If you’ve been job searching in the digital age, you’ve probably heard about a type of software called “Applicant Tracking Systems” or ATS. An ATS 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 an ATS works and how to increase your chances of passing the ATS resume test. We end with an example of a good ATS-friendly resume format and a valuable hack to get past the filters.
If you just want to check how your resume performs on an ATS scan, head over to Zipjob’s free resume review or click below.
How does an ATS work?
An ATS resume scanner is designed to scan a resume template for work experience, skills, education, and other relevant information. If it determines the resume is a good match for the position, it gets sent forward to the hiring manager.
“The truth is, very few resumes are read top to bottom by a human when deciding who to interview for a job.”
An ATS can make searching resumes easier or automated. 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 system saves the hiring team a lot of time and effort. The resumes that don’t meet the pre-determined 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 readability in mind. The truth is, very few resumes are read top to bottom by a human when deciding who to interview for a job.
From simple resume formats to identifying keywords, this post has all the answers on getting your resume past any applicant tracking system.
How to make an ATS friendly resume
There are five things a candidate should keep in mind when writing your resume to get past an ATS:
Send as a Word document
Spell out abbreviations
Include relevant information
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 in regards 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 and the job description is another great place to look for keywords.
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:
This section can change slightly for every job application.
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 now process a PDF, some applicant systems still have trouble with them.
In our team of experts’ opinion, it isn’t worth the risk to preserve your formatting on an online application! Send your resume as a Word .doc to 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 keyword scanner may be looking for the non-abbreviated form of the word instead of an abbreviation, so be sure to spell out any abbreviations.
One final reason to do this is to help anyone looking at your resume understand what you do without confusing or industry-specific jargon. The recruiter or person in charge of hiring is not necessarily an expert on the job’s functions. Make your resume easy to understand!
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 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, skills, or even reword your past experience so it’s relevant to the position. You can leverage your transferable skills to better match what this 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:
View 200+ more professional resume samples for all industries, along with a free template and a 2020 guide to writing resumes from our experts.
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 your resume on these factors by yourself, we have a free ATS resume scan tool that can help you out.
Free ATS resume compatibility 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 job description.
Let’s take a look at a sample job posting from Indeed:
Bolded are good keywords you can include on 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 keywords at least once on your resume, you will pass the ATS scan with flying colors.
Applying for jobs online today means you must keep the ATS technology in mind. If you use the tips discussed in this article, you’ll see better results from your job applications!
Good luck with your job search!
Do you have more questions? Comment below.
Caitlin Proctor, CPRW, Certified Professional Résumé Writer
Caitlin joined the ZipJob team in 2019 as a professional resume writer and career advisor. She specializes in strategic advice for executives, career pivots, and remote workers. Read more resume advice from Caitlin on ZipJob’s blog.
Judy Klein, Certified Resume Expert
Judy Klein is a certified resume expert. She has reviewed and revised many thousands of resumes over her 5 years with ZipJob and leads the team of ZipJob career experts. Read more resume advice from Judy on ZipJob’s blog.