Tame the Résumé Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Tiger and Boost Your Job Interview Chances

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Have you ever found that perfect job opportunity and then uploaded your résumé to the employer’s website, fully expecting to achieve a job interview? Well, who hasn’t, right?

While it is possible that other applicants were more qualified than you for the job, it is also likely that the employer scanned your resume into their ATS and it was not written and formatted for optimal interpretation by the system. More than a few highly qualified people have not made the cut for this reason.

Employers use ATS to search for keywords and basic job qualifications that can help them identify applicants best suited for a position. These systems use algorithms to help employers standardize their résumé searches and pinpoint information that is most relevant. When a large number of résumé are being received, this can be a huge time saver and also help to demonstrate the fairness of the application process.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when submitting résumés online for employment opportunities.

Keywords are king in beating the ATS.

ATS will search résumés for keywords based on specific position announcements. Applicants who meet the keyword challenge get noticed, while the others will miss out. Before applying for a position online, search the position announcement and identify the keywords that really seem to stand out. Make sure your résumé narrative includes these keywords. However, do not over use them because that can seem manipulative. It is best to keep the use of each keyword phrase to under 2% or so of the total narrative.

Avoid fancy fonts, columns, text boxes, and tables.

Getting creative with your résumé is usually the kiss of death in ATS. These systems cannot interpret non-mainstream fonts, complex formats, and graphics, so the material contained in them will be omitted. Instead, provide a consistent and clean format that is easily scannable and readable by ATS.

Remember to place your name at the top of the document and include the position title. Also, use standard section headings such as “Professional Education” or “Career Highlights” and place the dates of employment to the right of the company name.

Upload the resume as a MS Word doc. or Txt file.

It is never advisable to upload your résumé as a Mac, PDF, or other formatted file. You will be throwing the dice in regard to the readability of these and other formats by ATS. With all of its flaws, MS Word is the standard within business environments.

Sometimes it can be fun to buck the system and do something different. However, certainly not when submitting your resume online for the job of your dreams! The txt. format is probably the safest to use because it is missing all fonts and most formatting. However, it is difficult to read for most other purposes.


Keep in mind that you do not have to bow totally to the will of ATS. You do not have to give up your fancy resume with plenty of plenty of bells and whistles. Instead, create a resume that is usable as a hard copy, something that you can distribute and be proud of. Convert the document to a much simpler, more scannable formatted MS Word doc. or txt. file that can be uploaded for online job opportunities.

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