Career Resource Center

How To Check if ATS is Rejecting Your Resume

ATS is shorthand for Applicant Tracking Software in the recruiting realm.  Most applicants don’t realize that those rejection letters you’re receiving from employers aren’t even sent by a real person, instead they’re sent by a computer system that has rejected your application before it was even seen by human eyes.

As scary as this sounds, there are some easy rules you can follow to help make sure that your resume gets seen by a real person, but let’s quickly go over some other basic resume writing ground rules first.

  1. Don’t use a stock template you downloaded from the internet or found in Microsoft Office.  These templates might look good on the surface, but they typically waste lots of valuable space on each page and can even be distracting.  Furthermore, using a template rather than building your resume from scratch is like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.  Your experience is unique, so your formatting also needs to be unique if you want everything to fit together.
  2. Do include as many measurable accomplishments as you can.  Employers love it when you can give them facts about how you increased sales by $2M over 20 years; boosted workplace productivity 35% year over year; slashed product manufacturing time by 2 days; optimized customer satisfaction to 98%.
  3. Don’t clutter your resume with experience from over 20 years ago.  Although it may seem like a good idea to showcase as much experience as you can on your resume, employers just don’t want to see work history from the last century.  Some recruiters say they don’t even want to see information from more than 10 years ago.  For more information about what to include on your resume, check out what experienced corporate recruiter, Yolanda Owens has to say on the subject.

Once you’ve got the basics figured out it’s time to start focusing on how to make your resume ATS friendly.  There are a few important concepts to keep in mind while writing a resume to work with ATS.

Computers do not read like humans do.  The computer can see words in plain text, but they can’t scan graphics, artwork, or images. So, if you have any graphics in your resume, cut them out and write your content in the body of the resume.

Computers get confused easily.  Using an overly complex format with textboxes, multiple columns, and multiple levels of indentation is a sure-fire way to ensure your resume gets rejected by ATS.  Keep it simple by using a single-column format with one level of indentation, and tables instead of textboxes.

Computers like keywords.  Let’s say you’re applying for a programmer position, and the job description mentions key skills like RubyOnRails, C++, and JavaScript.  Similar to a professor explaining to students what’s going to be on an exam, the job description is telling you to include these words in your resume.  You can bet that the computer is going to be rejecting any resume that doesn’t include them.

Final steps…

Now that you have a roadmap for how to make the computer like your resume.  It’s important to check on some of the other areas that can ensure your resume or CV is rejected by ATS.

Reduce your resume to less than two pages.  ATS is often set up to filter out any resume longer than two pages.  Similar to eliminating work history from more than 20 years ago, cut the fluff from your resume to keep it on one or two pages.  Although there are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb, most recruiters agree that a resume longer than two pages – even if it gets past the ATS – is an immediate red flag for them.

List your address in a visible location.  Although the location of your address and contact information may seem obvious to you, at Reusme Writing Group we receive thousands of resume submissions that have addresses buried in strange areas.  Your resume is not a treasure hunt, make sure your address and contact information is centered at the top of the page.  If you have a two-page resume, make sure your contact information is also on the second page.

If you still aren’t sure whether your resume is ATS friendly, send it in for a free resume review and have it checked over by an expert team of writers.



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