All Resources

6 Steps to Making It Past ATS to an Interview

Jun 01 , 2016

The goal of any applicant is to get past ATS to the interview process.

ATS, or applicant tracking software, is designed to screen resumes for candidates that match the requirements for a given position. Too often, however, resumes don't make it through the ATS due to incorrect formatting or other errors that have nothing to do with skills or requirements. Here are some tips to ensure that you don't miss out on an opportunity because your resume didn't make it through the ATS software.

1. Use basic formatting.

Anything too fancy may not get read by the system, so stick to text or Word 2003 format, with a basic font. Avoiding special characters like wingdings or arrows also helps.

2. Use common section headings.

Your skills and qualifications may be impressive, but the prospective employer may never know it if your section headings don't cue the ATS to file the information in relevant ways. Common section headings include Education, Training, Professional Experience, Certifications, Skills, Contact Information, and Summary.

3. Avoid images and graphics.

If you want to be more creative, you can give a copy of your resume with images and graphics to the interviewer, while submitting a more basic copy to the ATS, which can't process most image and graphics files.

Your superior interview skills won't amount to much if your resume is rejected by the ATS.

4. Don't set margins too narrow.

ATS software may not be able to read information outside standard margins of about an inch around. If you have your resume formatted with narrow margins to include more information, you can change them and allow the resume to take up more than the usual one or two pages. ATS doesn't notice how long the resume may be, so you can include as much information as you need to, using regular margins.

5. Put contact information first.

Your phone number and email address are especially important, and everything should go at the top of the resume. You should check your email regularly, including your spam folders, because the ATS system may email you with additional instructions after receiving your resume.

6. Use keywords from the ad.

The ATS will match your resume up with the language from the ad, so use that language to describe your skills as much as you can. This will mean changing or tailoring your resume with each job application, but the extra work is worthwhile. The ATS may scan dozens or even over a hundred resumes for a single position, selecting only a few. And those few will be the ones that most closely match the keywords and language of the job posting.

Many larger companies run their resumes through ATS to narrow down the field of job applicants, but being identified by ATS is only half the battle. You should use every method at your disposal, including networking and working with a recruiter, to make it to the end of the selection process and get the job offer you want.

GDH Consulting offers recruiting services, job postings and a talent network to help job seekers navigate the process of finding their next job. Contact us for more information or with any questions about our services.