How do I Beat Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

May 18, 2021
By Jordan Mantel, M.A. CCC-SLP

Gone are the days when Hiring Managers read your resume and call you in for an interview based on who they feel you are as a professional…

Yes, just like almost everything else in our world - our hiring system is now automated. 

So… let’s talk Applicant Tracking Systems!

An Applicant Tracking System, usually referred to as an ATS, is a recruiting software used by many employers to streamline their hiring process. Focused on quick screenings and keywords, ATS systems make life easier for Hiring Managers… but not for us! 

This means that job seekers have to create resumes for an automated system to pass an initial screening to be seen by Hiring Managers. 

Here are my top three tips to beat Applicant Tracking Systems and move your resume to the front of the stack:

  1.  Keywords keywords keywords! USE THEM.

You’re going to want to tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for and that means integrating keywords in an organic way that fits your professional skill set. No, this does NOT mean copy and paste from the job description. Instead, use your “Areas of Expertise” and “Skills” section on your resume to insert keywords. If you’re applying for an Account Management role and the job description mentions client relations, budget management, sales planning, and problem solving - you’re going to want to ensure those skills are in your resume!

  1. Use Standard Headings

Don’t get cute here! Make sure you have your Education, Work Experience, and Skills section. There is no need to come up with fancy headers that may negatively impact how your resume is graded in the ATS.

  1. Choose the Right File Type

Yep, stupid… I know. But, make SURE you submitted a .docx file when applying for jobs. But also follow directions and take the posting’s word for it if they say a PDF submission is acceptable. 

So there it is! If you can get past the ATS, you can get past a human unfortunately.

Some other tips to remember to beat the ATS is keep your formatting simple, avoid columns, images, tables, text boxes, graphs, hyperlinks, and less common fonts. At the end of the day, be simple, concise, and tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for.

I’m always rooting for you. Please reach out to or 619-370-6687 for resume writing advice and career strategy planning. 

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