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.

    6 sections of your resume

    Your resume should have at least these 6 sections

    Considering that your resume is probably the most important financial document you’ll ever own, making sure that it is properly crafted is of the utmost importance. 

    Did you wrinkle your brow at the concept of a resume being a financial document? Let’s think about it for a second. Without a job, you can’t pay bills, go on vacation, or plan for retirement. Without a great resume, you can’t win the interview that will land the job. 

    Now that’s settled, let’s dive into the 6 sections that must always be on your resume.

    Your resume and the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

    Before a hiring manager can lay eyes on your resume it will often go through the ATS. These systems scan resumes for things like relevant keywords, experience, and education. Having your resume laid out in the proper format (the most common is the reverse-chronological format) with the right section headers will help you get past the ATS. 

    So, what are the sections that you need on your resume?

    Contact information

    Your contact information should be the very first thing on the page. Do not, for the love of resumes, bury it in the footer or even set it as a header. Make it the first thing and make it part of the document. The reason you don’t want to bury it in the footer is because you want to make sure it is as easy as possible for the hiring manager to find your information. Setting it as the header makes it almost impossible for the ATS (we’ll discuss ATS later in this book) to parse your information. You can be fairly creative and use bold font in your contact information and even put a border under it to separate it from the body of your resume.


    You should add a title, centered on a line by itself just below your contact info. It will represent what you want to do and will mirror the program description. A hiring manager will only spend about 6 seconds glancing at your resume. A title will help them immediately know what your job goal is. 

    Professional summary

    The very next thing on the page should always be your Professional Summary, Career Summary, Professional Profile, or whatever else you want to call it.

    This is a 3-5 sentence statement about you that basically answers the Tell me about yourself interview question. Where you’ve been in your career, where you’re going, and how you’ll use your experience to get there. The days of writing an Objective are dead (by the way, the days of the one-page resume are dead, too). 

    Just beneath the professional summary will be a SKILLS list. This is a simple list of 9-12 keywords. It’s a mix of hard skills (things you know how to do because of education and experience) and soft skills (personality traits).  This list is directly targeted to the program/job you’re applying to.

    pro tip place important information above the fold

    Professional experience

    Begin by listing your most recent position first and work your way back to your first position. However, don’t go further back than about 10 years. Keeping the content on your resume within the last 10 years ensures that it is fresh and current.

    The main idea here is context. You want to put what you did into a context that the hiring manager can relate to the job she is trying to fill. So, you worked at Burgers R Us as a Front Counter Manager and you trained the new employees.

    That’s great!

    Put two words into your brain right now, “so what?” The hiring manager is going to be thinking, you might as well be thinking it. Every time you write something on your resume, think “so what?”

    • Why am I writing this?
    • What value did it add to my employment at Burgers R Us?
    • What value will it bring to my new employer?

    Additionally, it is important to talk about what you achieved instead of just what your responsibilities were. Just because you were supposed to do something at your last job doesn’t mean you actually did it. If you talk about what you achieved you can better showcase how you will help the company to which you’re applying.

    Don’t forget about achievements:

    There needs to be at least 5 measurable accomplishments listed on your resume. These can be qualitative or quantitative. For example, a great quantitative achievement would be to talk about how many students you teach or what percentage you’ve been able to raise test scores. “Reviewed TABE test scores to ascertain student shortfalls and used those inefficiencies as opportunities for improvement resulting in a 15% increase in scores over the prior year.”


    This section seems fairly self-explanatory. A huge opportunity is missed by a lot of people in the education section, though. Instead of just listing your degree and where you went to school, you can further demonstrate your knowledge by listing some of the courses you took. Now, if you took Art Appreciation as an elective, it probably will not help to list that (unless you’re going into a creative field). 

    DO NOT list your high school. If you have higher education, the assumption is that you finished high school or at least obtained your GED as you can’t get into college without one or the other.

    Even if you have no higher education, my suggestion would still be to not list your high school, just leave the education section completely off your resume.

    Listing high school doesn’t say “I finished high school,” it says “I didn’t go to college.”

    The absence of the education section will not cause you to miss out on an interview; however, it will give you and the interviewer something to talk about.

    Awards, certifications, and volunteer work

    It is important to list what you do outside of work and school. The idea of listing awards and certificates is fairly common, but many people leave off volunteer work.

    • Were you the president of a fraternity/sorority?
    • Did you get involved with showing new students around campus?
    • Have you headed a sales team that produced top awards?
    • Were you an employee of the month?

    This is the section that shows more of your core personality, i.e., you as a person, not just an employee.

    You can highlight patience and dedication through professional experience; however, demonstrating those qualities while volunteering punctuates that you truly possess those qualities.

