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Career Seekers - Job Search Tool Kit

How to Get Past the Applicant
Tracking Systems

Job seekers need to know that most companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to evaluate candidates for their job openings. Do not let the name fool you. Applicant tracking systems don’t “track” where you are in the recruitment procedure. They’re targeted at saving employers time by separating strong candidates from the weak.

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As a result, states Josh Bersin, principal at HR consulting company Bersin by Deloitte, “The majority of businesses have countless resumes sitting in a database that they have actually never taken a look at.” In fact, 75 percent are never seen by a genuine individual. If a job offer is published on a job site, your resume will likely be scanned by bots prior to it ever reaching an actual human being.

Say you’re applying for a product owner position, for example. If your resume uses the word “product owner,” excellent. The system will pass your application on to a real person. However, if your existing job title is listed as “product manager,” no dice. Obviously, not all systems are so harsh.

How Applicant Tracking Systems Work

ATS - Artificial Intelligence

The ATS is there to filter out all but the best candidates

Applicant tracking system software provides recruiting and hiring tools for business. Among other functions, these systems collect and sort thousands of resumes. When you look for a job online, your resume is not usually going straight to a recruiter or hiring manager. It is first being processed by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Whether that human recruiter ever sees your resume might depend upon how well your resume is optimized for the ATS algorithms. There are dozens of different ATS software programs, each with their own functions, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.

Because applying for a job online is easier than ever, many applicants are unqualified and decided to apply anyways, “it is worth a shot.” Applicant tracking systems keep all these resumes in one place, assisting employers and hiring managers in keeping them sorted as well as staying in compliance with the EEOC. In theory, these systems also save time by instantly showing and highlighting the leading candidates.

Some candidate tracking systems can instantly compare your resume to the job description. For instance, Taleo calls this function “Req Rank,” which ranks each applicant based upon how well their resume scores based on the job description. Instead of examining each application, the recruiter can focus directly on prospects the ATS has identified as a terrific match. A common way employers filter resumes in an applicant tracking system is by looking for essential skills and job titles. For example, if an employer is hiring for an Administrative Assistant position out of 400 resumes, their initial step will most likely be a search for “Administrative Assistant.” This will separate candidates that have done the specific job before.

A search can consist of multiple terms. For example, they might perform an intricate search which contains a combination of titles and skills essential for the job: Administrative Assistant AND data entry AND payroll Prospects who can forecast the right resume keywords will have the biggest chance of being consisted of in employer search results page

Sometimes, an ATS scanning for keywords will just recognize and count specific matches. So if you have the appropriate experience, but you described it utilizing language that’s different than what the system is trying to find, you may not come up as one of the most qualified candidates.

Some ATS parse the file into a digital profile to make things uniform and searchable. Lots of ATS parsing algorithms are obsolete and unintelligent, causing your resume information to get distorted or lost. This means important keywords or details may not be imported. Imagine your essential credentials slipping through the cracks! Modern ATS are beginning to avoid this practice, but some popular systems like iCIMS (used by Amazon, General Mills, Comcast) still do it.

Without a significant change in how these companies hire, though, the onus of fixing it lies with the job applicant: How do you change your resume so applicant tracking software will not sort you out?

Resume Fonts and Applicant Tracking Systems

Besides having to worry whether your resume has the right keywords to get past the ATS, your resume may get lost in the pile because you used the wrong font. Some applicant tracking systems have trouble reading serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Cambria. Serif fonts have small tails on their letters. Sans serif fonts do not and are therefore cleaner-looking and easier to read.

Here are the best fonts to use to be safe:

Best sans serif fonts for resumes:

  • Arial
  • Calibri
  • Helvetica
  • Tahoma
  • Verdana

While you’re at it, you might want to make sure your bullet points are completely round. Do not use arrows or other cute designs for your bullet points or the ATS will convert them into a garbled mess.

How To Beat The Applicant Tracking Systems

There is no universal trick to “beating” applicant tracking systems. Getting past an ATS and landing a job interview requires a well-written resume that is mindful of ATS algorithms along with the people pushing the buttons. Thoroughly customize your resume to the job description every time.

Some try to do this by secretly including extra keywords to their resumes utilizing “undetectable” white text or by unnaturally overusing keywords. These techniques might help you get a much better initial rating in the ATS; however, they are unlikely to deceive recruiters. You might have seen recommendations about how to fine-tune your resume to deceive an applicant tracking system by pasting keywords in white, pasting the entire job description in white, duplicating the keywords as often as possible, or including a section identified as “keywords” where you stick different words from the job description.

So even if this gets your application passed to a recruiter or hiring manager, they’ll see that you included the complete text of the job description or simply wrote “sales sales sales sales” someplace and move onto the next prospect. You have just demonstrated you will cheat to get ahead!

Instead of using practices that can get you blacklisted from the company, focus on crafting the best resume possible based on your real skillset.

Make sure your keywords are legitimate, relevant, and in context.

When an ATS searches the skills and experience section of your resume for certain keywords, the matches need to be nearly exact. This is why I recommend having multiple versions of your resume. Use relevant keywords from the job description’s expected duties, responsibilities and skills needed sections. Make sure you can tie them to your own demonstrable accomplishments and show how your background applies. Make sure you fully understand the position.


You are not the only candidate applying keywords from the job description, so take the time to tie them to why you are the best candidate for the role. What distinguishing qualities and skills give you the edge? Additionally, when describing your current and past roles, make sure that your bullet points are achievement-oriented, indicating your specific accomplishments through percentages and metrics.

Cisco; Microsoft, Cloud technology, Azure, AWS, Amazon Cloud, Certified Cyber Security Analyst

I strongly recommend using Job scan to help you optimize your resumes. Job scan automates the procedure by evaluating your resume versus the job description to reveal the most important skills and keywords that are missing from your resume.

An ATS-optimized resume is the most important step to getting past the bots and face to face with a real individual. Jobscan tests and researches typical ATS systems to help job candidates prevent the traps of these systems, from the dated to the cutting edge. It will save you tons of time. Trying to perfect your resume for every job description can take hours. Using Job Scan will do it in minutes.

The other nice thing about Job Scan is that you can try it for free.

What is the best format for your resume to use with Applicant Tracking Systems?

There are just 2 decent options:. docx (Microsoft Word)n vs.pdf (Adobe). While PDFs are best at keeping your format intact overall, the.docx format is the most accurately parsed by an ATS. So, if you want to get past the ATS, use a.docx file. However, always follow instructions (if the listing requests for a specific file type, give it to them!)

 Tip: If you do not have Microsoft Word or another program that can convert your resume to.docx or.pdf, you can utilize Google Docs.  After you create your resume, then download it in either format free of charge. Besides making certain that your resume has the ideal material for an applicant tracking system, you also need to make certain the ATS can understand that information and provide it to the individual on the other end in a legible form.

Resumes that beat the Applicant Tracking Systems

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