Monthly Archives: June 2014

Crack the Applicant Tracking System Code


Get your resume in front of recruiters every time.

“You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust the sails to reach your destination.” The meaning is obvious in Jimmy Dean’s famous quote and hugely

relevant for job seekers in the marketplace today. There are some things you just
can’t change and, when you come across a challenge, you simply need to make a few
adjustments in order to reach your objectives.

With the sheer volume of resumes that recruiters receive each day, many of them
today must first make it past the Applicant Tracking System [ATS] before a live
person even looks at them. An ATS is a specialized software highly favoured by
employers, which literally filters through thousands of resumes before it submits
the top most recommended resumes to the employers.

ATS make recruiters’ lives easier, saving them hours and days’ worth of time by
performing the initial evaluation and by narrowing down the candidate pool from
100s of resumes to the top 10 candidates. This means that the more the employers
depend on the ATS, the more the chances that qualified candidates may get filtered
out. And your only hope for breaking through the ATS barrier is to understand
exactly how the system works and effectively format your resume to get through.

How Applicant Tracking Systems filter your resume

Regardless of your stellar qualifications, if the resume isn’t formatted in the right
way, which means if the right keywords and phrases are missing, the Applicant
Tracking System will simply misread your resume and rank it as a bad match with
the job opening.

The most important criteria used by the ATS to determine a match includes the
appearance of a keyword or phrase that can be measured by its presence in the
document, as well as the number of times the keyword or phrase appears.

Plus, the ATS contains different database fields for information on a resume, such as
an applicant’s name, contact details, work experience, job titles, education, employer names and periods of employment. These systems try to identify this information on a job seeker’s resume, so it’s essential that you format your resume to fit these criteria. And thus, the higher your resume ranking by the ATS, the more likely the application will end up being reviewed by a human reader.

How to format ATS-friendly Resumes:

  • Always submit your resume in an ATS approved format [.doc, .docx, or .txt.].
  • Remember, PDF, RTF and Jpeg formatted resumes may not be ATS-friendly.
  • List your contact information at the top of the document, with each piece of information labelled, “Phone”, “Email” and “LinkedIn.”
  • Simplify and streamline section headings “Qualifications”, “Summary,” “Work Experience,” and “Education.”
  • Avoid the temptation to use fancy dingbats, design templates, shading and borders and opt for simple bullets instead.
  • Ensure that the content is set in a simple single column format by minimizing the use of tables, multiple columns and text boxes.
  • Write your resume using safe, ATS-accepted fonts like Verdana or Arial.
  • Do not include images or graphics because the ATS can’t read them anyway and worse, they could clog the system.
  • As always, thoroughly check for spelling errors as the ATS may not recognize misspelled words.
  • If you are using abbreviations, like “PM”, make sure you also spell out the full version – “Project Management”.
  • Customize your resume for the individual job using keywords from the job position itself. If you are formatting a new resume, look up a few job postings from sites like and cut and paste relevant keywords and add them in your resume strategically.
  • Keep the section around your name clean. If you intend to add your credentials like PhD, CPA etc, make sure that you list them separately but not along with your name as that may confuse the ATS.

In summary, the ATS can be a very powerful ally if you understand how to make it work in your favour. If you can research jobs and optimize your resume wisely with the right keywords and in accepted layout and design formats, in no time you can be sitting face to face across the table with your potential employers.

Here’s wishing you all the luck in cracking the ATS code.

Mission Possible! Jobhunting over 40? Beat age discrimination with four strong counter points