get your resume past an ats

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS) and how do you get past it?

What do you know about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

Job seeking can sometimes be compared to throwing your resume into a black hole. You go through 100 listings on any job search website and complete the online application with zero results. Ever have that happen?

The problem is that you’re probably not putting the correct keywords into your resume.

When you hit “Submit” on an online application, it isn’t magically emailed to the hiring manager. It goes through this computer system that scrubs your resume for specific keywords that are found in the job description posted by the company. It also looks for years of experience and education, among other things.

Know your audience & have a back-up plan

Your resume must be written to impress 2 audiences — the ATS and a hiring manager. Having a document that speaks to a computer and a human being can be a daunting task. Many resume writers will tell you that you need to stand out in the sea of sameness by adding some personality to your resume through design.

The name of the game is to always have your resume at the top of the stack.

Some resume No-No's related to the ATS

Once you’ve narrowed down your target career path and are getting ready to apply for jobs it’s important to be sure your resume will not be rejected. 

Here are some tips to help make sure your resume won’t end up in a digital nowhere land:

  • Jargon and buzzwords: (1) they are probably not lending any value to your resume that will get you past the ATS and hiring managers hate seeing “experienced go-getter,” self-motivated,” and “dedicated, reliable individual.”
  • Overly designed resumes: Many job seekers feel like they’ll stand out from the crowd by having a creative-looking resume. The fact is that ATS cannot properly parse information from these resumes as they can’t read the information in text boxes, graphs, charts, tables, nor can they read images. If the ATS can’t read it, it will be rejected.
  • Font & margins: Make sure you’re using the right font, keep the font size to at least 10pt, and have margins that are no less than 1/2″. Some acceptable fonts are: Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, Tahoma, Trebuchet, and Veranda.

Help is available, if you need it. Send us your current resume for a free review.

Of course, all of this can be a lot to take in — especially considering that we haven’t even talked about accomplishments, certifications, publications, honors, and projects. If you need help, drop us a line.

    what should a great cover letter look like

    What should a great cover letter look like?

    Not too long ago, it was thought that the age of using a cover letter was dying. That is no longer the case. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have been more interested in cover letters as a means for connecting with job seekers. 

    What should your cover letter look like?

    sample cover letter

    The layout, heading, and greeting

    Your cover letter tells the hiring manager what you can do for them. It should be a formal letter specifically addressed to the hiring manager at the company with whom you’re applying. It is okay to use the greeting “To Whom It May Concern” if you don’t know the name of the person specifically, but a name is always best. 

    The body - paragraph 1

    The first paragraph should be written to tell the hiring manager how you heard about the opening and to express your desire to apply. Now, this may seem self-explanatory (who would send a cover letter and resume to a company if the intent wasn’t to apply for a job?) but there is an actual reason. The company likely posted that job on multiple job boards and it is also probably listed on their company website. Telling you where you found it gives them valuable marketing information about their job posts. So, you’re helping them with the first sentence and if you’re keeping in mind that a cover letter is supposed to tell them what you can do for them you’re already off to a great start. 

    The body - paragraph 2

    The second paragraph will tell them why you think you’re the right person for the job. Discuss one or two achievements you’ve had in previous positions or something you achieved while in college that will help set you apart from the rest of the pack. For example, did you single-handedly increase revenue for your department by 10% during an economic downfall? Talk about it and then turn it around to let them know you’d love to use that knowledge to increase their revenue. 

    The body - paragraph 3

    The last paragraph of the letter should reiterate your desire to work for their company. It should also thank them for taking the time to look over your resume and give them your preferred method of contact. Be specific, be bold. Instead of ending the letter with something like, “if you’d like to know more about me, please call,” end it with, “I look forward to hearing from you to discuss my candidacy.” Then close out the letter with your salutation and signature. 

    The closing

    Finally, sign your name. Make sure the name you’re using matches all of your other career marketing documents including resume, thank you notes, and LinkedIn profile. The name you use DOES NOT have to be your legal name and IT CAN include any nicknames that you go by. 

    Exclude any verbiage about your resume being attached. It is unnecessary. 


    The main idea of the cover letter is to tell the employer what you can do, not what you want to do or what you think you can do. Be positive, courageous and sell yourself!

    Help is available, if you need it. Send us your current resume for a free review.