How to write a resume to beat ATS

Have you applied for a lot of jobs? But are you getting fewer invitations to job interviews? You might have already faced scenarios like this. This is not an issue that is only faced by you. This is a problem that many job seekers in the world face regularly.

What Really Happens to the resume you submit online? Has this been an unsolved mystery to you for so long? Have you ever heard about the resume black hole? Most applicants do not know that 75% of all submitted resumes are getting disqualified even before they are seen by a human eye.

When you submit a resume and do not get a proper answer to it, it can be said that your resume is stuck in the online space. This is because of the ATS or Applicant Tracking System.

This is definitely because your resume is inferior. Therefore your resume must be finished to the correct standards to prevent that from happening again. So it’s your turn to learn how to optimize your resume to beat the ATS.

What is an applicant tracking system?

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) has come up for the ease of recruiters. They have utilized this human resource software from the recent past in order to streamline the hiring and the application process.

An Applicant Tracking System is able to store, scan, and rank each application. As this is very useful, at present most of the companies including fortune companies get the assistance of ATS.

Why are employers in love with ATS bots?

Some companies receive 1000+ resumes per day for the same job opening. So checking each of these resumes one by one can be a headache for recruiters. Therefore, the application tracking system was introduced to large companies for their convenience.

It’s easy for them, but it’s not good news for applicants. Because if you want to have a winning resume today, you need to focus on the requirements of the ATS rather than the hiring manager’s requirement. This is really not an easy task.

However, the workload of hiring managers was greatly reduced due to this applicant tracking software. Also, their hiring process was shortened. All they have to do now is to check the best resumes manually selected by the ATS and invite them to the interview for some of the best ones. This saves them a lot of valuable time.

Below are some of the best ATS software of the current employers.

  • BambooHR
  • Bullhorn
  • Greenhouse
  • Breezy HR
  • WebHR
  • iCIMS
  • GoHire.io
  • BrightMove
  • Pinpoint
  • Freshteam
  • RECRU
  • CleverStaff
how applicant tracking system works

How does an applicant tracking system (ATS) work?

When you apply for a job online, your resume doesn’t go straight forward to a recruiters’ hand. All the resumes which applicants sent online will be stored in a database.

All the resumes that come into this database are scanned through the ATS system, where the resumes are categorized according to the requirements given by the employer.

Finally, the ATS picks the best and most suitable candidates for the position. Only the resumes of the highest-scoring candidates are then sent by the ATS to the hiring manager. These ATS can compare your resume with the job description or job advertisement. 

Now the hiring managers have some of the best resumes on hand. They will be manually checked by the hiring manager and create another shortlist to be invited for an interview.

Even after the original job you applied for is filled, the resumes may still be stored in their databases. Whenever the employers need to do recruitment they could see their existing resume pool. So they will be able to find a perfect applicant for the position even without advertising the future job openings.

What is an ATS compliant resume and why do we need it?

Do you know that top candidates also get lost in the applicant tracking system? The reason for this is the unawareness of creating an ATS compliant resume.

If your resume is not well optimized for ATS, that will never go to a hiring manager or a recruiter. It will only end up on the resume black hole forever.

So you need to create your document in a way that the ATS can easily scan and parse your resume. For that, the resume should be very clean and simple. Also, it should consist of keywords, qualifications, skills, and experiences that match with the job advert.

So it is imperative to recognize the requirement of ATS and write a compliant resume accordingly. Below we will discuss the steps on how to make a resume that can outsmart any ATS.

Can I beat the Applicant Tracking System with an ATS resume?

A very important thing to keep in mind is that just because your resume is ATS friendly, it cannot beat the ATS software.

An ATS friendly resume means that an ATS bot can read your resume. That means your resume is compatible with the ATS. But there are many things you can do for your resume to beat ATS and get on the shortlist.

Use the tips below to increase the probability of your resume passing the ATS scan.

How to optimize your resume to beat ATS?

The first thing you need to know is that there is no universal way to beat the applicant tracking system. Because individual employers customize the ATS as per their preferences.

However, we need to know how to optimize our resume to fit any ATS. Then you can increase your job winning chances.

Here are our all-time greatest tips to increase the ATS friendliness of your resume.

tips to make your resume ats optimized

01. Improve the legibility of your resume

Using fancy fonts, too many graphics, and colorful resume templates will make your resume more likely to be rejected.

So whenever you make a resume, limit the use of tables, columns, text boxes, logos, images, graphs, headers, and footers as much as possible.

You may be able to attract the attention of a hiring manager by including things like this. But if you include more of them, the more uncertain your resume will pass through the ATS.

For example, if you use charts to highlight your skills, the ATS may fail to read your skills.

Also, ensure your text is highlightable. Otherwise, the applicant tracking system will be unable to scan your resume. As a result, your resume will tend to reject even if you write a perfect resume.

02. Tailor your resume to the job description and update with keywords

Remember not to submit the same resume to every job you apply for under any circumstances. It is very important to tailor your resume to each job you are applying for.

The job advertisement is a great source of information on building an ATS compliant resume. Every job advertisement has its own relevant keywords. So you can easily pass the ATS scan by selecting them and adding them to the appropriate place in your resume.

