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Cracking the Code: Mastering the ATS to Land Your Dream Job

Applying for jobs is a necessary but often exhausting part of the job search process. You spend hours crafting the perfect resume, only to send it into the void, hoping it catches the attention of a hiring manager.

But did you know that your resume might not even make it to human eyes? This is where Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) come into play.

In this article, youll gain a comprehensive understanding of ATS and learn how to optimize your resume to make it ATS-friendly.

Understanding Applicant Tracking Systems

An ATS is a type of software that is used by large companies and Fortune 500 companies to collect, scan, and organize resumes. This software is designed to sort through a pool of candidates and rank them based on criteria set by the employer.

Essentially, the ATS is designed to weed out unqualified candidates and present a smaller pool of applicants to the recruiter. According to a study by Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS to manage their recruitment process.

This means that if youre applying to a job at a large company, chances are your resume is going to be scanned by an ATS before it ever reaches human eyes.

Resumes Read by Real People vs.

Scanned by ATS

Its important to note that ATS does not entirely replace human recruiters. The software is designed to help streamline the recruitment process and automate the initial stages of candidate screening.

However, eventually, human recruiters will still look at resumes that pass through the ATS.

So while your resume is being screened by an ATS, it’s important to keep in mind that the goal is not only about making your resume ATS-friendly but also making sure that it contains relevant information that human recruiters are looking for.

Importance of Making Resumes ATS-Friendly

Making your resume ATS-friendly is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it helps your resume rank higher in the ATS, increasing the chances of getting your resume in the hands of a human recruiter.

On the other hand, if your resume isn’t ATS-friendly, it might get lost in the shuffle.

Therefore, it’s essential to keep the ATS in mind when crafting your resume.

You dont want to be discouraged because your resume ended up in the black hole of the ATS.

Tips to Make Your Resume ATS-Friendly

1. Use of Keywords

The first step to making your resume ATS-friendly is keyword optimization.

Keywords are the specific words or phrases that recruiters and ATS use to search for applicants. To increase your chances of being selected by an ATS, use relevant keywords based on the job title, industry, and requirements listed in the job description.

To determine which keywords to use, scan the job description and pick out the most commonly used words and phrases. Once youve identified the critical keywords, incorporate them into your resume in a natural and meaningful way.

However, avoid stuffing your resume with too many keywords as the ATS may flag them as spam. 2.

Format of Resume

Aside from using relevant keywords, the format of your resume also plays a crucial role in passing through ATS. According to research by TopResume, the most ATS-friendly formats are chronological, combination, and functional.

The chronological format is the most commonly used resume format, and it lists your work experience in chronological order. The combination format combines the functional and chronological formats, while the functional format highlights your skills and experience rather than your work experience.

Choose the format that best suits your needs and is also ATS-friendly. 3.

Layout of Resume

In addition to choosing the right resume format, the layout of your resume also matters when it comes to ATS. It’s essential to incorporate headers, footers, contact information, section headings, and bullet points to enhance the readability of your resume.

Ensure that the content is well-spaced and organized, making it easy for the ATS to scan and rank the resume. 4.

File Type of Resume

It’s essential to submit your resume in a standard and common file type that is readable by the device or system the company is using. The two most commonly used file types are PDF and doc/docx.

However, if the job description specifies a preferred file type, make sure you submit your resume in that format. 5.

Fonts of Resume

The formatting and font used in your resume play a significant role in increasing its readability. Opt for basic, traditional, and easily readable fonts such as Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia, or Verdana.

These fonts are universally recognized and can help your resume pass through the ATS more smoothly. 6.

Applying for Relevant Jobs

Finally, the best way to make your resume stand out is by tailoring it to the job you are applying for. Do not submit a general resume and expect it to cater to every job.

Instead, customize your resume by analyzing the job requirements and ensuring that your skill set and experience match the requirements. Remain truthful and avoid exaggerating your qualifications as it may harm your application.


While Applicant Tracking Systems may seem like a daunting aspect of job hunting, understanding how they work and optimizing your resume can help you stand out from the competition. Remember always to use relevant keywords, choose an ATS-friendly format and layout, use a suitable file type and font, and apply for relevant jobs.

By implementing these tips, youll be well on your way to creating an ATS-friendly resume that catches the attention of human recruiters.

ATS Resume Mistakes

While making your resume ATS-friendly is essential, making mistakes can hinder your chances of getting noticed by recruiters. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:


Placement of Contact Information

One of the most common mistakes made is placing the contact information at the bottom of the resume. This tragedy results in missed opportunities, no responses, and unexplained silence.

According to company requirements, recruiters expect to find the contact information in the header section of the resume. Keeping the location of your contact information in mind can save your resume from being immediately discarded.

2. Generic Resumes

Another mistake that candidates often make is sending generic resumes that lack specificity and attention to detail.

With the razor-sharp competition for jobs, its not enough to simply list your qualifications and work experience. Recruiters use specific keywords and filter through resumes based on job descriptions.

Therefore, putting in effort to tailor your resume to each position can be the difference between getting shortlisted or rejected.

By using well-optimized keywords from the job description and tailoring your resume to fit the specific position, you are highlighting your relevance to the job and helping yourself stand out from generic resume submissions.

3. Incompatible File Types

Submitting your resume in an incorrect format is a significant mistake candidates make.

Following the given rules and directions regarding the required file type saves the recruiters’ efforts from the effort of having to convert the resume. Sending outdated or incompatible file types will cause your resume to either appear distorted or not even appear at all on the device or system being used by the company.

