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Are you a job seeker who feels like your resumes and cover letters never make it past the online platform?  Well, it’s no secret; most never get to the human recruiter. But why is this so? Today, most fortune 500s companies and a fast-growing number of SMEs have adopted an application tracking system.

The internet has completely changed the job hunting landscape. Nowadays, you can easily and quickly send your application to any online job posting; but, so can everyone. That means that a vacant position can receive far more applications than a company requires or has resources to filter through.

Thus, to make it easy for them, they computerize the process using an applicant tracking system. What is an applicant tracking system?

beat the application tracking system

Application Tracking System Definition

Application Tracking Systems (ATS) is software used by employers in the recruitment and hiring process. The system collects, scans, and classifies numerous job applications to get the most qualified candidate that best fits the role.

Research indicates that the applicant tracking system disqualifies around 75% of the overall applications instantly. Only the remaining few applications get the privilege of a hiring manager or human resource review.

To get your application amongst the few shortlisted candidates, you need to find how to beat applicant tracking systems. Luckily we’ve dug up ten smart tips to help you correctly beat the applicant tracking system (ATS).

ats keywords

1. Include the Relevant Keywords in your Documents

Since an ATS looks for specific keywords to narrow down the applicants’ pool, optimizing the resume with the right keywords boosts your chances of getting shortlisted.  ATS algorithm filters relevant keywords to determine whether the applicant has all the qualifications required to perform the job.

Therefore, to go past the ATS, ensure you use keywords that show you have the relevant skills and job experience.

2. Use Keywords in the Right Context

While you may include all the relevant keywords in your document, it’s essential to place them in the proper context. Don’t just place a keyword there because it’s relevant to that job posting.

While it may pass the ATS, the recruiter must interpret the value it. And if it was just a buzzword to pass the ATS and no specific personal achievement attached, it will be dead on arrival. It’s crucial to make the recruiter understand how you’ve used (or plan to use) that particular skill or qualification and the results achieved.

3. Put the Relevant Certification-related Keywords

It’s vital to include specific keywords on certifications and degrees on your resume when applying for a job. For example, teaching and nursing jobs require you to have special licenses to qualify for the job.

The hiring manager or employer needs to be confident that you have all the legal documents required to operate. They program the applicant tracking system to pick those keywords that show you possess all the documents. 

Therefore, you must include keywords of those certifications and relevant licenses to get selected.

resume that beat the application tracking system

4. Avoid the Use of Acronyms

You may have all the correct certifications, skills, or experience but still fail to be part of the shortlisted applicants. That’s because the language you’ve used when crafting your resume doesn’t match what ATS recognizes.

For example, if you use an abbreviation like “LSW” instead of “Licensed Social Worker,” the ATS might reject your resume if it fails to understand it. To be on the safe side, make sure you also spell the acronym out if you must use it.

5. Use the Right File Type

Most Google ATS recognize files that are in .docx format. So if your resume is in any other format like PDF, it may not go through. Converting it to .docx format is thus crucial.

If you don’t have Microsoft Word or any other program that converts your documents to .docx format, consider using Google Docs. At least make sure you’ve used the correct file type that application tracking system can recognize.

6. Apply to Roles you Qualify for

If you don’t meet what the employer is looking for, don’t apply for that job. Being genuinely qualified for the roles you’re applying for is crucial. If a position requires a certain degree, certification, or license to perform, ensure you have obtained them.

Also, an application tracking system, just like a hiring manager, will ignore all irrelevant applications. For example, you cannot be a dentist and then apply for a finance position.

Unless you’ve had a career change and now qualify for that position. In which case, you must craft the resume with all the relevant skillset. Otherwise, it’d be better if you don’t waste recruiters’ and your time.

7. Avoid Applying for too Many Roles in the Same Company

If you apply to more than one role in the same company, the recruiter will notice. And, they may not be able to tell if you’re self-aware about your abilities or understand what you’re precisely interested in.

Well, if the roles advertised are similar, you may go ahead and apply to both. Two different positions may also be okay if you’ve got a wide array of skills. But, ensure that you customize each application to the specific job posting. 

The two roles you apply for should also have almost similar qualifications. For example, you cannot apply for a director position and an entry-level job simultaneously. That would depict you’re unsure about your abilities or haven’t taken time to understand the proper role for you.

job application and resume

8. Make your Resume Easy to Scan

An application tracking system is a robot. But just like humans, it tries to make sense of every piece of information on each document. So, all the documents have to legible for them to pass the application tracking system.

An application tracking system reads a resume like a human being from left to right and from top to bottom. Therefore, put the correct information in its proper position. For example, put the name and contact information at the top. Also, start your work history with the current job or the previous post you held (if no longer employed).

Use standard resume formats. There are three common types of resume formats that include the chronological, functional, and combination. An ATS is programmed to prefer the chronological and combination formats. So, it’d be good to stick to those two.

9. Avoid Excessive and Fancy Formatting

Using fancy formats may work against you. That’s because too complex designs may be harder to read or interpret not only for an ATS but also for humans. For example, avoid things like graphs, logos, graphics, hyperlinks, headers, footers, tables’ text boxes, and more.

An application tracking system converts the information on the document into a text-only file. Unfortunately, some vital information may get lost during the conversion.

Therefore, it’s good to stick to a simple design that is easy to read and understand. You can use bold, italics, colors, underline icons, or bullet points when crafting the resume. These do not alter the information in any way.

10. Avoid Tricking the Application Tracking System

You may find tons of articles on how to cheat an application tracking system. This involves using tricks or tweaking a resume to fool an application tracking system. They can include stuffing keywords, pasting the full job description in white, or even adding a keyword subsection on your resume.

The use of such tricks is wrong and unprofessional. Besides, even if your application goes past the application tracking system, the recruiter will notice your tricks and reject your application.

Key Takeaway

If you apply these ten tips during that online job application, then you’ll beat the application tracking system. To better craft an ATS-optimized resume, check out great online tools like Targeted Resume, Resume Worded, JobScan, or SkillSyncer. They can help you make the process more seamless. 

Lastly, always consider having a professional resume writer do your resume for you. They know what hiring managers are looking for and how to beat the ATS system. Professional resume writers can give you a huge advantage over your competitors.