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March 3, 2020

You have just seen your dream job advertised. Quick! Get that resume out and get your application in. But wait, you’ve been sending resumes out for some time with no success, so why should this time be any different? You will need some help to get that resume right. Follow the tips in this article, and your chances of success will be much higher.

The resume you carefully prepared and have been sending out to companies and organizations you probably wrote assuming that a human recruiter would read it first. That’s a wrong assumption!

Almost all companies, whether large, medium or small, now have in place an obstacle that you will have to overcome before a human reads your resume.

This is an Applicant Tracking System, a resume-reading robot that filters applications and rejects those that don’t meet the criteria is has been told to identify. The robot will know what to look for because it will have been programmed specially for the job advertised.

What exactly does the Applicant Tracking System do?

The Applicant Tracking System screens all the resumes that are received for a particular job. It searches for keywords or phrases, noting their frequency. Also, it searches for relevant experience, skill sets, and qualifications. Any resumes that do not contain sufficient of any of these are rejected.

Why do companies use Applicant Tracking Systems?

Most large and medium-sized companies will get hundreds, even thousands, of applications for every job they advertise. Screening them using human resources would need very many working hours. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) make the screening process a quicker, less tedious process.

On average, the ATS screening process rejects 75% of resumes, with just 25% going forward to the next stage, where a human recruiter gets involved. As time is money, the use of ATS makes the whole process much cheaper, too.

What does all this mean for me?

It means that, however well-qualified you are, if you don’t produce an ATS-beating resume, you will be rejected immediately. The onus is on you, as the applicant, to make sure your resume is good enough to pass scrutiny at the first screening.

If you already have a resume prepared, and have been rejected before, then now is the time to re-write it, with this particular job in mind. If you are preparing your first resume, then remember that it has to be written with the ATS obstacle in mind.

In this article, you will find all the top hints and tips to make your resume a bot beater.


Before presenting the top tips for creating a resume that will get past the ATS robot, remember that you also have to impress the human recruiter who will be reading it next. These tips will help you write a resume that satisfies both requirements.

Use the right vehicle

Older systems cannot read PDF files, and while this is changing with more modern systems having the capability, you won’t know which files can be read by the ATS your resume will meet. It is best, therefore, to use a Word or Text file. The ATS will probably use optical character recognition (OCR) software anyway to process your resume, converting it into a text format. Make its job easy!

Keep it simple

Fancy fonts, adjusted spacing, lines, and some formatting can confuse the ATS bot, as it will appear as garbled text. Don’t include illustrations, charts, images, or inventive graphics. They all confuse the average ATS bot. If the bot can’t read what you have written, it will reject the resume.

Choose a simple font.

This matters as it makes it easier for the ATS bot. Consider using Cambria or Georgia, both of which are seriffed fonts. For a good sans serif font, try Calibri or Helvetica. They all have clean lines and are easy to read.

Not using graphics might create another problem for you. A well-chosen, informative graphic could well impress the human recruiter. Instead, you will have to rely on the power of the written word to get your point across.

Importance of the first page

The first page is the most important, as in most instances, the ATS bot is looking there for the candidate’s best attributes. If it doesn’t find them there, it will probably reject the resume. Companies don’t want their ATS bots wasting time trawling through hundreds of resumes, each with several pages when the bots can make their judgment from the first page. Keep the first page clear, relevant, and concise.

Use standard section headings

The ATS software is usually programmed to recognize standard section headings. Help the software help you by sticking to those headings. Being creative and using unconventional headings will lead to an early rejection. Examples that the software will recognize include “Skills,” “Work Experience,” or “Qualifications.” There is no need, nor is it desirable, to use other terms for these.

Use targeted keywords

Including targeted keywords is the most important tip. The recruiter will input a selection of key words and phrases that are relevant to the vacancy. Then, when screening the resumes, the ATS will search for those words and phrases, and check their frequency.

Frequency is the crucial factor here, as the key words and phrases should appear often enough to be effective, but no so much that it looks as if you are trying to flood your resume in an attempt to fool the ATS.

You can establish which keywords and phrases are essential by examining the job description. If the recruiter has listed qualities that an applicant should possess, then he will have entered those into the ATS program. You should only mention specific keywords if you do actually possess those qualities.

Do not try and fool the ATS by claiming the qualities you do not possess. The human who interviews you next will not be impressed.

Another useful tip here is to research the recruiter’s own job description. Often, such information is available online. Doing this might highlight some other keywords that you could usefully include in your resume.

Try to include both specific and more general keywords in your resume. ATS bots are looking for both types of keyword. If you held a supervisory job, such as team leader, include that term, but add job-specific terms like ‘manage’ or ‘co-ordinate.’ If you can, include a general term like ‘project manager’ too.

Avoid over-using non-specific keywords

ATS bots are seeking those resumes where the keywords and phrases precisely match the job description. There are more sophisticated bots that will match work experience and the requirements in the job description.

Do not be tempted to include a long list of non-specific keywords or phrases. Doing this will not distract but might reduce the relevancy of your submission. It is much better to keep your resume concise and targeted. Emphasize those terms that are particularly relevant to the job description.

Try to include industry-specific jargon and abbreviations

Every industry has its own jargon, and a recruiter is quite likely to include some of it as keywords when programming the ATS. Use some jargon in your resume, and you will increase your chances of not being rejected.

Another way of improving your chance of getting past the ATS is to use some abbreviations commonly found in your industry. These should never be used on their own, but should always be spelled out first. For example, if you had worked for the UN, list it as ‘United Nations (UN),’ or NATO as ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This means if the recruiter had entered only one version, you are covered for both.

Should you decide to use industry-specific jargon and are unfamiliar with it, do some research. Go online and check that you are using the jargon correctly and appropriately.


  • Use the right file – Word or a similar text file.
  • Keep it simple. Use a clear, easy to read font and avoid complicated graphics and unnecessary formatting.
  • Create a first page that contains all the information that the ATS bot will be looking for in plain, concise language and relevant to the application.
  • Use standard section headings. Don’t try to be unconventional, as it won’t gain your resume more attention from the ATS bot.
  • Be sure to use targeted keywords and phrases. These are what the bots are looking for. Do your research, use the appropriate keywords and phrases, and be concise.
  • Do not be tempted to use too many non-specific keywords. The bots are programmed to look out for this overuse, and it will count against you.
  • Try to include appropriate industry jargon and abbreviations. ATS bots are programmed to identify these, and using them will improve your chance of acceptance.
  • Create a new resume for each job that you apply for. Each one must be specific to the job and guided by the job description. It is a big mistake to have just one resume that you send out to every job. The ATS bots will be programmed for each specific job.
  • Remember, your watchwords are clear, concise, simple, and relevant. Achieve all of that in your resume, and your chances of beating the bots are greatly improved.
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