If you’ve been job searching in the digital age, you’ve probably heard about a type of software called “Applicant Tracking System” or ATS. An ATS resume checker is used by over 90% of employers today to screen resumes and pass the most relevant and qualified candidates forward to the hiring manager.
Nearly 75% of resumes are rejected by an ATS resume test because they’re not correctly formatted or keyword optimized. This post will tell you how applicant tracking systems (ATS) check your resume and provide an ATS-friendly resume test that can help you improve your odds of getting past the machines. We will also provide an example of a good ATS-friendly resume format and a valuable hack you can use to get past the filters.
How does an ATS resume checker work?
The truth is very few resumes are read top to bottom by a human when deciding who to interview for a job. Instead, many companies use an ATS resume checker to scan each job seeker’s resume for work experience, skills, education, and other relevant information. If the applicant tracking system checker determines that a candidate might be a good match for the position, their resume gets sent forward to the hiring manager.
An ATS resume scanner can make searching resumes easier by automating that part of the hiring process. There are many reasons why it is so hard to find a job, including the huge pool of applicants. With over 250 resumes submitted on average for every job posted online, an ATS saves the hiring team a lot of time and effort. The resumes that don’t meet the predetermined qualifications are rejected, and the resume is never seen by human eyes.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that there are many qualified job seekers who are rejected because their resumes aren’t written and formatted with ATS checking in mind. If your resume is not capable of satisfying an ATS resume checker, there is a good chance that no human hiring manager will ever lay eyes on it. That is why it is so important for you to know how to check if your resume will pass that ATS.
How to make an ATS-friendly resume
There are five things you should keep in mind when writing your resume to get past an ATS:
1. Standard formatting for ATS scans
Use a standard resume format free of any images, designs, charts, and tables. A clear and concise resume is easy for an ATS to process–and it’s also what hiring managers prefer.
2. ATS keyword optimization
This is one of the most important elements of a resume when it comes to passing an ATS test. Keywords, in this case, refer to words that the ATS resume checker may be looking for that match the industry or job description. The more keywords you have that the employer wants, the greater you’ll score on an ATS scan.
Your resume should already contain core industry keywords, of course. But you should also make sure that you consult the job description. Employers include important keywords in that posting that you will want to insert into your resume to satisfy the ATS.
Making a list of core competencies on a resume allows you to easily swap keywords in and out when applying for different positions.
If a position lists knowledge of Excel and QuickBooks as requirements, make sure those skills are listed in the right place on your resume.
Example of a keyword-optimized skills section looks like this:
3. Send as a Word document
A Word document, specifically a .doc or .docx file, is easily processed by all ATS out there, and it’s also preferred by the majority of hiring managers. Although most ATS systems can now also process a PDF file, some applicant systems still have trouble with them.
Our team of experts believes that it isn’t worth the risk to preserve your formatting on an online job application! Instead, always send your resume as a Word document so you can rest assured that your resume can be read easily by any ATS.
4. Spell out abbreviations
An ATS may not understand all abbreviations, which is why it’s important to spell out any abbreviation you use at least once. The ATS resume keyword scanner may be looking for the non-abbreviated form of the word instead of an abbreviation, so make sure that it can find the text it is looking for.
One final reason to do this is to help anyone looking at your resume understand what you do by avoiding confusing industry-specific jargon. Recruiters and hiring managers are not always familiar with a job’s duties and functions. Make your current resume easy to understand and ATS-compliant during the recruitment process!
Examples of spelling out abbreviations:
CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
MBA (Master of Business Administration)
5. Include relevant information
The ATS scans your resume to determine if it contains relevant information and experience for a specific job. Don’t submit two pages of experience from a sales position for an accounting job. The ATS software will most likely reject you because your resume contains very little relevant information.
If you don’t have any relevant experience, try to include education, hard and soft skills, or even reword your past experience so it’s relevant to the position. You can leverage transferable skills on your resume to better match what this new job is looking for.
Now that we’ve gone over all the tips let’s put it all together with a good resume format to use for ATS scans.
ATS resume format example:
How do I know if my resume is ATS-friendly?
Compare your resume to the ATS-optimized example above. Pay attention to these aspects:
Traditional, reverse-chronological format
Relevant keywords used throughout the resume
Simple formatting with clear headings
Degrees and abbreviations are spelled out
All experience relates to the same career target
If you’re having trouble comparing these factors by yourself, we have a free ATS resume scan tool that can help you out.
Free ATS resume test
You can see how your resume performs on an ATS scan with ZipJob’s free resume review tool.
Our in-house applicant tracking system will parse your resume for skills and experience, just like the software used by big employers. Your confidential review will also include some tips from one of our certified resume experts!
This service is free to use. Of course, if issues come up that you want help fixing, we offer resume writing services. Every ZipJob resume goes through our ATS scan at the end of the process to ensure it passes the ATS test.
Bonus: ATS resume hack
We already mentioned this ATS hack above but the best way to get past the filters is to use keywords you find in the specific job description.
Let’s take a look at a sample job posting from Indeed:
The words we have bolded here are the types of effective keywords that you can include in your resume.
Perform monthly, quarterly and annual accounting activities including reconciliations of bank and credit card accounts, coordination and completion of annual audits, and reviewing financial reports/support as necessary
Analyze and report on financial status including income statement variances, communicating financial results to management, budget preparation and analysis.
Oversee taxes and abide by federal regulations
5+ years accounting experience
Expertise with QuickBooks
Extensive knowledge of US GAAP
Advanced computer skills in MS Office, accounting software and databases
Additional experience in Audit and International accounting
Experience with SaaS companies
If you can incorporate all of these hard skills and keywords at least once on your resume, you will pass the ATS scan with flying colors, land more interviews, and secure your job dream.
Applying for jobs online today means you must keep the ATS resume checker in mind. If you use the tips discussed in this article, you can ensure that your own resume is properly formatted and optimized to successfully get past any ATS resume scanner.
Good luck with your job search!
Want to check out how well your resume performs on an ATS scan? Get your free resume review from our trusted experts today!
Ken Chase, Freelance Writer
During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.