applicant tracking system

Due to the high volumes of resumes submitted online, companies use computerized Applicant Tracking Systems to cherry pick top online job applicants. According to EDD statistics, only 5-10% of resumes submitted online, receive attention from a human recruiter. Here are some tips to optimize your resume for the ATS:

  • Remove bullet points, tabs, extra spaces, tables, charts, graphs and graphics.
  • End of the sentence is denoted by a period ‘.’ Only one blank space is needed after the period (or colon) in a paragraph in the body of the resume.
  • Headers and footers don’t get picked up by most ATS systems.
  • Don’t use underlines, Italics, Bold, and unusual text size or fonts (e.g. Klingon).
  • Avoid using the following characters in the body of your resume: @, #, $, %, ^, &, *, -, _, =, +, /, \, |, ~, <, >, `, ‘, “ (The only exception is when you include your email or website URL at top of the resume).
  • Spell out ‘percent’, ‘dollar’, ‘and’, ‘number’, etc. in the body of the resume.
  • Do not use commas in middle of numbers (e.g. use 35000 – not 35,000).
  • Spell out the months for duration of employment.
  • The first 3 jobs are generally looked at by the system, but you can go as far back as you want with your experience.
  • Include all relevant skills performed at each job listed, even if repetitive.
  • Put as much content as possible to cover the relevant keywords and industry related terms.
  • Don’t use just abbreviations (e.g. BA, M.B.A.) unless they are used in the job description.
  • Watch out for unknown words or words that can get flagged for SPAM; use High Honors not Magna Cume Laude.
  • Do not use designations after your name (e.g. CPA, MBA, PMP, etc).
  • Use a simple and standard font (e.g. Times New Roman, Ariel) with 10, 11, or 12 size for the entire document.
  • Save the resume as a .DOC file (Word 97-2003).
  • Use a sensible name for your resume (e.g. Firstname_Lastname_Resume.DOC, etc).
  • Avoid submitting a PDF format for your resume.
  • If there is a misspelled word in the job description, you may want to include it in your resume in parenthesis after the correct spelling [e.g. Responsible for accounts receivable (acconts receivable)].
  • Tailor your resume to the job description.
  • Spell check and proofread the final document.

Everyone tells me that using keywords to match the job description, is the best way to optimize for ATS. But, even better, networking ensures that a resume reaches human eyes and the “hidden job market” of secretly available jobs. Create a pretty resume to hand to humans and an ugly resume for ATS. Good-Luck!

(Credit: Thank you Tony Elahi, EDD presenter, for the tips)

Philosophical Side Thought:

Time magazine reports that Adaptive Computerized Learning Systems are being created to track and tailor students’ learning. What do you think of tracking for both students and job applicants? Does it invade privacy? Is it fair? Is it efficient? Does tracking lead to conformity, where everyone looks the same for optimal results? What are your thoughts?

(Image credit:


Meet the Robots Reading Your Resume – Mashable
It’s Not Your Resume That Gets You Hired – Yahoo Finance
Unadvertised Job Openings with a Clever Google Search – Life Hacker

Tagged with →  
Share →