The majority of the best and most suitable candidates do not make it through the initial applicant tracking system (ATS) screening process. Only 25% of applicants make it through the first stage of ATS screening before their written documentation is seen by a person. Presently, over 93% of organisations in Australia use ATS. Those not using ATS are small family-owned business or one-person business operations. ATS is here to stay, it is not going anywhere, so we all better get used to it whether we like it or not.

I have written this blog to emphasise the importance and often over-looked areas especially in terms of formatting which may surprise you. Content is always important but formatting can be a real big deal maker or breaker when it comes to ATS scanning resumes. Simple, clean and uncluttered formatting is needed in designing and developing your resume. Yes, this does sound boring and the ATS-friendly templates you find online do look boring but they are ATS-friendly.

The following eight (8) points are very important in terms of what you should and should not do in the resume writing and development process to ensure ATS screens your resume without a hitch:

– Position job titles first then tab over to the right to list the corresponding start and end dates. Ensure job titles match what is listed in the job ad and/or job/position/role description (JD, PD and RD respectively); you may have to do a little tweaking to the job titles. If job titles do not match, ATS will overlook your resume if it does not pick up on matches.

– Always ensure you have read the job ad or JD thoroughly to ensure you incorporate key words/phrases – in terms of skills and qualifications – in context. When demonstrating skills, do not just list them singularly throughout your resume (once, twice maximum); incorporate them within statements to substantiate that skill. ATS has become very sophisticated where they will overlook resumes that just have keywords listed on their own without adjoining words to the left and right, or incorporated in a full sentence. Also, steer clear of empty clichéd statements such as ‘excellent communication skills’ – ATS picks up on these useless phrases.

– Use standard typefaces; specifically, Sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Tahoma.

– Do not include any of the following: photos, graphics/images, tables, information in headers (not your name or corresponding contact details) and footers (although a page number is okay to include in the footer).

– Always spell out abbreviations such as acronyms in full first; for example, Master of Business Administration (MBA), records management system (RMS), Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). Unless the job ad or RD have them abbreviated, then it is fine in these instances to not list them in full.

– Do not use infographic resumes as all the content will be automatically screened out by ATS; infographic resumes cannot be screened and processed by ATS.

– When using a MAC (versus a PC) in developing your resume, ATS has problems with screening Microsoft Word documents created in this platform. I recommend you use a Windows OS to create resumes in Word.

– Apply for roles using Microsoft Word document as first choice; PDF is the second choice document; if you used a MAC to create your resume, then save and send in PDF, but I warn again, there is no guarantee that ATS will screen and accept the document.

Fortunately for my clients the resumes I prepare are eye catching and importantly are ATS-friendly throughout the entire document. I use and incorporate features to improve layout/format/presentation; features that are not overlooked by ATS! Importantly, I ensure keywords/phrases are incorporated intelligently through the resume, embedded in substantive concrete statements. I have consistent ongoing success in designing, developing and writing resumes for clients where their documents have passed the ATS screening process and are seen by a human face in the next stage.

I’m here to help market you!


Annie Cerone