5 Tips to Beat the Application Tracking System
February 13, 2020
5 Tips to Beat the Applicant Tracking System Header

Alright, you’ve found the job of your dreams. The company offers everything you’re looking for in terms of company culture, work-life balance, and benefits and compensation. You are convinced that this is the place for you to start, and maybe even end, your career. The only thing standing between you and this job is one online application. All you have to do is submit your resume, answer a few questions, and boom!

The interview is set, an offer is given, and you’re on your way to success. However, there’s another beast still standing between you and that first interview, and its name is ATS.

You may think your resume is ready to go, but what you don’t know is that the Applicant Tracking System used by the company might eliminate your chance of getting an interview long before the hiring manager even looks at it.

We know, it sounds scary, but have no fear. We’ve compiled a list of five tips to make sure your resume makes it through the software system and into the hands of hiring managers and employers. You’re welcome!

But first, what is the applicant tracking system?

The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software program that businesses use which automatically separates applicants with certain qualifications for a job from those who don’t meet those qualifications. Basically, the ATS narrows down the pool of applicants and rejects any and all resumes that are deemed unfit for the position, so they never even meet the eyes of hiring managers. 

We know, it seems harsh and can seriously limit your chances of even being seen by a recruiter. But we have to admit, it does make the recruiter’s job drastically easier. But we have good news! As promised, we have laid out some tips to help you beat the system and keep you on your way to landing that dream job. Here you go!

1. Use standard resume headings

Applicant tracking systems are designed to recognize certain standard resume headings when sifting for relevant information. Some of the appropriate headings you should use are as follows:

  • “Professional Experience” 
  • “Education”                   
  • “Skills and Training”

On the contrary, some of the headings you should stay away from because they won’t be recognized are as follows: 

  • “About me”
  • “Accreditations”
  • “Personal skills”
  • “Hobbies”
  • “Interests”

2. Optimize your resume format

Your resume needs to be formatted in a manner that is easily understood, quick to read, and in a legible font. To achieve this, ensure that you place information in chronological order, use a simple font in an easily readable size (we recommend size 10), and create concise bullet points. In regards to the headings that we previously mentioned, you should always bold or underline your headings. In doing so, they become more easily discernible, and both the ATS and hiring manager can clearly distinguish the separate parts of your resume. 

These small and simple things, which may be easily overlooked when crafting your resume, can be a quick way to beat the system.

3. NO headers or footers!

This might seem silly to you, but we’ve seen it! Use no larger than a 1-inch margin on your resume, and keep the information easily organized using the previous tips. The use of headers and footers not only throw your margins off, but they waste precious space on your single-page resume and confuse the Applicant Tracking System.

4. Write out acronyms

You may think that everyone knows the acronyms you know, but trust us, they don’t. Prior to reading this article, did you know what an ATS was? Not every acronym is as easily recognizable as NYC or USA, so it’s important to make sure your employer will know what you’re talking about. This tip is especially important if you are switching industries. 

Don’t run the risk of assuming employers know what something stands for since there is always a chance they may not be familiar with the acronym you are using. If you use an acronym that they don’t understand, your chances of being selected to interview (or even making it past ATS) are greatly reduced. 

Type out everything on your resume. It’s an easy way to avoid misunderstandings. And come on, it really doesn’t take much effort. An example of executing this would be to spell out IBM on a resume as International Business Machines. We know, who doesn’t know IBM? But doing this eliminates any confusion and provides straightforward meaning for your resume content. When in doubt, spell it out!

5. Utilize job description keywords

This is a really important tip to follow. If there are any specific words found on the application regarding job details and recommended qualifications, it’s crucial to add this verbiage to your resume. If the ATS is scanning your resume and finds direct matches or strong correlations between the wording of the job description and the wording of your work experience and education, then you will almost always be pushed through to the hiring managers. 

A super-easy way to check if your verbiage aligns with theirs is by utilizing a tool called Jobscan. Jobscan is a leading provider of resume scanning services, and we strongly recommend running your resume through their system for each job you apply to. Their technology scans and compares your resume to the job description you are applying for and creates a summary report on missing keywords, unidentified words, and unaddressed skills. At the end of the scan, Jobscan assigns you a match rate, which you can use to gauge your chances of beating the system and adjust the wording of your resume accordingly.

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that you are dealing with technology, so you need to be clear and concise in order to be understood by a machine. Our final bonus tip for you to follow is to share your resume with someone who doesn’t work in the industry you are applying to. If they can understand the language you use, then it is probable that the machine will as well. You can also reach out to experts, like us, to help boost and refine your resume.

Remember to be concise and understandable when portraying your qualifications on your resume. By following these tips, your resume will have a better chance of making it through the Applicant Tracking System and into the hands of employers. Don’t let silly mistakes stop you from landing your dream job!

Happy job hunting!

1 Comment


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By Brandon Mitchell

Brandon Mitchell is the Founder and Chief Resume Writer at BrandResumes.com. Brandon enjoys helping clients from all walks of life and is a sought out career expert. Brandon has been featured in Earn Your Leisure, The Squeeze, and Blapitalist. Follow Brandon on Linkedin

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