Career Advice  

Top 8 Applicant Tracking System Secrets

Top 8 Applicant Tracking System Secrets

You’ve likely heard that you can increase your chances of landing a job interview by strategically customizing your résumé to meet applicant tracking system (ATS) guidelines – but have you taken that advice seriously? Writing a résumé for an ATS, also known by some as job hunter purgatory, requires targeted writing, adherence to formatting guidelines, and keyword optimization.

Here are 8 need-to-know facts that will enable you to navigate through applicant tracking systems while giving you an edge during the job search process.

1. There are 200+ different applicant tracking systems utilized by recruiters and hiring managers.

2. Your main focus should be on keywords. When you write a résumé for ATS recognition, not all keywords are created equal. In essence, the goal is to ensure your résumé contains specific requirements or key qualifications from the desired job posting. Be sure to use the exact same keywords listed in the job description that are applicable to your qualifications.

*Bonus Tip: For enhanced results, enter these desired keywords in different sections of your résumé, including your job titles. ATS software calculates years of experience based on dates, so keywords should be listed under each position.

3. ATS software “scores” a résumé based on how well the criteria entered matches the wording.

4. ATSs have become more sophisticated over the years in regard to reading different types of résumé formats. However, it’s not advised to use a functional format since ATS software has difficulty determining a candidate’s years of experience in each role.

5. It’s okay to add shading, borders, and lines for the “human eye,” but know that they will be deleted in the applicant tracking system.

6. While a .doc file is the best file type to utilize, keep in mind that documents are converted to plain text files, which means that all formatting, pictures, and objects are removed. Borders and shading are safe for ATS; text boxes and images are not. Text boxes – and anything in them – will be deleted.

7. Using a standard font like Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Calibri, Garamond, Cambria, or Verdana is ideal.

8. Don’t put important information in a header or footer since it will be deleted. Page numbers are okay since the ATS doesn’t recognize page numbers anyway.

Brushing off the importance of applicant tracking systems puts you at a massive disadvantage in your job search. Instead, put your best foot forward by implementing the guidelines above. After all – applicant tracking systems are constantly evolving into more user-friendly, versatile tools capable of supporting many areas of the talent acquisition process – and they are likely here to stay.

Talk to your career coach today to learn how you can best optimize your résumé and sail through an ATS.

IMPACT Group offers best-in-class résumé services for relocation and outplacement customers. Our team of certified professional résumé writers know what it takes to stand out in the crowd and get hired quickly! Learn more about our services today.


Contribution by Jennifer Victorian

Jennifer is a Resume Writer/Trainer at IMPACT Group with expertise in operations planning, training, and marketing/communications. She holds a Master of Education in Higher Education Administration. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn today!

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