How to Beat an Applicant Tracking System with Good Pass Rate?

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Sawai Jangid

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: January 28, 2021

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As per a survey, nearly 40% of employers now use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen resumes for job openings. Applicant tracking systems help employers save time in the recruitment process by filtering relevant candidates from scores of irrelevant ones, in just a few minutes with only a couple of clicks. It does this with the help of resume parsing technology. Therefore, how you write a resume is as important, if not more, than only what information the resume conveys.

More and more companies are relying on ATS solutions to find qualified candidates. Let’s face it. Most companies have thousands of resumes that haven’t even looked at, just sitting in a database. 

With the advent of applicant tracking systems, as many as 75% of resumes never get seen by an actual person. Therefore, it has become essential to optimize your resume’s contents specifically for applicant tracking systems, so that your resume shows up in the top search results consistently and has a better shot at getting shortlisted.

If you are a job-seeker who has been struggling to get feedback for your job applications, it is highly likely that it is not getting picked up by the various ATS solutions that employers use these days. In this article, let’s discuss how ATS solutions affect your job applications and how you can use them to your advantage to obtain a reasonable pass rate every time.

How does ATS affect your Application?

An applicant tracking system scans your resume for terms that match the ones outlined in the job description. Suppose that you are applying for the post of a sales manager. If your resume uses the word ‘manager,’ there are high chances that it will get picked by the system. However, if it says ‘Product Engineer,’ as opposed to ‘Manager,’ the system might not pick up your application.

This is just an example. Not all systems are so harsh. Many of them are configured to also take synonyms into account. However, as a job seeker, you must do everything you can from your end to ensure that your resume does not get overlooked by an applicant tracking system.

Fortunately, optimizing your resume for applicant tracking systems is not very difficult. All you need to do is use the right terms, follow a proper format, and be a little strategic. Here are some tips to optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems.

8 Effective Ways to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

1. Use Relevant Keywords

The keywords you use in your resume are extremely crucial. An ATS solution scans your resume and compares it with the job description. It searches for the best match for a requirement based on the relevant keywords mentioned in your resume. Hence, you must tailor your CV as much as possible to include the keywords for the job that you are applying for. For that, you must read the job description and frame your resume using the same language.

Start with the job title. Ensure that the job title mentioned in your application is relevant to the job description. Some companies use different names for similar roles. Try to include a few variations of the job title in your CV, if possible.

However, be careful not to stuff your CV with the same or similar keywords again and again. The best place to include relevant keywords is in the section of your resume that lists your skills and core abilities. In this portion of your resume, you will be able to add the right keywords organically. It is not just enough to use proper keywords, but you must also place them correctly for a favorable impact.

2. Use Standard Section Headings

ATS solutions navigate through your resume with the help of headings. Therefore, the headings that you use must be easily understandable and recognizable. Here are some headings that you can safely include in your CV:

  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Skills
  • Contact Information

Avoid titles that are unique or complex. Stick to the basics to make it easier for the ATS to parse your resume effectively.

3. Choose the Right Format

In many instances, resumes do not get picked up by the ATS due to their format. Avoid formats such as PDF, HTML, Apple Pages, and Open Office as many systems may not be able to read those formats. Most ATS solutions are compatible with Microsoft Word. 

It is advisable to create a resume using Word and convert it into a TXT file, and then back again to Word. This ensures that your resume is tidy and easily readable.

Looking for Applicant Tracking Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the best Applicant Tracking Software solutions.

4. Keep It Simple

While it’s understandable that you may want to showcase your creativity or individuality to a recruiter, ATS solutions demand simplicity. Most of the extra touches you may have added to your resume – logos, pictures, shades, or symbols- may be unnecessary.

Most ATS solutions are unable to recognize even standard fonts such as the Times New Roman or Cambria. As these serif fonts have some marks attached to their characters, the system sometimes cannot read them. On the contrary, sans serif fonts like Calibri are easily readable by most ATS solutions.

Another thing you must keep in mind to optimize your CV for an applicant tracking system is that you must use bullet points as much as possible. The standard round bullets are easily identifiable and readable as opposed to arrows or diamond-shaped ones.  

5. Avoid Headers and Footers

To make their resume appear more appealing, many candidates prefer to place their contact information and photos in either the header or the footer. Although it may look good visually, an applicant tracking system may not be able to read it.

So, avoid placing important information in headers and footers. Instead, include it in the main body of the CV to ensure that it does not get overlooked.

6. Maintain a Proper Structure

It is always a great idea to structure your resume into specific sections. This makes it easier for ATS solutions to detect and categorize these sections easily. Moreover, to make the CV more readable, try to keep all your content aligned to the left. Keeping your content aligned to the right might make it stick out like a sore thumb and send your file into the trash.

7. Avoid Visuals

Incorporating visuals into your CV does make it eye-catching. If you are applying for the role of a graphic designer or an architect, visuals in your CV may create a positive impact on the recruiter. However, when an applicant tracking system is involved, it’s best to leave the visuals for your portfolio or face-to-face interview.

Most ATS solutions are incapable of translating graphs, tables, icons, or images. They can only read the text. So, you’d be better off leaving your creativity for the later stages of the hiring process.

8. Stay Away From Slang and Acronyms and Spelling Mistakes

Most ATS solutions may not be able to decipher acronyms. You may take a chance with well-known acronyms like IBM. However, there is still a strong possibility that the ATS won’t be able to recognize it correctly.

A safe practice would be to always mention the full form before an acronym – be it your job title or the name of a company. For example, instead of just using acronyms like ‘IBM’ or ‘ATS,’ write ‘International Business Machine (IBM)’ or ‘Applicant Tracking System (ATS).’ Most ATS solutions only identify words that are commonly used in the professional world. Avoid using slang words like ‘hustle,’ ‘pro,’ and so on.

While a human being may figure out what you actually mean, an ATS solution may skip misspelled words. This will significantly curb your chances of getting your application past the ATS solution to the recruiter. So, always remember to run a spell-check before submitting your application. 

Wrapping it Up:

Applicant tracking systems continue to help recruiting managers and organizations save a tremendous amount of time, as well as money. This technology is here to stay, and we can only expect it to become smarter in the coming days. If you want to beat the limitations of the various applicant tracking systems used today and would like to stay ahead in the loop, it is crucial to have an ATS-friendly resume.

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Sawailal Jangid is a Content Analyst at SotwareSuggest. He does researches and analyzes software to educate and advice to the business managers to streamline their business. In his spare time, he loves to do sports activities.

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