This gives you the ability to customize your document for every job you apply for.

The skills and qualifications that are unique to the field of employment you are applying for are definitely mentioned separately in the job advertisement. So don’t forget to use these keywords as much as possible when building your resume.

03. Describe your work experience with simple bullet points

Many people are accustomed to listing their duties and responsibilities in their position under the resume work experience section. But all you have to do is list the achievements you have made under each job title instead of duties.

When you do that, the recruiter will know that you are a results-oriented person. You can get very good results by quantifying the achievements you have achieved, the skills that have helped you to achieve them, and the results you have achieved.

List at least 3-5 bullet points under one job title. Avoid extending them unnecessarily and briefly summarize your achievements.

However, you should be careful about the bullet point icon. You can make your resume ATS compatible by choosing simple icons such as solid circle, open circle, square instead of choosing fancy weird icons.

04. Use standard resume headings

The application tracking system uses all the titles in your resume to navigate it. Therefore, titles are very important to understand the information in your resume and pass you through the ATS scan. So try to use simple and standard resume titles whenever possible. Avoid using uncommon section headings.

ats friendly resume headings

See the section titles below.

  • Contact Information
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Skills

Use simple titles like these on your resume always. You can be a creative person. But that does not apply to ATS. Do not confuse the ATS in any way. If so, you are at risk of failing the ATS scan.

05. Pick the best resume format (Chronological or hybrid. Avoid functional)

We can see three main resume formats such as chronologically, functional, and hybrid. Of these, the easiest and safest resume format for ATS to understand is the reverse-chronological format.

In this format, more attention is paid to your work experience. It lists your most relevant and recent experience first and lists it in descending order.

But we do not recommend for you to use the functional resume format which is based on skills.

06. Use the right resume file type (DOCX, PDF)

One of the factors that influence your resume to pass an ATS scan is the file type that you save your resume. The DOCX and PDF file types are currently the two most widely accepted types for saving a resume in the world.

Of these two, PDF is a universal file format that can be read by any ATS. However, you need to ensure if the text in it can be highlighted.

Also, the resumes in plain-text files are extremely ATS-friendly, but they limit the formatting options.

Anyhow, saving your resume as a PDF file will not affect its design or format after you submit it. If you save your resume in any other file types such as HTML, DOCX, or DOC, the design and format of your resume may change.

Note that the file type you need to send varies according to the ATS software used by each company. For example, if the company is using a slightly older ATS, it may not be able to read PDF resumes. So always remember to read the job advertisement carefully. If they tell you to send your resume in DOCX type, you must send your resume in DOCX.

07. Use ATS readable fonts

A good resume font should be readable to the human eye as well as machines. Because of the fancy nature of some fonts, even the ATS is confused and unable to read it.

So choose a universal and professional-looking font like Arial, Garamond, Helvetica, Calibri, etc. when making your resume. As a result, ATS can easily understand the text in your resume and parse it to the shortlist. You may think that having these fonts makes your resume boring. But recruiters do like to see simple fonts like this in your resumes.

ats friendly resume fonts

08. Avoid abbreviations and acronym terms

For the maximum readability of your resume, you need to avoid abbreviated terms and titles instead you can use the full-form. 

This will increase the searchability of your resume too. But if you see that particular keyword is in abbreviated form in the job advertisement or the job description, then feel free to add the word shortened form. To be on the safe side you can add both the long-form and acronym versions of keywords. For example:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)

09. Do not put distinctions into your header such as PHD / MBA

On the resume header, some used to highlight their highest educational qualifications and certifications by inserting the specific distinctions beyond your name.

Because of this, the ATS is more likely to misunderstand your name. Most likely it will be misunderstood as your first name or last name. Therefore never include your distinctions in your resume header. 

10. Check for typos and grammar errors

If you have a misspelled word in your resume, it will be a reason to remove you from the job competition. A human being can at least see a spelling mistake in your resume but still understand what you are saying.

But a robot has no thought to do so. If they see a spelling error or a grammar error in your resume, the only thing they do know is how to disqualify you from the ATS scan.

So always be sure to proofread the resume before submitting it.

11. Never try to cheat ATS

If you stuff keywords in your resume with the intention of increasing your job winning chances, it may not be caught by a human eye. But the ATS can easily identify it.

But keep in mind that fooling an applicant tracking system is an impossible thing. Many candidates try to trick ATS by adding hidden or white text. But ATS sees every text in the same color. This is not the thing we called optimization.

If you need to optimize your resume with keywords the best thing you could do is to write a keyword-rich resume summary. Also, never lie on your resume by putting the skills you don’t have into the resume just because you want to get the job or to get past the bots. Because even if you pass the ATS scan, you will still face difficulties during the interview.

Therefore we recommend you to apply only to positions that you are well qualified for.

12. Remember that a recruiter will also review your resume after the ATS scan

It is good to have an ATS compliant resume. But you need to know that your resume will be checked by the hiring manager or the recruiter too. So you need to consider the perspective of an employer too.

Employers always want to choose the best applicant. Therefore, even if an ATS scan is performed, the resumes selected by the ATS scan will be re-examined by the employer to select the best applicant.

So every time you optimize your resume, don’t forget to optimize your resume with your prospective employer in mind.