Resume Tips to Beat the Bots

An ATS, or applicant tracking system, is a digital filing software that stores candidate information and communications. Oftentimes, the technology prescreens resumes to determine if an applicant is qualified for the job, ruling out many applicants. More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using an ATS, and for these larger companies with thousands of applicants per week, bots help cut down up to 70% of applicants! Smaller companies also use ATS systems, which can save them thousands of dollars in the hiring process as well.

ATS software is a great tool for more efficient recruitment processes, but it can also hurt your chances at landing an interview. Even though this might seem daunting, there’s no need to worry! There are many ways to “beat the bots” and make it through the ATS recruitment process. While it’s awesome to have a resume that’s a little more creative or includes some personality, it’s best to have a second version of your resume that’s formatted to pass through application bots. In order to survive the ATS system, your resume needs to hit all the right marks to beat the bots and land in front of an actual recruiter.

Here’s what you need to know about these bots and how to beat them.

  1. Make sure your resume is detailed with lots of keywords
    1. Utilize buzz words that are specific and used in the job description and industry, and don’t be afraid to use lots of them
    2. Use Jobscan to scan your resume against the job opening to let you know how well they fit and see keywords you need to add
  1. Avoid abbreviations
    1. Bots sometimes can’t decipher abbreviations (like for certain clubs, awards, or skills) which can really hurt your chances of being pushed through the system
  1. Look at terms used in the job opening description
    1. In your resume sections, carefully name your titles (Education, Work Experience, Research, Leadership, etc.) so they closely align what is stated in the job description and required qualifications. 
  1. Avoid using graphics or charts on your resume
    1. Bots often can’t read or understand graphics, so leave them out completely
  1. Keep your resume simple
    1. Keep formatting and fonts clean and simple by avoiding boxes, columns, headers and footers, etc. so ATS systems can easily get your information with no hiccups
    2. Keep headers basic, like titles such as: Education, Work Experience, Leadership, Skills
  1. Submit your resume as a PDF
    1. This is pretty much the standard and will work on nearly all bots unless the application states otherwise (make sure to check the job opening!)
  1. Include your general location
    1. Adding the city, state and zip code for your general location can be beneficial as an ATS may forward applications for certain geographic areas recruiters are needing to hire

No need to sweat the ATS bots! By following these 7 steps, you’ll be on your way to your next job interview in no time. As always, for extra help, guidance, or a one-on-one appointment about the job search process, feel free to make an appointment with a career specialist or stop by the MU Career Center anytime between 9-4 PM, Monday through Friday.