Don’t Let an ATS Control YOUR Fate

Searching for a job can be one of the most frustrating and challenging things one can experience. Whether looking for a career change, searching for your first job, or somewhere in between, job searching can bring about headaches for all of us. Speaking from experience, I decided to leave a career of 23 years to find something new; this was a time of uncertainty, doubt, and frustration. As I was going through a career change, it reminded me that looking for a job requires considering many factors. Since my last job search, one crucial factor that has changed is how companies screen resumes. Many companies have begun using Applicant Tracking System software that streamlines their resume screening process by searching for keywords, phrases, and formats that the companies have programmed. This system finds the qualifications within the resume and selects the most competitive candidates for an interview.

Before implementing ATS, hiring managers and HR representatives would accept hard copies of resumes, quickly glance over them, and determine if an individual was qualified for employment within a few seconds. However, the ATS has streamlined hiring managers from viewing hundreds of resumes daily to only reviewing a small percentage of resumes. Therefore, if you are an individual who is constantly applying to jobs and not receiving callbacks for an interview, your resume is more than likely not passing the ATS requirements.

How does ATS affect my job search, and how do I defeat it?

When a job seeker applies through an online job search platform such as, Indeed, LinkedIn, or the company’s website, their ATS software will screen the resume to determine if it will advance to the HR Department. You may wonder, how do I make my resume worthy of passing the ATS? It can be tedious and time-consuming, but it can likely guarantee an interview, which is the goal! Here are a few easy steps that I found helpful when facing the ATS during my most recent job search: 

Keep the Format Simple

We all work hours ensuring our resumes look professional, neat, and fancy, but the ATS does not respond well to these heavily formatted resumes. We must consider the “keep it simple” concept when creating a resume, you will upload online. Resumes with images, icons, and tables should be kept for in-person interviews and not for online submission. To ensure the ATS software will read and accept your resume, use platforms like Microsoft Word or PDF. Lastly, I encourage you to review your resume for spelling and grammar, as this can define your work ethic to the employer.

Break Your Resume into Sections

ATS is programmed to look for specific headings:

  • Contact Information
  • Summary
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Skills

Most ATS read in bullet point fashion so ensure your resume does not read like a book or an essay.  

Do NOT Abbreviate!

Computers don’t understand acronyms, so ensure that you use complete words or titles within your resume. Abbreviations may not be recognizable by the ATS and can lessen the chance of selection.

Keywords in the Content of the Resume

Once you have simplified your format, you are ready to attack the content. The content will be the most time-consuming because you must edit it every time you apply for a different position. Not every job posting is the same; therefore, our resume shouldn’t be either. As we already know, ATS looks for keywords in the applicant’s resume. You’re probably asking yourself, “How do I know what keywords to use?” You will find most of the keywords in the job posting itself. You must read the job posting and note keywords in the description, responsibility, education, or certification sections. Once you complete your research, modify your resume with the keywords that match your work ethic and experience. 

You’re READY to begin!

The ATS determines your fate of landing an interview so let’s ensure your resume is ATS-friendly and tailored to the position you are applying for. I speak from experience that ATS can be tricky, but using the above rules can make your job searching experience exciting and beneficial. If you need assistance with your resume, you can refer to our resume writing modules on the Online Learning page. You are also welcome to locate your nearest Workforce Solutions office at Office Locations and make an appointment with a Career Advisor. Workforce Solutions supports you: “Find a Job, Keep a Job and Get a Better Job.

Additional Resources:

Jessica Quintero is a Career Navigator for the Workforce Solutions Regional Team. Jessica brings over 23 years of experience in the insurance industry and over 2 years of experience within Workforce Solutions. She is a graduate from the University of Phoenix, where she studied Business Management. She is dedicated to educating herself and learning from her experiences so that she can inspire others to be their best selves.

Author: Blogforce

Workforce Solutions provides comprehensive human resource services for businesses and residents of the 13-county Houston-Galveston Gulf Coast region. Workforce Solutions helps employers solve workforce-related business problems and area residents build careers, so that both can better compete in the changing worldwide economy. Our Employer Service Division provides personalized service to help employers find qualified applicants for their jobs, build the skills and expertise of their new and current employees, and address human resource needs. We operate multiple community-based career offices in 13 Texas Gulf Coast counties to help residents get a job, keep a job or get a better job – offering placement, career counseling and financial aid services. We partner with the region’s businesses, educational institutions, civic organizations and community leaders to find solutions to current and future labor needs of industries that are vital to the region and its economy.

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