How to Optimize Your Resume for ATS

Most sizeable companies have embraced the digital world and are now using software to screen and track candidates for job openings. This type of software is called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). For job applicants, this means that it’s going to be quite a bit more difficult to get a set of human eyes on your resume.

How to Optimize Your Resume for ATS

The best chance that job applicants have to get past ATS software is to optimize their resume with software algorithms in mind. The resume format you use, the keywords and phrases on your resume, as well as how you save your resume file are all important when it comes to optimizing your resume for ATS software.

Formatting a Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

ATS’s work best with the most common file types, either Microsoft Word or PDF. Save your resume with your first and last name as the file name. This will ensure compatibility across multiple platforms and ease of use when a human is reviewing resumes.

Avoid using special characters, graphics or tables. These things do not translate well when importing documents into different software programs. While they may add to the visual appeal of your resume, they will also cause important information to be lost in translation when an HR department uses the software.

It is ok to use basic techniques such as bolding text, changing text size, indenting, and adding hyperlinks to highlight important information on your resume. Of course, because applicant tracking systems simply detects and processes the text on your resume, these techniques don’t have much of an impact in terms of how your resume is read by these ATS’s. However, if your application manages to get pass the initial screening process done the ATS’s, these techniques will obviously make a difference when a hiring manager reads it.

Bulleted lists are ok to use as long as you stick with the ‘plain Jane’ standard bullet. Do not use fancy bullets, tic marks, or image files. Remember that ATS software is a robot – it can only process what’s in its coding library. So using customized bullet points, image files, or special characters puts you at risk of having your resume not parse properly. As a result, using these techniques may end up hurting your chances of passing the ATS and ultimately landing an interview.

It is ok to use different fonts as long as you stick to a professional and commonly accepted font. Times New Roman, Calibri, Cambria, Verdana, Georgia, and Arial are some of the most common fonts used on resumes and professional documents, and these are all fonts already built into Microsoft Word.

Changing up the font color of your resume won’t affect how ATS software sees your resume, but at the same time, it won’t have any positive affects either. On a side note it is a little more difficult to use color and maintain a professional-looking resume, so choose color carefully.

Keyword Optimization for ATS Software

When it comes to writing your resume, keywords are the most important factor for ATS software ranking. If you can closely match the keywords on your resume to the job posting that you are applying for, you give your resume the best chance of landing positive marks by the ATS.

Tailor to Each Job Posting – Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all resume that works across the board for all jobs that you are applying to. A better, but more time-consuming approach is to create a resume that can be easily updated with different keywords to match the specific job that you are applying to.

You will want to be careful to match keywords to the exact word and tense used in the job posting. Some of the more advanced software will scan for synonyms and related tenses, but many basic ones do not.

Today, job seekers need to optimize their resumes for both ATS and hiring managers – which is a tall task to manage. While you can see this as an obstacle, you can also view it as your chance to separate yourself from the field of other candidates. By educating yourself on how to beat the ATS’s while also having an appealing resume in the eyes of recruiters, you can position yourself for success.

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