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Five Tips to Get Your Resume Past Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) have become commonplace across the majority of organizations. In fact, around 99% of Fortune 500 companies leverage them to hire more efficiently. This is because a robust ATS frees recruiters from what would otherwise be a highly-administrative and potentially error-prone process. This ultimately allows for companies to hire more quickly and efficiently. 

It’s evident that an ATS can be quite beneficial from the perspective of the hiring organization. However, when you consider the perspective of the job seeker, an ATS could serve as a barrier between them and a position of interest…that is, if their resumes are not properly optimized. 

How do you get your resume past an applicant tracking system such that you increase the odds of a recruiter actually reviewing your information? There are five practical things that you can do to immediately increase your chances of landing that dream job. 

Check your organization. It’s likely that an ATS will only review your resume if it follows preset formats. As it’s typically easiest for an ATS to parse your resume in reverse chronological order, you should list your most recent work experience at the top. For work experiences that are older and less relevant, they should be placed towards the bottom of your resume. 

Keep the format simple. While PDF documents are best for keeping formats intact, plain text Word documents are generally ideal for ATS parsing. Use a font size of at least 11 points, margins of at least one inch on all sides, and avoid too many graphics. Remember, the simpler the better. 

Embed keywords into your work experience. To score higher by the automated screens of an ATS, you should strive to include specific keywords from the job description into the work experience section of your resume. Though be careful that you do not simply load your resume with keywords, but rather ensure that they are placed appropriately (and are truthful). 

Incorporate a skills section. A skills section or summary of qualifications is your opportunity to incorporate keywords and other skills that would otherwise not fit into your work experience. Learned a new skill outside of the job context? Completed a course that allowed you to level-up? Here is where you can ensure that they are not missed. 

Pre-scan your resume. Once you have completed your resume, consider leveraging an online resume scanner that will determine if there are any other red flags that may result in your resume falling to the bottom of the barrel. Popular options include services such as Jobscan and SkillSyncer.