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Tips From A Recruiter: Is Your Resume ATS Friendly?

In a world where technology plays an increasingly dominant role in our daily lives, it's no surprise that even the process of job hunting has gone digital. The rise of applicant tracking systems (ATS) has changed the game for job seekers, making it more important than ever to create a resume that is not only well-written and compelling but also optimized to pass through digital gatekeepers.


If we look at the stats, a whopping 75% of resumes are rejected by an applicant tracking system simply due to the way candidates format them. As a job seeker, you don’t want to get your job application rejected before it reaches a human recruiter. Do you? 


This is where you need to work on creating an ATS-friendly resume. But what exactly makes a resume ATS-friendly? And how can you ensure that your hard work and qualifications don't get lost in the technology shuffle? 


In this post, we'll delve into the secrets of creating a resume that not only showcases your skills and experience but also makes it past the algorithms and into the hands of a human recruiter. 


What is an ATS and how does it screen resume? 


Before we go ahead and give you some valuable tips, it’s important to know what applicant tracking systems are and how they work. 

What is an ATS?


An applicant tracking system is a software application used by organizations to automate and manage the recruitment process. It is designed to scan, parse, and store information from resumes submitted by job applicants. 


Applicant tracking applications are designed to streamline the hiring process, helping recruiters save time by eliminating manual resume screening and pre-selecting only the most qualified candidates for further evaluation.


A study found that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS while 66% of large organizations and 35% of small companies use some sort of HR software. If you want to get a job in a progressive company, chances are your resume will go through an ATS.


How ATS works 


Applicant tracking systems use complex algorithms to determine a candidate's suitability for a role. They analyze the information on your resume against the job description and requirements listed by your potential employer. 


Also, an ATS looks for specific keywords, phrases, and qualifications that match the job requirements. If your resume doesn't contain enough of the right keywords, your resume may be rejected before it even reaches a human recruiter.


It's important to understand that automated HR systems are not designed to replace human recruiters. Rather, these help recruiters streamline the hiring process by filtering out candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements for a role. 


However, this also means that you need a well-written and tailored resume. If your resume is well-optimized for ATS, it will increase your chances of making it past the screening stage and onto the evaluation stage. 


By following best practices for ATS optimization, you can ensure that your hard work and qualifications don't get lost in the technology shuffle.


Related: Artificial Intelligence vs Recruiter? Will Recruitment Become Less Human?

4 tips for writing an ATS-friendly resume 


Here is what you can do to improve your chances of beating the bots and getting your resume into human hands:  

  • Customize your resume by using the right keywords 


We often see resumes that fail to make it past the initial screening process due to a lack of attention to detail. One key factor in getting your resume seen by a human recruiter is to make sure it's customized to the job requirements and includes the right keywords.


When applying for a job, do your research and find out what keywords employers use in similar job listings. This could include technical skills, certifications, and general experiences and abilities. 


For example, if you're applying for a software engineering position, you can research similar job listings and make a list of the most common keywords used, such as "JavaScript," "Agile methodology," "SQL," "cloud computing," etc. 


By incorporating relevant keywords into your resume, you increase the chances that the ATS will recognize your qualifications and pass your resume on to a human recruiter for further review.

  • Write a custom resume for each position 


As we mentioned earlier, ATS applications are now widely used to automate screening and hiring processes. Your goal is to get past the robotic screening process. One way to achieve this is by creating a custom resume every time you apply for a job.  


Did you know 36% of resumes are rejected for being too generic? So, be sure to spend some time creating custom resumes based on the job post. This will help you optimize your resume with the right keywords. 


Related: 5 Resume Hacks To Pass ATS

  • Use easy-to-read resume templates 


Every software or application has certain constraints. An ATS is no exception. You need to understand the limitations of an ATS to get the best results. Many candidates make the mistake of using fancy fonts and design elements in their resume, which might confuse the ATS and result in their resume getting sorted into the wrong pile.


To ensure your resume is more ATS-friendly, create a streamlined resume. Focus on your experience and skills, and avoid using overly complicated charts, graphs, or symbols. Use the expected section headings such as professional summary, skills, and work experience.


To make things even easier, consider using an ATS resume template. The template will already have the necessary structure and format in place, making it easier for you to showcase your experience and skills in a way that the ATS can process and understand.

  • Choose the right file type 


When it comes to the file type of a resume, there are two popular options: .docx and .pdf. While .pdfs maintain formatting well, .docx is more easily parsed by applicant tracking systems. 


It's important to use the .docx format for the best chances of getting past the system, but it's also crucial to follow job listing instructions and use the file type specified. Some online resume builders may generate a resume as an image. So, it's important to check the file type before using an online builder.


Related: Recruiter And ATS Expert Shares Resume Dos, Don'ts

More ATS resume writing tips 


Let’s highlight more writing tips to help you come up with a perfect resume: 

  • Place your name, phone number, and email address outside the header or footer of your Word document to make your information more accessible for a bot. 

  • Use simple symbols such as solid circles, open circles, or squares for bullet points to enhance your resume and avoid compatibility issues with applicant tracking systems.

  • Keep your resume design simple to avoid confusing HR software and annoying recruiters with complex designs and unusual formats.

  • Test your resume to ensure details are not missing, characters are saved correctly, and the document appears organized. 

Closing thoughts 


Big companies receive 50k to 75k resumes each week. It’s imperative for large organizations to implement an ATS to automate resume screening and other recruiting processes. Make sure your resume is ATS compliant so it successfully passes through the initial hiring phase.