Great Resumes Fast » Resume Writing Tips » Optimizing Your Resume for ATS

If you are submitting your resume online, then you need to know about ATS. It is an abbreviation for Applicant Tracking Software, and it is a catch-all term for programs that allow employers to upload your resume that you have created in Word or plain text, and then deliver it to a database that searches it for keywords. Large corporations often use ATS to weed out suitable resumes and identify the candidates that they want to contact for interviews.

Does ATS Matter?

Yes and no. Yes, when you’re investing time job searching online. No, when you’re using the hidden job market to job search. That being said, both methods online job searching and tapping into the hidden job market should be used as part of a successful job search strategy and for the portion of your job search that you’re applying online ATS is still key. You might have heard that companies are moving away from ATS, but the fact is, it is still used by about 80% of companies nationwide (even if that number is dwindling). So, when you are writing your resume, you should be thinking not just about the human being who may eventually be taking a look at your resume but also about the software that is examining it before it ever gets to a human.

Optimizing Your Resume for ATS

First off, when you are submitting your resume, you need to know that the software will probably try to identify you by location. This means that it is very important to spell your street address correctly, and to make sure that your zip code is correct. This is not the time for you to get sloppy and misspell names or transpose numbers. Proofread your resume, and then proofread it again before you submit it.

This is also where you want to be very careful about keywords. Look at the job posting. Mirror the language. And make sure that your keywords are 100% relevant.

Also, try to avoid using symbols. A lot of ATS programs will not recognize them. So, use “number” instead of “#,” “dollars” instead of “$” and “percentages” instead of “%.”

If you can submit a resume in Word format, and you know that a human being will be reading it, that’s wonderful. Go for it. Use all the tools that you have at your disposal. But if you are not sure, then you should structure and format your resume in such a way that it can be read by a bot. In fact, in this day and age, you should assume that the first reading of your resume will be done by a bot. It’s not fair, of course. But as they say, it is what it is.

Learn More About ATS optimization In my e-learning course, What’s Wrong With My Resume? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself and How You Can Fix It, I go into a lot of detail about how to optimize your resume for ATS. I also talk about nine other issues that could be sinking your resume, and how to resolve those issues.

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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!

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