More ATS guidelines

I am sorry I haven’t kept my blog up for a number of months. It’s been a busy year, but that is no excuse. I am going to wrap up this year with a few articles and start fresh next year!

So, since understanding application tracking systems (ATS) is so important, I thought I would tell you a few more easy tips to make sure your resume can be read properly when you submit online. And, for those of you that are planning to work with recruiters, even though you typically email your resume directly to them initially, ultimately they will scan your resume into their system. So make sure you send your nicely formatted presentation copy as well as your ATS ready version.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, you can now use Word files rather than plain, ugly text files. When I actually create the ATS-ready version, I play it safe, meaning that some of the more sophisticated ATS systems won’t necessarily need me to do those things, but those that aren’t so sophisticated will … otherwise it may not be read properly or at all. You never know what ATS system is being used when you submit your resume for a position or how current or sophisticated it is, so play it safe. These tips are minor things and don’t take much time, so it is well worth it.

Here they are:

1. Take out page borders and tables. You won’t want to lose the information you have in the tables so figure out a way to show that information without the tables. For example, if you have 8 or 10 core skills listed in a table and you have to remove the table, you can do this instead with the core skills:

sales growth  –  client relations –  territory management  – prospecting                                                                                                                                                                                                     lead development – product education – demonstrations … and so on.

If they fit on 2 lines great, if you need a 3rd line that is OK too.


2. Use simple headers.  When the ATS system searches resumes received for a particular job opening, they look for particular headers. For example:

  • If you are going to include your core competencies, like I showed above, use a header called “Skills”  — Don’t use Core Competencies or Areas of Expertise etc.
  • Use the header “Education.” Don’t put “Academic Background” or something creative.
  • Use “Summary” or “Profile” for the top section of the resume where you write a paragraph summarizing your value to an employer. Don’t use “Summary of Qualifications” or anything else.
  • For your experience section, call it “Experience” or “Work Experience” or “Professional Experience”  Do not use “Career Highlights” or anything else creative.

3. Put company name first and the position title directly BELOW it. Do not put anything in between these two. (sometimes people put a short company description below the company name and then put their position title right below. DO NOT DO THIS for the ATS-ready resume version. This is what you want:

Ace Resume                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       RESUME WRITER

Do not do this:

Ace Resume                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Professional resume writing service, serving clients nationwide for the last 15+ years.                                                                                                                                                                                                       RESUME WRITER

4. If you have held more than one position at a particular company, you need to include the company name above each position within the company you detail.  It’s formatted as if each position was with a different company. I dislike having to do this for a number of reasons, but I still do it so that the system will read the content for each position at that company. If you are NOT going to go into detail on all the positions within the company, instead of doing what I just mentioned, just include a bullet that says: “Earlier positions held within the company include: <position title>, <position title>, and <position title> (you can include the dates for each position as well if it is within the last 10 years or so.

5. Spacing is important. The computer likes consistency in spacing. You should have more spacing in between sections so the computer knows when the section begins and when it ends. You should have less spacing between bullets within a position than you do between sections, so the computer knows that the bullets all belong under a particular position. If you have too much spacing or inconsistent spacing between bullets, the computer could get confused and miss out on reading some of your content.

That’s it for now. I know this can be confusing but you can read articles on ATS systems to get more up-to-date. Just make sure the articles you read are from the last year or so, or it may be old information.








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