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Lately we've received many questions about ATS. Therefore, this is a re-post of an explanation of ATS and how to prepare and ATS-friendly resume.

Do you know what ATS is and how it can impact your job search?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software app to facilitate the candidate selection process for employers and recruiters. The system screens, ranks, and tracks candidates. The system's actions are based on criteria set by the hiring employer or recruiter. Systems also generate emails with pre-screening questions, tracks responses, and can submit interview invitations. It has been estimated that more than half of mid-sized employers and a greater percentage of large employers and recruiters use an ATS.

If you don’t know the ABCs of ATS, you might miss key opportunities. Don’t risk being eliminated from the process before your resume is viewed by an actual human. Take a moment to learn a few of the ABCs of ATS.


Avoid a PDF format. It is true that a PDF is unchangeable. However, many ATS systems can't read PDF files and this can result in your PDF file being booted without notice to you. Stick with the format of choice - - MS Word - - for your resume. The exception is when you are asked to copy and paste your resume into a text field. In that situation, the acceptable file is a plain text resume.


Begin with a fresh document. In some cases templates (including those offered by MS Word) may contain formatting codes that hinder the ATS from properly scanning your resume.


Criteria set by the employer or recruiter counts! Screening criteria may include skills, specialties, education, former employers, experience level, job titles, location, and certification.


Dates on the far left can confuse some ATS software apps. Tabbed (floating dates) to the far right can also be a problem for other reasons. Enter the employer’s name on the far left and include the employer’s city and state (Standard US Postal codes for states, such as NY without periods). Place the dates in parenthesis next to the employer name or the job title.


Eliminate footers, headers, and text boxes. For some ATS apps, any text within the footer, header, and text boxes will be un-readable. In cases like this, the resume can be removed from consideration.


“F” is perhaps the most important letter regarding ATS. It stands for “Found” as in write your resume so you are found by the system. The secret to being found is to integrate keywords into your resume. Be sure your profile statement is rich with keywords. Also make sure your core competencies section (or Areas of Expertise section) contains keywords relevant to your target job. Analyze job postings to identify relevant keywords.

ATS software apps vary. Some companies are using recent, sophisticated apps. Others may use apps with limited functionality and less recent technology. However, to play it safe and to increase your chance of passing the initial round of screening, follow the above ABCs of ATS.

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