When Applying For A New Job, How To Get Past The Applicant Tracking System

Many big companies utilize an applicant tracking system (ATS) to organize all the names and résumés submitted to them. Getting the attention of a hiring manager means getting past the ATS.

When you submit a job application to a large company, your résumé gets added to the pile of thousands already kept in storage. How do businesses sift through so many applicants? Is there a secret to making it through the first line of defense? Anne Fisher, who writes a mailbag column at Fortune, tackles the issue:


An applicant tracking system (ATS), as the name implies, is how many big companies keep track of the hundreds or thousands of resumes that are constantly coming in. Designed to follow each candidate through each stage of the hiring process, from application to start date, the systems usually begin with computer software that “reads” each resume and weeds out the ones that don’t match up with specific job openings.

As with any automated system, there are going to be errors and mistakes made in the screening process that could lead to your glowing résumé being tossed aside. Luckily, Fisher has advice for playing to the ATS' strengths:

1. Keywords are Key: This should be Résumé Building 101, but remember that most hiring managers are only going to glance for a second at your credentials in search of specific keywords and phrases. The same goes for ATS software, so make sure you include buzzwords the system will be looking for.

2. Don't worry about length: If you squeeze three pages of information onto one, the ATS may have trouble "reading" your résumé. Don't be afraid to stretch onto a second or third page if you need more room to list important information.

3. Don't get too fancy: Euphemisms aren't an ATS' specialty, so don't try and be cute with offbeat titles. Your work experience should be called "Work Experience." The page layout should be clear and accessible -- easy enough for a robot to read. You should also avoid italics, graphs, charts, and unfamiliar fonts. If your résumé is in Comic Sans, reconsider your life choices.

4. Stick to the format: Fisher recommends sending your résumé as a Word document because most systems have difficulty reading PDFs. Also, never paste the résumé in the text of your application e-mail unless a) you want to look incapable of sending an attachment or b) you're specifically asked to do so.

Read the full article (linked again below) for additional advice on how to keep your résumé in the game after getting through the ATS.

Keep reading at Fortune

Photo credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

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