Is There a Way Around the Applicant Tracking Software?

John Krautzel
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Around 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking software, or ATS, to vet candidates. Online job boards use the same software to wade through hundreds or even thousands of applicants, saving corporations both time and money. Make sure a human employer notices your resume by following the rules of how an ATS works.

Use Relevant Keywords in Your Resume

Applicant tracking software compares keywords in your resume to those found in the job description. Make sure you include exact terms found in the listing, such as the job title, acronyms for degrees or computer programs, or precise terms used for skills. For example, if the job description says you need "3 years of experience as a supply chain manager," use this exact phrase in your resume. If your previous job title was "Supply Chain Director," change that to "Supply Chain Manager" to make your document more in line with what the employer needs.

Consider repeating important phrases, such as job titles, a few times throughout a resume. Keep in mind, a company lists the most important qualifications first in the job description. If the firm says it needs a computer programmer with experience in MySQL, make sure the resume says you're a computer programmer more than once, and list your MySQL experience a few times. Include synonyms for computer programmer, such as coder or developer, because those slightly different terms show you have a varied skill set for the position.

Avoid repeating key phrases too many times. Applicant trackers pick up on keyword stuffing and may disqualify you immediately.

Do Not Lie

After you get your resume in order, ATS systems rank your skill set against other applicants. The employer decides the number of candidates they want to review. For example, the system might be set to choose 10 or 25 people. This is why it's important to not lie on a resume. Once a human sees the document, it's time to follow up and check your background ahead of calling you for an interview.

Simplify the Format

Don't mess around with fancy fonts, logos, photos, headers and footers, and text boxes. Sometimes, an ATS cannot read a PDF file. Use a format that the tracking system can easily recognize. Microsoft Word is a tried-and-true program that works well with ATS when it comes to scanning a resume.

Make an In-Person Connection

Instead of waiting for an ATS robot to scan your resume, pick up the phone and call HR or the hiring manager. Inquire about the position and express your enthusiasm about working for the company. Then, ask request to email your resume directly to the person making the hiring decision or to the HR representative.

Your resume needs to get past the robot guardians at large companies, which is just a normal part of modern job searches. Knowing how to format your document can lead to more interviews and higher success rates.

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at


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