the position you’re applying for. Then, using a free word and phrase frequency tool like Online-Text Utility.org’s Analyzer, copy and paste the job description to find the terms that are frequently used across your desired roles. Include these terms on your resume if you have these abilities or qualifications.
Some applicant tracking systems will correlate a skill’s length of experience with the length of time you worked in the job where that skill was used. For example, if you worked at your previous job for five years and mentioned that you were in charge of SEO, the ATS will think you had five years of SEO experience. If a skill is listed on its own, such as in a professional summary or a core-competencies section, the ATS will give that skill six months of experience. This is why reiterating your skills throughout your resume, rather than only in a skill section at the start of the resume template, is critical.
Images, charts, and other graphics should be avoided.
While these may appear attractive to the naked eye, after passing through the applicant tracking system, resumes with embedded photos become a jumbled mess or are altogether excluded from your application. The ATS, for example, will be unable to interpret an image or graphic that you use to highlight your important talents. If you utilise a cool graphic to trademark your name on your CV, the application tracking system will miss this piece of information (ATS).
Keep it simple using bullet points.
Bullet points, when utilized correctly, are an excellent way to highlight accomplishments and qualifications on a resume. However, if you use a complicated symbol for your bullets, your key selling points may become jumbled. When constructing a bulleted list on your resume, avoid employing complicated characters. To guarantee that your bullet points enhance your resume rather than making it incompatible with an ATS, stick to the simplest possibilities, such as a solid circle, open circle, or square.
Create a simple résumé with a clear hierarchy.
When it comes to the style of your resume template, less is more. Complex resume designs or odd layouts not only upset recruiters who are accustomed to swiftly reviewing a resume for specific information they anticipate to see in specific sections within the document, but they also confuse most applicant tracking systems.