Check out our article on best resume format for ATS reviews.
Updated in 2023
Recruiters have a hard job. If you look at the job openings for technology positions, they number in the thousands. If there’s a recession coming, it certainly isn’t apparent. Companies need people who know how to make technology work effectively. Recruiters are swamped with resumes, and they don’t have enough time to review them all.
A report from Jobscan showed that more than 98% of Fortune 500 companies, along with a growing number of small to midsize businesses (SMBs), rely on an applicant tracking system (ATS) to review resumes for target keywords. Such systems make it easier to narrow down the selection pool and reach the most promising applicants. For a job seeker, the key is using the proper resume format for an ATS.
What Is an ATS?
Applicant tracking systems are software systems that recruiters use across various industries, including big tech companies. They use keyword searches with specific criteria to locate qualified applicants. Recruiters typically perform searches for several positions at a time.
With applications sometimes numbering in the thousands for a single position, ATS platforms make it easier for recruiters to sift through resumes. Any resumes that match the qualifications for a role get passed on to a recruiter for a manual review.
One common misconception about ATS systems is that they immediately bypass all resumes that aren’t an exact match, but recruiters can program their ATS software to reject applicants only based on truly disqualifying information. For example, they could set parameters that skip over any applicants who don’t have the correct visa status.
How Does an ATS Work?
An ATS is designed to mimic the way the human brain functions. That means it looks at resumes in a similar way to a recruiter, who would perform a quick scan to see if the application contains phrases matching the qualifications they’re looking for in a candidate.
ATS platforms make the process faster, with extra functionality designed to save time with fewer errors. Someone who had a bad night’s sleep might miss critical phrases on a resume showing that the applicant is qualified, for instance, but ATS software can stop that resume from slipping through the cracks and ensure the person who submitted it gets a fair shot at a more in-depth review.
Another benefit to using an ATS platform is that it can make the first steps toward hiring easier. It helps with tailoring job descriptions to attract ideal applicants, ensuring that job postings include essential keywords and phrases.
Recruiters can also program the ATS to apply “knockout questions” to eliminate unsuitable applicants. The ATS draws up questions and asks candidates for a response. If they fail to provide a suitable response, the applicant is automatically removed from the system. Again, the goal is to perform the same action that a human would, but in a more efficient way.
What Are the Benefits of ATS Software for Companies?
As an applicant, it can be difficult to wonder whether your resume will get skipped because of technology. Ideally, a human would put eyes on every application. But in an age when companies can post numerous positions in multiple places, recruiters have more resumes than ever coming their way.
Recruiters want to ensure they don’t miss out on anyone who might be a perfect fit for a job. However, they’re only human, so they need tools that help them move the process along. In addition to resume filtering, ATS platforms can automate tasks like sending follow-up messages and scheduling interviews.
Even at smaller companies, multiple people might be involved in the hiring process. If your resume fits the criteria of the ATS software, it can ensure that you make it in front of the individuals who are charged with making the final hiring decision. Recruiters can program in keywords that focus on education or technical skills, for example.
ATS platforms aren’t there just to eliminate candidates, though. They help hiring managers strike a balance between evaluating skills and determining whether an individual’s personality fits the company’s culture. They can perform assessments that go deeper than the information listed on a resume.
Finally, ATS software helps with sorting resumes. Top systems pull out essential data from a candidate’s resume and alert recruiters to its presence. A recruiter can then set up a hot list of the top candidates and include notes on each. From there, the hiring manager can track what’s happening with the resumes throughout the hiring cycle.
Try to think of ATS software as something other than a roadblock. Once you understand its purpose, leveraging an ATS to your advantage becomes easier. With the right format, you can get your resume past that first job search barrier.
Can an ATS Hurt Your Job Search?
ATS platforms are designed to streamline the entire hiring process. Standard features found in ATS software include the following:
- Candidate sourcing
- Email templates
- Resume parsing
- Advanced searches
- Customer relationship management
- System and software integrations
If you’re applying to jobs at top companies, you’re likely to run into an ATS. Below are examples of the top systems various companies are using:
What to Avoid in Resume FormattingCandidates should avoid the temptation to make their application overly fancy. When it comes to ATS platforms, it’s better to be simple and boring. Using complicated formatting, such as multiple columns, tables, and graphics, can confuse the ATS, which could misread the application.
- Text boxes and side panels
- Underlines and italics
- Headers and footers
- Quotation marks
- Serif fonts, or more than two fonts
Tips on Formatting Your Resume for an ATSHere are some helpful formatting tips for creating an ATS-friendly resume:
- The job title
- Specific keywords
- Skills needed to be successful in the role
How Resumes Are RankedCertain ATS software automatically ranks an application based on how closely it fits the programmed keywords. The ATS can take as little as six seconds to rank your resume during the first pass. During that first-glance review, the ATS wants to see if you have experience that fits the job title and keywords the hiring manager provided. Any adjustments you made for the ATS system should also help you get past a human reviewer.
Additional Tips for Job SearchersRecruiters typically have a healthy pipeline of candidates for prime job positions. Because of that, they may not get the chance to review every single application. Make sure you don’t give up if you don’t hear back immediately. Many opportunities are available, and you should do everything possible to increase your chances of landing one.
- Current title and company
- Previous title and company
- Start and end date of a previous position
- Start date of current position
What’s Next?Once you join Pathrise you can speak with a mentor if you have questions about submitting resumes or need further guidance. As a member of your team, they can provide you with advice on navigating the job search process from start to finish. Our goal is to provide practical, actionable advice that helps yield tangible results during the job-hunting process.