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What is this Applicant Tracking System I Keep Hearing About?

Did you come across the phrase Applicant Tracking System or ATS as you researched current guidelines for resume writing? Not sure what it is or how it affects your job search? Read on and we will provide a quick summary of what an ATS is and what it means for job seekers.


What is the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

The quick answer is an ATS is a computer program that reads your resume and uses algorithms to evaluate potential candidates. Although it helps streamline the hiring process for the Human Resource department, it typically doesn't help the job-seeker.


Now that people can find job openings online, the average job posting receives 250 applications. Recruiters and HR don't have the time to read each resume individually like they did 30 years ago due to the volume of resumes. They rely on the ATS to weed out the resumes that aren't good matches for the job. This narrows down the submissions to a manageable amount for further review.



Recruiter looking at a pile of resumes during an interview


Why Do I Need to Worry About the ATS?

Here are the two reasons job seekers need to worry about the Applicant Tracking System:

  • An ATS has limitations such as the ability to parse graphics, tables and columns on a resume. Often they also don't bring information located in the header or footer into the system. Therefore, if your resume contains these elements or utilizes the header or footer, the resume viewed by the hiring manager may not include all of your unique qualifications.

  • More and more companies are using an ATS every year. In 2019, research of Fortune 500 companies showed that 99% use an ATS.


Now That I Know About the ATS, What Should I Do?

Knowing about the ATS should make you think about your job search--and your resume--differently.

  • Look closely at the job posting to find the keywords that the ATS will use to sort through the resumes submitted.

  • Rewrite your resume to incorporate as many keywords as possible into the wording of your achievements and skills. Obviously your resume needs to be honest, so only make edits that incorporate keywords that accurately reflect your education and work experience.

  • Create a different resume for each job you apply for, incorporating the keywords you find in each specific posting.

  • The slash symbol (/) is read as a URL on the ATS. Use the pipe symbol (|) instead.

  • The ATS does not recognize a header or a footer--any information you have there will be lost. Revise your resume to incorporate the header and footer content within the body of the document.

  • Don’t use templates, tables, fancy bullets or lines (yes, your resume will look plain, but all the ATS cares about is content).

  • Use web-based fonts such as Georgia, Calibri, Verdana or Arial in size 11-12.



Laptop showing a resume optimized for the ATS

At Revision Resume we have completed training on writing resumes to industry standards including how to optimize for the Applicant Tracking System. We are constantly seeking continued professional development so we are always aware of the latest information on current resume guidelines. We would be happy to develop a resume for you that is optimized for the ATS yet still impressive to HR. Contact us to get started!




Related Reading:

Is My Resume ATS Friendly?

Why are Keywords so Important?

Can I Cut Corners to Beat the ATS?

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