    Help is always available

    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. 


      use the chronological resume to improve your chances of landing your dream job

      The reverse chronological resume is the best format for landing your dream job

      There are a lot of job seekers who think the way to stand out from the crowd during a job search is to have a creatively designed — pretty — resume. However, the reverse chronological resume is the best format to use for landing your dream job.

      Why should you avoid heavily formatted, creative resumes?

      A quick Google search for a resume template will produce hundreds of thousands of heavily formatted and over-designed resume styles. 

      When you use a format like one of these,  you are increasing your chances of being rejected by the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that over 90% of companies use. The ATS scan resumes for everything including years of experience, education, relevant keywords, font/margin size, and number of measurable results presented. If the system can’t parse these pieces of information then it rejects the resume. 

      Having the resume be rejected by the ATS is the #1 reason that job seekers end up being ghosted by companies. The system kicks the resume out, it never gets forwarded to a human, the humans who are doing the hiring are unaware of the job seeker’s existence, and the job seeker gets no phone call. 

      The overall advice you'll receive from recruiters, hiring managers, and resume writers is to use a reverse-chronological resume

      While there are 3 widely accepted formats that you can use for your resume — the reverse-chronological, the functional, and the hybrid — the most popular is the reverse-chronological. 

      Hiring managers like to see the reverse-chronological format because they know exactly where the information is and can quickly ascertain whether a candidate seems like a good fit for their open position. 

      Almost everyone can use the reverse-chronological format

      • Use this format if you have a consistent work history
      • This format is great for demonstrating career progression and achievements
      • Use this format if you’re applying to a position in the same field as your current experience. 

      Here is an example of a great reverse-chronological resume:

      Some tips to ensure your job search success

      1. In order to keep your resume current and fresh, stick to detailing out only the last 10 years of experience. 
      2. Unless you’ve participated in some major research projects, have done a lot of public speaking, or have published works, keep your resume to no more than 2 pages. 
      3. There may be times when it is appropriate to omit career details from your history. 

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

        how to tailor your resume to different jobs

        How to tailor your resume to different jobs

        Perhaps the biggest mistake job seekers make is to use the same resume for multiple job applications. Sending the same resume over and over again is what causes companies to ghost job seekers, leaving you with almost no chance of landing an interview.

        To stand a better chance, you need to know how to tailor your resume to different job descriptions. Start with a base resume and then customize it to match a particular job description before sending it.   

        Why must you tailor your resume?

        Tailoring your resume demonstrates how your skills and experience match the job. It is what recruiters look for and shows that you’re the best candidate for a particular position. In addition to crafting a resume that shows impressive you are as a person, hiring managers want your resume to show that you are a good fit for their specific job opening. So how do you do it?

        Use keywords to tailor your resume

        Learning to tailor your resume with the relevant keywords gives you a better chance of getting a callback. With every job, you will find specific duties listed in the job description. You have to showcase how you can carry out these duties. For instance, if you’re applying to a position for Software Developer, a company will likely require you to be proficient in Java.

        A critical thing to note is that leveraging keywords will help you convince the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Ideally, you use the job advertisement and customize the following sections:

        Resume title

        Your resume title is also known as the resume headline, and it is a preview of your resume in a few words. For every resume you send out, ensure that the title is specific to that position. It is a great way to modify your resume to target the job. If you apply for the Software Developer position, ensure that the two words appear in your resume title.

        Summary profile

        The position summary is the overview of the duties the job will entail. You can use it to get some keywords to include in your profile paragraph. It goes hand in hand with the responsibilities section, which gives the duties in more detail.

        The best thing is to ensure that your resume indicates that you can perform these tasks as required. The tasks will revolve around your soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are a representation of your personality and include work ethic, adaptability, and confidence. Hard skills are those that you acquire through education and experience. For a Software Developer position, for example, they can include Java, C++, and web design. 

        Remember that you are not just listing the skills. You must provide details and the achievements around the skills.

        Core competencies

        This is the list of skills just below your profile section. While the skills you possess are important, it’s MORE important to target your resume to the job description. As you compare your current skills list with that of the job posting make note of keywords that you’re not using and include them here.

        Use your employment history to tailor your resume

        It might be tempting to leave your employment history intact but editing it can give you a better chance at getting callbacks. Make sure to align your achievements with the job in question.


        The ATS will scan your resume for things like years of experience, education, and relevant keywords. Pay close attention to the requirements and customize your base resume with relevant keywords to avoid being rejected by the scanners.

        Help is available

        Always Typing has built a reputation for crafting resumes that get past the ATS and impress hiring managers. Upload your resume below to find out if it will win the interview.