You are currently viewing You are being rejected by a robot – deal with applicant tracking systems (ATS)

You are being rejected by a robot – deal with applicant tracking systems (ATS)

In this article we will tell you how to adapt your resume to make the perfect applicant tracking system resume. We’ll talk about applicant tracking system keywords, applicant tracking system layout and about how to recognise when to adapt your resume for ATS.


The bitter truth about ATS

Have you received yet another email with the same discouraging words? “Dear applicant, we regret to inform you that we will not move further with your application”? If you recognise these words and you immediately feel frustrated when reading them, you can be sure that you are not alone. You would be surprised to learn that even students enrolled in the best business schools, like The London Business School, St. Gallen and HEC Paris, get these kinds of emails kind regularly. It gets even worse when you learn that about 75% of these emails are sent your way without a human being having ever read your resume or your motivation letter.

It’s not getting any better

Applicant tracking systems, or ATS, are becoming more and more popular among big companies. Over 90% of the 500 largest companies out there, are currently using applicant tracking systems nowadays. In this article we will tell you the following things:

  1. How to build the perfect applicant tracking resume
  2. How to recognise an applicant tracking system – when are you up against a robot?

Making the perfect applicant tracking system resume

  1. Match the job description through keywords. It’s almost like trying to rank a website on Google Search. It’s not easy but the way to do it is to make sure that your content or web page contains the keywords that the users look for. So where do you find these keywords? Easy. Go and copy the job description or the program requirements. Here, you can usually highlight up to 25 relevant keywords like “market analysis”, “P&L management” and “revenue uplift”. Make sure these keywords are literally copied to your bullet point descriptions of your previous experience. There is no reason to use a synonym when you know the computer only searches for the exact applicant tracking system keywords. At this point I’d like to remind you that you should always do this. Even if you are not trying to beat an applicant tracking system! A recruiter spends less then one minute reading your resume. They are also looking for the keywords they have in mind. But in the case of ATS, it becomes a matter of hired or rejected for sure.
  2. Adapt the layout of your CV or resume: It’s safe to say that an applicant tracking system does not like layout and fancy stuff.
    1. You would be best to remove tables, headers and footers immediately. To apply some structure you use tabs instead. Even the bullet point description should no longer have real bullets. Just jump to the next line to describe your next achievement or key result.
    2. Watch out with fonts and colours too. Keep it simple. Go for Times New Roman or Arial.  
    3. When saving the document to a specific file type, we recommend either a .PDF file or a simple .docx. Depending on the ATS software you have other options but why take the risk, right?

      We have a good template or example of a resume (CV) that is adapted to applicant tracking systems: resume template for ATS. You immediately see how this does not make for a great read for a recruiter. But remember, the software parses through the document and re-arranges the words into a database. No human recruiter or hiring manager will have to read this exact document.

  3. Be the role you are applying for: There is one funny way in which you can fool the applicant tracking system. If you are applying for a role with a specific title, like Account Manager for example, then it’s a very good idea to put this role title right on top of your CV. Do something like this: Tyler Durden – Account Manager. The applicant tracking system will take this as an indication that you have already had the exact same title in a previous role. This is not necessarily true, but at this point we are just trying to get your CV onto the pile that will actually be read by human beings.
  4. Use the right titles in the correct order: The applicant tracking system is looking for your previous job titles. Make sure these titles are formally accepted. Don’t call yourself a Software Sales Road Warrior. The ATS system does not understand your wit. Write Software Sales Representative in stead.

    When listing an experience or a degree, the order in which you do so is crucial. Imagine a young professional that has done an internship with UBS. The ATS system wants to see that as: UBS – Data Analyst. If you would turn those two around, the system is less likely to recognise this as a valid professional experience. For degrees you’ve obtained in schools, the rule is the following: write the name of the school and then mention the degree. Write down The London School of Economics – Master in Geopolitics, and not the other way around.  

How to recognise applicant tracking systems?

  1. When the URL of the job listing changes at the moment you are asked to upload a resume, and If in the new URL you detect a name of an external company, you can verify that this is an applicant tracking system-software company.
  2. When you have the option to populate text boxes instead of uploading your CV.
    If they give you this alternative, it means they work towards a database of applicants. Should you still decide to upload a CV, then make sure it’s in an ATS-proof layout.
  3. When you are dealing with a Fortune 500- company. According to statistics by Jobscan, 98% of these companies use an ATS software.

Ready to take this into practice?

If you want to be sure not to make a mistake when writing a resume, an applicant tracking system resume and when to write which one, have a look at our video course on how to write a professional resume. Download our online resume template and work along with our instructions.

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