Submitting a standard and commonly accepted file type, like PDF or doc/docx, makes it more likely that your resume will pass through the ATS without any errors. 4.

Graphics and Charts

Adding supporting materials and portfolio pieces to your application is an excellent idea, and it can certainly demonstrate your skills and abilities. However, adding too many graphics and charts can be a significant ATS resume mistake.

These graphics and charts can be difficult to scan and read by the ATS. Also, besides generating interest, graphics and charts can be distracting and difficult to interpret.

Its best to save your more human-interest pieces for the portfolio and stick to a simple text-based resume for ATS submission.

Working of Applicant Tracking Systems

Now that weve looked at some common mistakes to avoid while creating ATS-friendly resumes, lets discuss what happens after you hit the submit button – an in-depth understanding of how ATS works.

An ATS uses algorithms to parse resumes, scanning the content and keywords to categorize them under job-specific categories.

During this process, the ATS filters out resumes that don’t meet the specified criteria.


Parsing Resumes Through Categories

The ATS categorizes resumes based on the content within the resume. This categorization is done using filters that pick up on specific keywords.

The ATS then parses each resume to determine whether it matches the job description requirements.


Knockout Questions to Eliminate Candidates

ATS has additional rules that help recruiters identify the ideal candidate from the applicant pool. Knockout questions are questions that help the recruiters identify candidates with specific expertise or experience.

If the candidate does not answer these questions correctly, their score gets affected, and they may lose out on the chance of getting the job.


Determination of Final Score

Recruiters use a predetermined scoring system to rank candidates based on their qualifications, work experience, education, and other factors. The ATS assigns scores to the resume based on the presence of certain keywords, which is then used to rank candidates based on their relevance to the job posting.


By understanding these common ATS mistakes and how ATS works, you can improve your chances of getting noticed by ATS and ultimately getting shortlisted by hiring managers. Avoiding simple errors like misplaced contact information, creating generic resumes, submitting incorrect file types, and adding too many graphics and charts to your resume can go a long way in impressing the ATS.

Remember to tailor your resume with optimized keywords from the job description, emphasize your relevance to the specific position, and answer knockout questions as accurately as possible to increase your chances of making it to the next stage of the recruitment process.

ATS Resume Example

To further understand how to create an ATS-friendly resume, let’s take a look at an example of a well-structured and optimized resume:

[Insert Name]

[Insert Contact Information]


[Insert a brief summary that highlights your relevant experience and skills]


[Job Title]

[Company Name]

[Dates of Employment]

– Bullet point describing your key responsibilities and achievements in this role using specific keywords that match the job description requirements. [Job Title]

[Company Name]

[Dates of Employment]

– Bullet point describing your key responsibilities and achievements in this role using specific keywords that match the job description requirements.



[University or Institution Name]

[Graduation Year]


– List relevant skills and qualifications that are specific to the job you are applying for, using keywords that align with the job description. Certifications:

– List any relevant certifications or specialized training that are applicable to the job.


– Include any interests or hobbies that showcase your personality or unique skills that may be relevant to the role you are applying for. This example demonstrates how to create an ATS-friendly resume by incorporating relevant keywords into the job descriptions and skills sections.

By doing so, you increase the chances of your resume passing through the ATS filters and ranking higher in the recruiter’s evaluation.

ATS Resume Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s address some common questions regarding ATS-friendly resumes:

1. What is an ATS-friendly resume?

An ATS-friendly resume is a resume that is properly formatted and easy to scan and read by an Applicant Tracking System. This type of resume is organized with clear headings, uses appropriate fonts, and has content that is structured in a way that the ATS can effortlessly navigate and categorize.

2. What are acceptable resume file types for ATS?

The two most widely accepted file types for ATS are PDF and Word documents. These formats ensure that your resume retains its formatting and can be read by the ATS without any issues.

However, it’s always a good idea to check the specific application or submission guidelines for any file type specifications provided by the company. 3.

What is the chronological resume format? The chronological resume format is one of the most common and ATS-friendly resume formats.

It presents your work experience in a reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position and working backward. This format allows the ATS to easily scan and understand your career progression.

In a chronological resume, you’ll typically include the following sections: contact information, summary or objective statement, work experience, education, skills, certifications, and interests. Using the chronological format helps the ATS quickly identify your most recent experience, which is often prioritized by recruiters.


By utilizing the ATS resume example and understanding the frequently asked questions surrounding ATS-friendly resumes, you are equipped with the knowledge to create a resume that will successfully pass through ATS filters and catch the attention of recruiters. Remember to structure your resume with clear headings and sections, incorporate relevant keywords from the job description, and use acceptable file types such as PDF or Word.

Additionally, the chronological resume format is a reliable choice for an ATS-friendly presentation of your work experience. By following these guidelines and tailoring your resume to specific job requirements, you increase your chances of getting noticed by ATS and eventually securing your dream job.

In conclusion, understanding and optimizing your resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is crucial in today’s competitive job market. By avoiding common ATS resume mistakes such as misplacing contact information, using generic resumes, submitting incompatible file types, and including excessive graphics and charts, you increase your chances of catching the attention of both the ATS and human recruiters.

Creating an ATS-friendly resume involves using appropriate formatting, including relevant keywords, and tailoring your resume to match the job description. By following these guidelines, you can enhance your visibility to ATS, improve your chances of being shortlisted, and ultimately increase your chances of landing your desired job.

Remember, your resume is often your first impression, and making it ATS-friendly can set you apart from other candidates and open doors to new opportunities.

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