Most job searchers are aware that there is some form of digital barrier preventing them from applying for the positions they see online. And they are aware that using keywords will help them get around it. However, many people aren’t aware of applicant tracking systems (ATS), the software that serves as a gatekeeper for businesses and recruiting agencies.

What is an applicant tracking system?

If you’re looking for work, you probably already know that there’s this awful automated evil man in the way of getting you your next fantastic position. And that awful computerized evil guy has a name: applicant tracking system, sometimes known as ATS or, occasionally, the dreaded black hole. The majority of individuals, however, do not fully comprehend what the ATS is, how it operates, or what must be done in order to pass this step of the procedure and go to human reviewers.

So, how are you going to set up a terrific approach that provides you an edge over the competition and grabs the attention of the individuals at the firm that you want to work at if you don’t even truly understand how this game works?

How does applicant tracking work?

It goes without saying that it’s crucial to be aware of the applicant tracking system’s existence. But you must also comprehend how this technology works. It goes without saying that your success percentage will be affected if you are unaware of your opponents.

So let’s talk about what the ATS is. Simply put, the applicant tracking system (ATS) is software that enables businesses to handle and monitor prospects effectively. It helps them adhere to labor rules and makes their employment procedure more uniform. What precisely occurs when you submit an online job application?

The application tracking system (ATS) usually imports all applicant files and parses your data into data fields. The best matches for each task will then be determined by scanning all of those data fields. You proceed if the system deems you to be a strong match. What therefore constitutes the most crucial elements in obtaining a high match score?

Keywords come in first. Make sure your resume prominently displays the most important buzzwords and keywords from the job description. Titles come in second. Therefore, the ATS will be searching for applicants with titles that are identical, similar, or obviously advanced.

So, assume you’re submitting an application to be a marketing manager. I would update your title on your CV to “marketing manager” as long as it is truthful to do so. That will improve your match score with the ATS and make it simpler for laypeople to grasp what you do.

The degree comes in third. I wouldn’t use the ATS or the online application procedure to apply for a job if it specifies that you need a bachelor’s degree yet you don’t have one. In other words, you won’t have a high match score. You may still apply for the position, but you’ll need to find another means to learn about the organization’s goals.

The fourth is resume structure. If you use a resume that is too unconventional in terms of format, fonts, pictures, and images, the applicant tracking system (ATS) won’t be able to read it.

What the ATS is looking for?


When determining whether the ATS will classify you as a strong match, keywords play a significant role. Heck, it’s a crucial factor in determining whether or not the humans will view you as a good match. You must do things correctly because of it. By including pertinent keywords in your resume, you’re increasing the likelihood that not only will the applicant tracking system (ATS) see you as a strong fit, but that a recruiter who is sifting through a mountain of applicant resumes will also see you as a strong fit and invite you in for an interview.

What other criteria does the applicant tracking system have that you should take into account? The first, is the position title. This one though may be a little challenging. Consider the scenario where you are applying for a position as a marketing manager, which is essentially the position you already have, but your firm refers to it as, a content manager. I would refer to you on that CV as marketing manager, or content manager/marketing manager if it’s honest to do so. By doing this, you’ll appear to be a better fit and make it simpler for the human reviewer to see how you relate.

Certificates and licenses come in second. If any of the required credentials are listed in the job description, you must include them on your resume. If the certification is denoted by an acronym, for example, if the job description refers to it as PMP and you are a project management professional, make sure you use PMP on your resume so that the scanning software can recognize the match.

Educational requirements are number three. If a job description specifies that a certain degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, is necessary for this position and you happen to have an associate’s degree, you won’t appear to be a great fit in that software’s eyes. While finding a way in at that company and applying directly will likely suit you best, that doesn’t imply you can’t apply for this position.


Although ATS technology has advanced significantly in recent years, several businesses continue to employ outdated systems, and it is still far from flawless. Given that, creating an ATS-formatted resume is something you should do for yourself. Why does this matter? Create something that removes all the bells, whistles, fancy formatting, images, graphics, and so on so that the ATS can correctly read and process your information when it is sent to that system.

Here are the three formatting tips we suggest for creating an ATS-friendly resume. Tables and columns are first. To put it simply, We’d exclude them, and here’s why. The ATS scans resume from top to bottom, left to right, thus if you have many columns set up or embedded tables, this may prevent the ATS from effectively reading and segmenting your information into the data files.

Now, if you want to include your important talents in a straightforward structure say, let’s two or three columns that would probably be good, but what I would steer clear of is formatting the entire resume in a format with several columns or something that employs tables.

Headers and footers are number two. This is particularly true of your contact details. We frequently include our contact information in a header at the very top of the CV, right? Well, you know this might be terrible when you consider how the ATS is processing your data. I would, therefore, put your information in standard copy instead.

Now you can enlarge it, make it bold, and center it on the page, but never embed it in a header. Section titles are the third thing to avoid doing. The easier you can make them, the better. This contrasts my overview, main competencies, and professional experience with who I am, what I know, and where I have worked.

Of course, there are times and places when you should be creative with your formatting, section headers, and overall setup, but what we would suggest is keeping a distinct version for when you can email it to contact directly or set it up on a website or portfolio page. Use your ATS-formatted resume whenever you’re doing an online application procedure to increase your chances of success.

Fonts, graphics, logos, and photos

It makes perfect sense that you would want to select a typeface for your resume that reflects your personality or your style. You can, to some extent, but the likelihood that you’ll be contacted for an interview will be significantly reduced if you select a typeface that the applicant tracking system cannot read. Therefore, this is absolutely not the time to use any of the three bespoke fonts Slim Joe, Fat Pet, or Porcupine Pickle. Serif or sans serif fonts must be chosen; they must be a common PC font. These days, serif fonts are the ones that contain a little flag or tail on each letter. These are typically linked to more responsible or conservative individuals.

If you intend to apply for any positions using an online application procedure and your resume contains any graphics, graphs, images, or logos, take them out. Or, even better, make a second resume that is devoid of all of those things. By this time, you should see that the applicant tracking system is not well-suited for all of these “flair pieces,” as we like to refer to them.

The best type of resume for the ATS

When you are comfortable with everything ATS, you can start writing or editing your resume. You need to determine right now what format you’ll utilize for your new resume. There are hence three fundamental resume styles.

The reverse-chronological format is ranked first. And this structure is something that starts with your most recent or present employment. Then go all the way back to the role you’re selecting to list on your resume as your oldest or earliest. Then you give specifics on each task along the route.

A functional resume is the second option. And what this does is compile a long list of your most significant achievements and talents at the front of your resume. And towards the end, just briefly discusses the jobs.

The third is referred to as a hybrid resume. And this combines a little bit of the two. Therefore, you will highlight certain important abilities and experiences in a hybrid resume. Because the first section of your CV is truly prime real estate.

The approach then changes to what we’ll refer to as reverse chronological, where you tell them what you did when, and where during your career. Which format therefore should you employ?

We would suggest the hybrid format for both the ATS and the human reviewer. And here is why. Again, it makes it simple for the human reviewer to immediately notice the aspects of you as a professional that you believe they would be interested in or search for.

Regarding the ATS, it can easily read and scan such format style. Right now, you may utilize a reverse chronological format as well. And the ATS will certainly benefit greatly from it. The issue with that is that you could be underselling yourself to the human reviewers by failing to take advantage of the chance to introduce yourself and explain why they should take you seriously upfront.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t advise using a functional resume since the applicant tracking system (ATS) won’t be able to understand your information. Additionally, functional resumes are not something recruiters want to see. They still want to know what you did when, where, and why.