Making your resume ATS (applicant tracking system) – friendly

[To comment:]

BY MATT TARPEY (From the Courier-Post – Sunday, July 16, 2017)


When looking for candidates to potentially fill an open position, the majority of employers use something called an applicant tracking system (ATS) to find, collect, organize and screen all of the applications they receive. This means your resume will likely need to pass through an ATS before ever reaching human eyes.

Here are a few essential tips to make sure your resume is ATS-friendly.

Simplify contact information 

Many job seekers are so focused on the professional information included in their resumes that they overlook even more basic information – their contact info. When optimizing your resume for an ATS, make sure that the system will have no problem identifying your name, email address and phone number.

“Do not put your point of contact information in the headers – some…ATS software doesn’t know where to put this information when they convert the resume from the Word doc. (or PDF) into a ’text’ parsing into their database,” says Dawn Boyer, CEO of Boyer Consulting. “Many ATSs will simply dump the headerand footer because the system doesn’t know where to put header info. It also takes up way too much white space and page space on pages two and three (or four).”

Use keywords

ATSs are continually growing in sophistication, but keyword identification will always be an essential component.

Employers don’t have time to carefully read every single resume they receive, and keywords help them quickly identify resumes that deserve a closer look.

“Recruiters and hiring managers are busy and many rely on applicant tracking systems or databases to search through resumes based on Boolean searching,” says Sarah Connors, principal staffing manager at recruiting firm WinterWyman.

“You might think it’s obvious that as a salesperson you cold called companies, closed deals, followed up and so forth. However, if those tasks aren’t listed on your resume, companies might assume you haven’t done them. Moreover, you won’t come up in recruiters’ keyword searches.”

Wendi M. Weiner, an attorney, certified executive resume writer and career coach, suggests using the employer’s description of the open position to identify keywords you should be using.

“Look to the job posting and highlight the keywords that stand out and include those keywords in your resume,” says Weiner. “At the same time, avoid keyword stuffing, which means just throwing in as many keywords as possible, including ones that maynot match your skill set.”

Use simple formatting

While you might think that a unique or unusual resume layout will help it stand out from the pack, it may actually make your resume more difficult for an ATS to make sense of, and hurt your chances of getting hired.

“Applicant tracking systems cannot decipher graphs,

charts, columns or even text boxes. Therefore, make sure your resume does not contain those items,” says Weiner.

Use a standard font

Even the font you choose can impact the ATS’s ability to read your resume, so stick with a very basic, standard font.

“Use one font throughout the resume – preferably a font that easily converts to text in the parsing process,” says Boyer. “I recommend Arial or Times New Roman, but as a recruiter, my preference is Arial on the original resume.”

“Plainer [font] eliminates issues with the parsing engine and makes it easier for the recruiter to read the important parts without the visual interference,” adds Boyer.

Complete the application 

Some online application processes require you to manually enter some information that may also appear on your resume. While this may seem unnecessary or redundant, do not skip over these steps.

“When filling out online applications, make sure to complete all portions of online submission forms,” says Valerie Streif, senior advisor at The Mentat. “Answer all the filtering questions thoroughly and don’t leave anything blank. The ATS could automatically eliminate resumes that leave portions of the forms blank, guaranteeing that your resume won’t be seen by any live human.”

Matt Tarpey is a writer for the Advice & Resources section on He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

[To comment:]