10 Strategies for Getting Your Resume through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

With rare exceptions, almost every Fortune 500 company and a rapidly growing number of small and mid-sized businesses filter résumés through an applicant tracking system (ATS) before or if a hiring manager ever looks at them. Jobscan research found that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS while a Kelly OCG survey estimated 66% of large companies and 35% of small organizations rely on recruitment software. Fact: 70% of résumés are never seen by employers. Big companies get thousands of résumés each week (50,000 per week for Microsoft and 75,000 per week for Google). There is no time for a human to go through each one. ATS cuts approximately 70% that do not match the required criteria.

If you thought the career marketplace was flooded with résumés before, think again. Covid-19 has created a tsunami given the pandemic’s impact on the economy, unemployment, and loss of job security. Because applying for a job online is easier than ever before, many candidates are wallpapering job board opportunities with résumés, even if they are unqualified. By matching candidates to job postings, employers can now sort through the volume of résumés received and quickly identify the best fit candidates worth interviewing. On the flip side, not being ATS savvy, many otherwise qualified candidates fall through the cracks. But whether it is Taleo, Workday, SuccessFactors, Greenhouse, BrassRing, iCIMS, Jobvite, Lever, SmartRecruiters, JazzHR, CATS, BambooHR, or some form of proprietary ATS, here are 10 strategies for getting through Applicant Tracking Software:

  1. Unless the job posting specifies that it’s okay to submit your résumé as a PDF, always use Word.
  2. Tailor your résumé to the specific job posting to ensure you are incorporating keywords germane to that opportunity. Read The Key to Resume Keywords
  3. Use both the long-form and acronym version of keywords, such as Master of Business Administration and MBA.
  4. Use a chronological or hybrid résumé format and avoid the functional résumé.
  5. Do not put your contact information in headers and footers.
  6. Avoid graphs, charts, tables, full page columns, and photos.
  7. Use traditional Serif fonts for jobs in compliant, regulated, or more formal fields like Finance, Law, and Science (Cambria, Garamond, Georgia, Palatino, Times New Roman) and Sans Serif Fonts for cutting edge, disruptive companies (Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, Verdana). Avoid fancy and unusual fonts.
  8. Utilize standard bullets (not fancy symbols) and not lengthy paragraphs for listing your achievements.
  9. Keep your font size between 10.5 and 12, your margins 1-inch all around, and use single spacing with a blank line between sections.
  10. Length is not a factor; format and keywords are. Length does not typically matter for applicant tracking systems. Most systems will generate a summary of your résumé data for decision-makers and not yield your actual résumé.

About Garrison Leykam, PhD:

Certified Business Coach (Expert Level)
Certified Remote Work Professional
Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC)
Certified Professional, Résumé Writer (CPRW)
Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP)
Certified Life Coach (Expert Level)
PhD Marketing, MA Psychology
LinkedIn profile in Top 25 MA, PhD profiles in U.S.
Top 1% LinkedIn Industry Social Selling Index
Author, Audacious at Any Age and Design You

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