Is Your Resume ATS-Friendly?Dec 29, 2014
Did you know that 85% of resumes are never read by humans? Over the years, technology has made applying for positions easier, and as a result, companies have had to find a way to keep up with the hundreds—sometimes thousands—of resumes they receive for each job opening. Since it’s next to impossible for human eyes to read through every application, an ATS, or applicant tracking system, allows them to upload all of the resumes into one database. Each one is assigned a score based on how well it meets the criteria, so only resumes with a high enough score will pass and make it to the next phase of the application process.
So how can you be sure your resume is ATS compatible? Since there are quite a few systems out there, you can never be 100 percent sure, but here are some basic guidelines:
If the job lead says to attach a Word doc, attach a Word doc. If it says to copy/paste your resume as plain text into a text field, copy/paste plain text. Nothing will get your resume rejected faster than ticking the system off—and, quite frankly, if you can’t follow directions when you’re applying for a job, you’re probably not going to be very good at it after you’re hired.
The resume templates found in Word are handy, but since they require you to enter your info using fields and tables, they can confuse an ATS. You’re better off starting from scratch.
Keep it simple
Don’t confuse the system with borders, horizontal lines, tables, and text boxes. Plain text is best—and be sure to use a standard font like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial since it’s sometimes difficult for software to discern letters of “fancier” fonts.
Make your sections obvious
An ATS needs to differentiate between different sections of your resume to know where to dump what data, so here's where white space is key. Don’t make your margins or font too small to try to fit everything on one or two pages—it’s better to go to three pages than to have your resume rejected because the system can’t read it. Try to keep margins at .75” to 1” and use 10- to 12-point font. Also, use standard section headings like “Summary,” “Experience,” and “Education” so the software knows where to find everything.
ATS software is programmed to pick up on patterns, so if your first position lists the company first, followed by the title, years of employment, and duties, the rest of your positions should follow the same format. This will increase your chances of the right data going to the right place.
No headers or footers
Since some filtering software ignores headers and footers, don’t use them for important information like your name, phone number, etc.
Use the right keywords
Are the words used in the job lead also in your resume? If a requirement is familiarity with Sarbanes-Oxley, don’t just put that you have “knowledge of federal securities laws.” Make sure the words “Sarbanes-Oxley” are actually on your resume—and while you’re at it, make sure “Sarbox” and “SOX” are listed, too, since they are common abbreviations.
ATS software is pretty sophisticated these days, so don’t try to increase your ranking by entering multiple keywords in the document properties or “hiding” them in the document by using white text. You’ll get a better ranking if keywords are used in context instead of just listed. In fact, your resume might get rejected if the ATS thinks you’re “gaming the system.”
Don’t rely on spell check
Spell check is an extremely useful tool, but it doesn’t know what you meant to type, and neither does an ATS. If you were a manager, but you typed “manger,” spell check isn’t going to throw up a red flag since “manger” is a word, too. So proofreading is key!
Again, no format is foolproof, but having the basics down will greatly increase your chances of being contacted by an actual human being. And if you’re worried about your resume “looking pretty,” feel free to take hard copies of a more aesthetically pleasing version with you to the interview!