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  • Lori A. Jazvac

Effective Resume Strategies for Navigating the ATS

The ATS issue has been talked about and debated extensively in many circles among career professionals, résumé writers, jobseekers, employers, recruiters, managers, and key stakeholders across the globe.

The ATS affects hiring practices and jobseekers alike, impacting manager’s hiring decisions, and ultimately, whether numerous jobseekers will get selected for interviews.

FACT: Did you know?

Ninety-eight per cent of Fortune 500 companies and more small and mid-sized businesses filter résumés through an applicant tracking system (ATS) before someone even views a single résumé.

What is the ATS?

According to, ATS systems collect and sort thousands of résumés and keep them organized in one place. Essentially, these systems are designed to save managers time and ensure compliance with company policy while highlighting top candidates and narrowing the applicant pool.

FACTS: Did you know?

There are now more than 200 ATS systems out there and thousands of positions are being posted on online job banks everyday...

Many ATS systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated, yet more flexible.

Can complex algorithms always judge which are the most qualified or top candidates? Many top candidates get often overlooked.

Concerns from Jobseekers (Clients)

The ATS dilemma persists. I often hear these common concerns from clients:

  • “I’ve been applying forever online and cannot seem to make the cut! What on earth am I doing wrong?”

  • “I’ve plunked my original résumé into a system and got a low score. Now what?”

  • “I am worried about my résumé getting past the ATS.”

Important ATS Considerations

The ATS system issue can seem puzzling. Because the ATS parses your document into a digital profile to make things consistent and searchable, this can cause problems. Some ATS parsing algorithms are outdated, which can cause important keywords or qualifications to get distorted or omitted.

Yet, this issue can be resolved by following a few simple guidelines.



While ATS systems won’t disappear, with the right résumé writing strategy in place and understanding the way these algorithms work and the people hiring, you can propel your job search further.

Determine Whether Your Résumé Is Going Through an ATS

Determine firstly whether your résumé will be going through an ATS system.

  • Are you asked to upload your résumé to apply online?

  • Are you are asked to copy and paste your résumé into an online application form?

If you've answered YES to any of the above, the ATS is a likely possibility, especially if you are applying to a larger company with 50 or more employees.

13 Smart Tips on Effectively Navigating ATS:

** Align your résumé closely with the requirements of the position you are applying for. Include the right keywords for the role applied for and directly address qualifications located in the job description.

** Mirror the job posting in the résumé you submit and work to integrate the job posting elements into the résumé naturally. Feature the job target, industry, types of companies targeted, core skills, responsibilities, core qualifications etc. Applicant tracking systems automatically compare your résumé to the job description. Each applicant is ranked based on how well their résumé scores aligns with the job description.

** Brainstorm a list of keywords. Carefully review job postings for the type of job you are seeking.

** Analyze your current job description or job descriptions of roles similar to your current role.

** Use online resources such as MyNextMove, The Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dictionary of Occupational Titles, and O*Net.

** Remember the importance of context. Apart from having the right keywords appear in your résumé, the ATS system analyzes the relevance of the keyword in relation to your work history and/or education.

** Create an ATS-friendly résumé. Complying with specific formatting requirements can help get your résumé read correctly by the ATS software. However, including key content in tables, infographics, textboxes, charts, and other graphics will likely not get read. Create a professional, modern, and clean résumé. Go easy on the design and formatting.

** Highlight relevant information. Do not worry so much about résumé length when the ATS is being used. Omitting key data to shorten the résumé could impact your résumé from appearing in a list of candidates meeting search criteria or basically not making the cut.

** Appeal to the ATS, but also to the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s criteria. Find out what are their résumé or application requirements. Some hiring managers prefer to receive the résumé in hand first. Hand-delivering the résumé directly to a hiring manager who is eager to read your résumé shows initiative and may help speed up your job search.

** Remember, humans hire humans. Résumés that make it out of the ATS will also be read by a human at the end of the day. Leverage a compelling résumé along with a solid networking plan.

** Strive for 100% accuracy. If you lack the required skills, education, or experience for the position, avoid fictionalizing this information. Rather, apply to a role that is aligned with your expertise or network your way to the hiring manager or key decision-maker.

** Use a plain-text résumé for applying online that addresses the ATS issue. (Good news --A plain-text résumé is included in my Customized Résumé Package!)

** Avoid stressing or worrying about ATS systems. While you need to be mindful and compliant with ATS requirements, applying to positions online and navigating the ATS is just one piece of the job search.

Six ATS Strategies to Adopt

  • Keep it simple when it comes to résumé design, content, formatting, and layout for easy scanning. Aim for balance and draw the reader's eye to the key information simply, yet thoughtfully.

  • Avoid overloading your résumé with keywords.

  • Never use invisible white text either!

  • Keep section headings simple, use consistent formatting for work experience and dates, and avoid tables.

  • Use the latest MS Word version .docx or .pdf file format when applying.

  • Tailor your résumé appropriately for each job posting.

Diversify Job Search Methods

Spend only 25%–30% of your time applying online and the rest of your time actively NETWORKING to maximize your job search success.

It is so tempting to sit by the computer and apply online all day. Rather, spending the majority of your time networking proves to work.

Eighty per cent of jobs are not even posted online and the best way to secure a job is by tapping into the hidden job market.

Opt for a well-crafted, balanced résumé in design, content, style, and formatting that catches the eye of the reader while complying with ATS requirements.

Diversify your job search methods.

Think positive and strategically about your job search. Confidently convey your value both when networking and on paper. Don't be afraid to shine!

While ATS is an inevitable factor in modern job search, keep in mind that there are many other pieces that need to be employed in the job search.

For more information, visit or call 905.730.2374.

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