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What Is ATS and 4 Ways You Can Ensure It Picks Out Your Resume

In 2019, CNBC reported that most resumes never reach the hands of a human.

An enormous 75% of resumes that companies receive get discarded before they’re even properly read. How is that possible? The simple answer is that, ever strapped for time, hiring managers have turned to computers to weed out the “bad” resumes so they can focus on those that meet their requirements.

Those computerized systems are called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and they’re being used by 95% of the world’s Fortune 500 companies. So, your challenge when crafting your resume isn’t just to make something that appeals to the human eye. You must write for bots, too, and you’re about to discover how to do so.

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What Is ATS?

An ATS is a piece of software that a hiring manager uses to screen resumes at the beginning of the application process. Some come with more advanced features—such as compiling an applicant or resume database—but they are most utilized to quickly go through the resumes a company receives to highlight those that are worth further attention.

Think of them like a filter.

The ATS is configured to look for certain keywords and hard skills, with any resumes that don’t show them what they’re looking for being discarded. That could be bad news for you as a candidate. Even if you have all the necessary skills for a role, the use of ATS could lead to your resume disappearing into the ether if you haven’t described those skills in the appropriate way.

While that seems unfair, ATS is here to stay because it serves a useful function for recruiters. The average job receives 118 applications – the number can be far higher for a desirable role – which would take a lot of time to read manually. An ATS saves time for a hiring manager, essentially delivering only the top candidates from that list of over a hundred applicants.

Getting Past ATS – The Crucial Tips

With ATS being the first hurdle, you must vault when applying for a job, you need to ensure your resume makes it past this crucial barrier. Using a trusted resume service like Expert Resume Pros in Colorado can help you get passed the robots that throw your resume in the trash.

Use these tips to ensure that you get passed the bots and land the job:

A yellow and brown picture that explains why companies use use ATS

Tip 1 – Start With the Job Description

The job description doesn’t exist solely to give you an idea of what’s expected of you if get the role. It’s also full of hints of what the hiring manager wants to see on your resume. Those come in the form of keywords and key phrases that will likely be entered into an ATS system and used to scan the resume you send.

Here’s an example:

“We’re looking for a candidate who’s proficient in JavaScript, Python, and TypeScript.”

In this single sentence, the recruiter has delivered three keywords that they want to see on your resume – JavaScript, Python, and TypeScript. Your resume must mention those words because you can bet that the ATS is looking for them. Other keywords may involve industry qualifications – especially if their requirements to work in the role – and state licenses. So, read the job listing carefully and pick out everything that looks like a hard requirement for the role.

That gives you the list of keywords that an ATS will use when scanning your resume.

Tip 2 – Avoid Clichés

“I’m a self-starter who shows great attention to detail and is an excellent team player.”

That sentence seems standard for a resume, right? But “standard” is the problem – the sentence will likely appear in thousands of resumes. This example and many other clichés may be on an “exclusion” list in an ATS because they tell a recruiter nothing about what you can do.

Write in a “show, don’t tell” approach when crafting your resume. Rather than saying you’re a “self-starter,” show that you are by highlighting a specific instance in your work history where you initiated a project. Keep the clichés out of your resume and you’ll have nothing in there that could trigger an ATS to reject you.

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Tip 3 – Keep Your Formatting Simple

Tables, logos, symbols, and any other visual elements may look good to the human eye. However, they can be difficult for less advanced ATS to decipher, which is why it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution with your formatting.

Stick to headers, short paragraphs, and bullet point lists. As an aside, information that you may include in a header or footer – such as your contact details – should be moved into the resume’s main body. The idea here is to account for the possibility that a company is using low-grade software that can only work through simple formatting.

Additionally, avoid segmenting your resume in two or more columns. It might look neater, but an ATS might not be able to crawl through columns correctly.

Tip 4 – Don’t Use Tricks

There are all sorts of little tricks that you might find on the internet for “fooling” an ATS. Pasting an entire job description into your resume and coloring the text white so it’s invisible to a human eye is one of them. There’s a logic here – the job description contains keywords, and a hiring manager will never see the words.

But that logic is faulty.

An ATS is a machine, not a human. A more advanced program can uncover all the text on the page and will discard your resume immediately if it sees a copy-and-paste portion that makes no sense in the context of the document.

Write to Satisfy (Rather Than Fool) the Machine

The key takeaway here is to think like a machine would when writing your resume. In other words, ask yourself what the basic commands input into an ATS would look like. What keywords does it need to see? What turns of phrase might lead to a rejection? Once you have the answers to those questions, you can craft a resume that passes the ATS and reaches a human.

Luckily, if this concept is giving you trouble, you’re not alone.

With Expert Resume Pros, you get access to the only resume writers in Colorado that use ATS software when crafting resumes. We put our own work through the machine’s pace to guarantee it’ll get through the ATS used by your potential employer. So, contact us today and discover what the largest resume writing service in Colorado can do for you as a job applicant.

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