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How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Understanding what an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is and how to get past the bots and write an ATS-friendly resume is critical in moving from the scanning phase to the next stage in the recruitment process.


Candidates often complain that they send a lot of resumes out in response to advertisements and get a "no email" back, or worse still, never even hear back. Whilst the recruitment process can often be a numbers game, there are ways to increase your chances of moving past the resume review phase and have the opportunity to speak to the organisations, if not the hiring manager directly.


Application Tracking Systems, or ATS, are increasingly being used by organisations and recruiters to streamline their recruitment processes. ATS are software programs that allow resumes to be scanned using sophisticated algorithms to search for keywords within resumes. This in turn yields a list of candidates in ranked order of "best fit", or most suitable candidates (at the top) to least suitable candidates.

So how do you create a resume that is ATS friendly? 1. Pick a simple resume template

Apart from the fact a simple resume template will be easier to read, ATS can get confused by fancy fonts and elaborate designs. Your resume should be a business document and presented in Word format (unless otherwise requested). It should be text heavy and not have elements that can be difficult for algorithms to scan. These things include tables, icons, pictures and charts.

2. Identify the keywords being used by the Recruiter Imagine a recruiter talking to a hiring manager. It is fair to say the recruiter "talks the talk" but it is very unlikely the recruiter could actually do the job, or "walk the walk". As a result, the recruiter will rely heavily on the information the hiring manager imparts about the job. These become the keywords the recruiter will program into the ATS to scan your resume. This is a big hint for you, and a reason you should tailor your resume for every job you go for. You need to go through the job ad and identify what the keywords are within the job ad and then flood your resume with them. 3. Plant the keywords within you resume The next step is to update your resume with all of the keywords you have identified within the job advertisement. You will need to replace these each time you apply for a job, because they are likely to be unique (at least to some degree), for each job you go for. It is important to use the same wording that is used in the ad so your resume exactly matches the keywords that are used in the ATS search.

Using these simple steps each time you apply for a job will significantly increase your chance of moving from the resume scanning phase of the recruitment process to the next stage.


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