Optimizing Your Resume to Pass ATS Screening

Applying for jobs often means having your resume screened by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). While these automated systems help hiring managers sort through applications, they can inadvertently screen out qualified candidates if resumes aren’t optimized for ATS.

In this post, we’ll cover how to format and write your resume to pass ATS screening and land more interviews.

What is an ATS?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is software that organizations use to manage job applications. When you apply for a job, your resume is uploaded or pasted into an ATS which scans it for keywords, skills, work history, and other details. Based on how well your resume matches the job description, the ATS gives you a relevancy score.

If your score is high enough, your application will be prioritized for review by the hiring manager. If not, you may unfortunately get filtered out before a human ever looks at your resume.

To avoid getting erroneously rejected, it pays to make your resume ATS-friendly. Here’s how:

Formatting Your Resume for ATS

Use a simple, standard resume format. Avoid unique layouts, tables, columns, headers, and footers which may confuse ATS parsers.

Use a standard sans serif font like Arial or Verdana in size 10–12 pt. Avoid stylized fonts.

Only use horizontal and vertical lines, bullets or dashes to separate sections.

Save and submit your resume as a .DOC or .DOCX file. Some ATS can’t read PDFs.

Include your contact info like phone, email, and LinkedIn in a standard header.

Break content into sections with standard headings like Work Experience, Skills, and Education.

Be concise — 1–2 pages max. Relevant content high up.

Adding ATS Keywords to Your Resume

Research the job description to identify key skills, requirements, and responsibilities.

Incorporate words and phrases from the listing throughout your resume. Especially in your skills section, work history bullets, and resume summary.

Include acronyms, software names, industry terminology, and keywords specific to that role.

Triple-check for typos that can impact your ATS score.

Testing Your Resume with ATS Software

Before applying, test your optimized resume in ATS simulators like JobScan, ATS Friendly, and SkillSyncer. These will check for formatting issues, and keywords and suggest improvements.

You can also purchase individual ATS screenings from JobScan and CareerExcuse to see how your resume ranks.

For a free option, copy and paste your text into the Text Analyzer tool from JobScan. This will extract keywords to focus on.

Optimizing Your Application for ATS

Apply directly on the company website when possible, using your updated ATS-friendly resume. If you must use a third-party site like Indeed or ZipRecruiter, verify they will send your original document rather than reformatting it.

Send your resume in the format specified by the company to avoid compatibility issues.

When possible, include a cover letter that also uses matching keywords and terminology.

By optimizing your resume’s ATS compatibility, you can focus on showcasing the specialized skills and experience that make you the ideal candidate. With an ATS-friendly resume, you’ll be sure to make it past the robots and onto the hiring manager’s desk.

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