3D image of the acronym ATS

What does ATS mean?

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) are software applications that enables the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs. They are used by employers to automate the initial stages of the hiring process. These systems scan and filter resumes based on specific keywords, formatting, and other criteria set by the employer.

As a job seeker, in order to pass the first screening and raise your chances of getting an interview, you need to optimize your resume by customizing it to match the requirements of the applicant tracking system (ATS). Here are some methods to help you achieve this.

1. Use Standard Resume Formats

Using standard resume formats like .doc or .pdf is crucial for several reasons. It ensures compatibility with most applicant tracking systems (ATS) that many companies use to manage job applications. These systems often struggle to parse non-standard file types, potentially leading to your resume being overlooked or misinterpreted. I personally recommend using Microsoft word or google docs to create your resume and then save as PDF.

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When you create a resume in Figma and save it as a PDF, Figma saves the document as a picture within the PDF. To ensure your resume is ATS complaint you can follow these steps:

  1. Convert the PDF document to word at https://www.ilovepdf.com/pdf_to_word
  2. Open the document in Microsoft Word or Google docs and make the necessary edits or updates (where necessary).
  3. Save the document as PDF and use it.

You’ll notice that when you upload your resume and use this new document to apply for certain job applications, the system will be able to read certain fields, such as your name, email address, phone number, etc. and fill them in automatically.

2. Use appropriate fonts and formatting:

  • Standard Fonts: Using standard fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman is advisable because they are widely recognized and supported across different platforms and devices. These fonts are designed for readability, making them suitable for various types of documents.
  • Font Size: Keeping the font size between 10–12 points ensures that the text remains legible without being too small or too large. This range strikes a balance between conserving space and maintaining readability. Use simple and consistent formatting, avoiding graphics, images, and complex tables in your resume.

3. Use Keywords

  • Identifying Keywords: Start by thoroughly analyzing the job description for the position you’re interested in. Highlight the key skills, qualifications, and experiences that the employer is seeking. These are your keywords.
  • Incorporating Keywords: Once you’ve identified the keywords, weave them naturally into your resume. This doesn’t mean just listing them out in a separate section; rather, integrate them into your work experience and skills section. For example, if the job description mentions “project management” as a key requirement and you have relevant experience, make sure to include phrases like “led successful projects” or “demonstrated strong project management skills” in your resume. Use industry-specific terms and phrases relevant to your experience.

4. Use clear headings

Organize your resume with clear headings. Ensure consistency in formatting throughout your document. Generally, the order is Contact Information, Summary/Objective, Work Experience, Education, Skills, Certifications, and any additional sections like Projects or Tech stack.

5. Spell Out Acronyms:

While industry acronyms might be familiar to you, the ATS may not recognize them. Spell them out to be safe. It’s advisable to spell out acronyms the first time you use them in your resume or any application materials. For example, instead of writing “SEO strategies,” you might write “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies.” This ensures that even if the ATS isn’t familiar with the acronym, it can still understand the meaning of the term in context.

6. Avoid Text Boxes and Columns:

This point is a bitter pill even for me to swallow cause I have my own resume in a column format. However, from my research I realized that Some ATS may struggle with parsing information within text boxes or columns. Stick to a straightforward, single-column layout. This layout ensures that the information is presented in a format that the ATS can easily parse and interpret, increasing the chances of your resume being accurately processed and considered by potential employer.

7. Quantify Achievements:

Use quantifiable achievements wherever possible. Numbers and percentages have a way of grabbing attention. They stand out in resumes and make a strong impression. For instance, if you managed to reduce customer complaints by 50%, it showcases your problem-solving abilities and customer service expertise.

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If you have access you can consider using an online ATS checker to see how well your document will fare through automated systems. Examples of ATS systems you can try are Sovren, Textkernel, Rchilli etc. Remember that while optimizing for ATS is crucial, your resume should also be visually appealing and well-crafted for human readers once it passes through the automated screening.

How to make your resume ATS Compliant was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.