How to make sure your resume beats the ATS (Application Tracking System)?

What is an ATS?


An Application tracking system or also called ATS is a robot that is used by companies in order to narrow down the list of candidates for a job application. The ATS tool is a robot that will screen your curriculum vitae and automatically decide if your application should be read by an actual human being.


ats resume tips for job interview candidates on the ambitious

According to a research conducted by Jobscan: “Over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS of some kind”. This new HR tool is used for companies to reduce the list of applications and select the most relevant ones. It saves time and concentrates the hiring process on the most relevant candidates based on a list of criterias determined by the hiring manager.


If you have used online applications between 2008 and today, there is a big chance that your curriculum vitae went through an application tracking system tool.


Good news! Beating the system is not so difficult. If you understand how the system works and you articulate your resume to fit the system parameters, you have a great chance to jump into the next step of the hiring process.


How do you beat the system? What should you or should you not include in your application? What are the elements that will help get your curriculum vitae selected?


1. Use the job description keywords


Use keywords customized for the job. The application tracking system is designed to recognize and track the keywords used at the same time in the job description and in your resume. A certain list of keywords is expected to be found in your curriculum vitae. If you are not sure on how to identify the keywords in a job description, you can use online tools like SkillSyncer or Jobscan.


Once you have identified the keywords, include them in their context, your resume should not contain a list of keywords that are not integrated into a work experience or a skills set: Include keywords in their context.


You can use the skill part to list a few bullet points and integrate your keywords for instance.


2. Use acronyms and their title


The application tracking system is designed to recognize the words it was asked to recognize, if your resume contains grammar mistakes or if it was asked to search for excel skills while you wrote that you are good with spreadsheet, the system will not count it as a similar skill.


Same for acronyms, write the acronym itself and next to it, the whole title. You are not sure what the system was instructed to do. In this way you are not missing out on an opportunity just for having used the wrong words.


3. Use a Simple layout


ats tools are a good way for companies to screen jobs candidates

The simplest you build your resume, easier it will be for the application tracking system tool to read. Simplify your document to 4 main categories, use the exact same title:

  • Education

  • Contact Information

  • Skills

  • Work Experience

You need to make it easy for the ATS to scan your document.



The application robot will read your resume as instructed, it will read your cv from:

  1. Left to right and to top to bottom.

  2. Place your name and contact information at the top of your cv,

  3. Start your work experience with the most recent employer or position.

Using a simple format to give your information will ensure that the HR robot will read your information as it should be and you will not be rejected from the application process.

The ATS system is programmed to recognize information in a chronological order.


4. Use correct file type


When uploading your curriculum vitae on the company recruitment platform, make sure you have verified that the system does not require a specific format. If you have no indication, know that there are two formats that will not change your information and layout: .PDF .docx. Overall the .docx is the most common format accepted by the ATS.


Pay attention to online cv builders, when you use their platforms, before to pay, you may want to verify that they will enable you to download your curriculum vitae in the format you need. Some online platforms use pictures like png. Those types of format would in most cases automatically reject your application.


If you are limited with the format because you don’t have Microsoft Word for instance, you can use the Google Doc to create your resume, you will have the choice to download it in the format you need.



5. Don’t apply to several jobs opening in the same company


ats resume means you should not apply to different jobs in the same company with the same resume

Within a company, the same ATS has a great chance to be used several times. The application tracking system hr tool is capable of recognizing a curriculum vitae which was used several times in the same company.


If you are genuinely interested in 2 jobs in the same company, make sure your CV does fit the requirements of the job description through understanding and selecting the right keywords.


6. It can be as long as it needs to be


One advantage is that you are now free to make your cv as long as you need to reflect your experience, your skills and education. Until now; the application tracking system was not limited in words or in page length. The ATS will first transfer your cv into a text format to be able to read your document, its length is no longer a criteria.


7. You can still go human and contact the hiring manager


You know that most online recruitment processes are now using an application tracking system, but nothing prevents you from sending an email with the upgraded designed cv that you have initially made before to know that your application would go through an ATS and stand out from other candidates. if you know the recruiter of the application or a contact in the human resources department? This is one way to slide a human touch in your application process.


8. Apply even if you are not 100% qualified, the ATS is looking for the best match


The robot is designed to find the best match for the company not to find the cv which will be 100 % matching the criterias of the recruiters, so do not miss out an opportunity on a few skills or competency you may not have at the moment. Feel ok to upload your application.


There are formats that need to be used carefully while uploading your curriculum vitae to an Application Tracking System.


Format to prevent or use carefully

Do not use:

  • Bold, Italic, logos, tables, text boxes, graphic,

  • Column, hyperlink, graph and other visuals


Those ones should be excluded as much as possible because they are sending the wrong message to the ATS and confusing the reading process.


  • For bullet points: stick to the standard circle.

  • Color will be returned to the default one set up in the system, make sure that the color does not make it crucial for your cv to be read.

  • Image: In some countries, pictures should never be included, check out on your country standard rules.


Running through the first step of the application process can open the doors towards your dream job.


Customize your curriculum vitae based on the job description. Ensure that there is no grammar mistake, that the keywords are well selected and that all formats cited in the paragraph above are not used or properly used.


Once you master the design process of your curriculum vitae, the chance you get invited to a job interview is large.


For more about this topic, we invite you to check this blog from CareerTuners.


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