5 Simple Ways to Get Past the ATS Gatekeeper

ATS Gatekeeper

You spend a lot of time on your resume. And yet that resume is hardly ever seen by human eyes.

Today, most companies use a gatekeeper, an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), to handle the volume of resumes they receive. That ATS, simply put, decides which resumes get passed on to the hiring manager or recruiter – and which do not.

Here, we present five simple tips you should use to get past the ATS gatekeeper:

1. Use Standard Section Headings

Whether you call it “Professional Summary” or “Summary of Skills” – or “Work Experience” or “Work History” – sticking to standard headings, rather than getting overly creative at the top of each segment of your resume, is a must.

Many job seekers try to over-customize their resume headings (for example, using “About Me” and “Accreditations”). This backfires because Applicant Tracking Systems are typically unable to recognize nonstandard headings, and as a result they’re unable to sort the content appropriately in their databases.

Many qualified resumes have been rejected because their format was not optimized for an ATS.

2. Lots of White Space (and No Tables or Graphs)

Colorful, eye-catching images (including tables and graphs) and fancy typefaces often confuse Applicant Tracking Systems.
Headers and footers are best left empty (leave your contact information out of there!) with standard 1-inch margins.

For all job seekers applying to creative positions, such as web designer or architect, save the color and creativity for the in-person interview and times when you’ll use a paper copy of your resume (for example, a job fair).

3. Echo Resume Keywords Exactly

If anything on a resume can beat Applicant Tracking Systems, it would be those trusty resume keywords. Resume keywords are the skills and qualifications in the original job description that should be included in a resume (e.g., communication skills, Microsoft Word, and academic degrees).

However, simply using any form of these keywords will not win over an ATS: keywords must be formatted to echo the original job description exactly (to an ATS, there is a difference between “Microsoft Word,” “MS Word,” and “Word”).

Jobscan is an excellent online resource to make sure you have included all your resume keywords and formatted them correctly.

4. Left Align and Conservative Typeface

Use left alignment for your resume text. Center and right text alignment can give resumes a formal or edgy appearance and boost their chances of standing out. Unfortunately, this will not boost their chances to beat Applicant Tracking Systems; the system may not parse the content correctly.

Any typeface that is not conservative (such as Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri), or that is not a standard size, runs the same risk.

5. Write Out All Acronyms

You may have thought your parents and grandparents were terrible at deciphering texting slang such as “LOL” and “OMG,” but Applicant Tracking Systems are stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to acronyms.

Even if an acronym is well known (for example, BMW or IBM), it may not be recognized or categorized correctly by an ATS.

To avoid misunderstandings, always spell out the acronym first before including the acronym (if necessary):

  • Companies and Associations: International Business Machines (IBM); American Cancer Society (ACS)
  • Products: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
  • Brands: Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M)
  • Years: 2014-2015 (never 2014-’15 or ’14-‘15)

Following these five simple steps will help you make sure you have an ATS-friendly resume… and get past that gatekeeper!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Jobscan Blog. Thank you!





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