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When you submit a resume for a job there are often different levels of review that your resume has to get past before it makes it to the Hiring Manager for a position.  Most of this review process begins with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).   An ATS will filter through resumes, and only resumes that meet certain specifications will make it past the ATS and to a human for review. Almost all Fortune 500 Companies use ATS and a majority of smaller businesses are doing the same.  If you’re applying online, some type of ATS is in play.

So how can you make it past the ATS and get your resume in the hands of the Hiring Manager?   

The number one thing you can do is tailor your resume for each position you apply for.

Some ATS compare your resume to the job description and score your resume.  Companies then view resumes that meet certain scores.  Other companies use keyword searches through ATS to filter resumes.  For example, if a job requires the candidate to have a degree and your resume reads B.S. in Mechanical Engineering rather than Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, your resume may not make the cut because the ATS searches for ‘Bachelor’ instead of ‘B.S.’  If you’re unsure, you can use long and short-term formats of common acronyms (MBA and Master of Business Administration).

To help beat the ATS, review the job description and pick out keywords and skills that are required and preferred for the position.  Use these keywords as you tailor your resume to the position.  If a position requires you to analyze something, and you’ve used the word research, examine, study, or any other synonym on your resume--make that verbiage swap.   Do not blindly add keywords to your resume--give context to your skills through your work experience so the human-reviewers will see the impact of those key skills.  

You’ll also want to be sure that you list the technical skills you have that match the position requirements.  If a position requires Microsoft Office Skills and you’ve listed Word, Excel, Powerpoint or left them off, assuming that Employers will know you have those skills, your resume might not make the ATS cut. Adding a proficiency level can help your resume stand out to human-recruiters.  Remember, keep the focus of your skills section to technical skills like technology and languages. Your soft skills (like communication, teamwork, organization, leadership, etc) will be showcased through your experiences as discussed above.

Some ATS systems may also affect the formatting of your resume.  Submit your resume in a .pdf format or .docx format wherever possible, use consistent formatting in each section, and avoid using tables or boxes which may not translate into the system.  We also recommend that you use a standard font and black text to further optimize the import. 

As you tailor your resume--always remember to keep your resume truthful--don’t make up experience or use white font keywords to cheat the system and make it past the ATS. Employers will realize your deceit further along in the hiring process. Employers often keep resumes that don’t make the cut on file for future positions, and cheating the system may guarantee that you won’t find a position now or later with that company.


If you have questions about the ATS process and tailoring your resume, you can schedule an appointment through Charger Path.