Skip to main content

Beating the Bots: Why You Need to Know About ATS Before You Apply for Any Job

Two wooden figures facing eachother

Telfer job seekers, did you know that:

  • More often than not, before your application reaches the desk of a recruiter, it must be flagged by what we call an applicant tracking system (ATS)?
  • Therefore, it is estimated that 75% of applications are rejected even before they are seen by an actual human?

What is an ATS?

An ATS is a software that employers use to collect, sort, scan, and rank job applications based on preset criteria. It is estimated that 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on ATS software to help streamline their recruitment process. ATS have become a recruitment solution for an increasing number of organizations large and small.

What does an ATS do?

In essence, an ATS scans submitted resumés for specific keywords, hence determining which applications should be seen by recruiters. It weeds out unqualified applicants (and/or insufficiently‑tailored resumés), which makes the recruitment process easier.

What does it mean for you?

If your resumé is not optimized (i.e., written and formatted) for ATS, you may be rejected as an applicant even if you are perfectly qualified for the position.

What can you do about it?

According to a study from TopResume, here are the tips you should follow for an ATS-optimized resumé:

  1. Select the right format.

PDF is not necessarily ATS friendly. If you are asked to upload your resumé to an ATS, and “PDF” appears in the list of accepted formats, use it. Otherwise, play it safe by sticking to Word (.doc or .docx).

  1. Avoid putting key information in a header and/or footer.

According to the TopResume study, ATS may not always be able to identify the job seeker’s contact information. Just to be safe, avoid using headers.

  1. Use keywords from relevant postings!

If you are unsure which keywords you should use in your resumé, collect a sample of job postings that represent the kind of position you are looking for. With the help of a word-cloud generator, such as WordClouds or Wordle, identify the vocabulary used in the job descriptions you have selected. Then, tweak your own resumé (and cover letter) accordingly.

  1. If you have several years of experience in something, take advantage of it.

After your Summary of Qualifications, add an “Areas of Expertise” or Core Competencies” section where you can list 3 to 6 of your strongest competencies (use terms from the posting). Don’t forget to “sprinkle” these same words into your “Professional Experience” and/or “Education” sections to demonstrate when you used those skills.

  1. Avoid tables, text boxes, images, charts, and other “creative” graphics
  2. Stick to plain and simple bullet points
  3. Keep it clean and organized

As you can see, optimizing your resumé for ATS is not rocket science, but it does require some thought… and time. To receive more personal tips and tricks on how to tailor your resumé for a specific application while making it ATS-optimal, book an appointment for resumé tailoring with the Career Centre staff through Career Launch.

To know more about ATS, check out the following resources:

What Is an ATS? How to Write a Resumé to Beat the Bots

Get your resumé past HR’s applicant tracking system

Get Your Resumé Past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

About the Author

(Elle/She)<br><br>Coordonnatrice de développement professionnel au Centre des carrières de Telfer, Véronique Bélinge est titulaire d’un baccalauréat ès arts en traduction, d’un baccalauréat ès sciences sociales en études internationales et langues modernes, ainsi que d’une maîtrise ès arts en littératures et cultures du monde. Avec plus de 20 ans d’expérience alliant traduction, révision, édition, rédaction publicitaire, création de contenu numérique et élaboration de messages organisationnels, elle offre aux étudiants du B.Com. et du MBA des services d’encadrement en développement de carrière et d’image de marque personnelle, depuis l’adaptation du CV jusqu’aux techniques d’entrevue en passant par LinkedIn.<br><br>Véronique Bélinge is the Professional Development Coordinator at the Telfer School of Management Career Centre. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts with a specialization in Translation, an Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences with a specialization in International Studies and Modern Languages as well as a Master of Arts in World Literatures and Cultures. With 20+ years of combined experience in translation, revision, copywriting, copyediting, publicity writing, digital content creation, and corporate messaging, she provides B.Com. and MBA students with personal branding and career coaching services encompassing everything from resumé tailoring to LinkedIn and interview techniques.

Profile Photo of Véronique Bélinge