ATS Resume Readability Tips

We’ve told you before that hiring managers spend an average of 6 seconds scanning your resume, but that’s only if your resume passes the initial screening of an applicant tracking systems or ATS. A IBM executive who is an expert on these systems estimated that 90% of large companies use an ATS, saying it would “be very rare to find a Fortune 500 company without one.”

In today’s world, your resume has to stand out – to humans and robots alike. Here are some tips to help your resume get past the ATS and into the hands of a hiring manager.

Focus on Keyword Quality, Not Quantity
ATS do search for relevant keywords, but they also scan for keyword stuffing. For example, if you are applying for a marketing manager position, writing ‘Managed marketing as Marketing Manager for marketing firm Ace Marketing Management’ would likely be filtered out as an over-stuffed resume. A good way to gauge just how often you should use a certain keyword, is to see how many times it is used in the job posting and stay close to that number.

When it comes to formatting, K.I.S.S your resume, that is – Keep It Simple Silly! An ATS takes your resume and parses it, turning it into a text format so it can easily be searched. When there is lots of logos, pictures etc. it makes it more difficult for the ATS to simplify. As well, stick to standard fonts like Arial and Times New Roman. The ATS cannot read fancy or customized fonts.

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!
As we always say – never rely on spellcheck. An ATS is searching for specific words and does not account for any spelling mistakes. Even one error can cause the ATS to trash your resume so make sure you double, triple, quadruple check your spelling!

Stick to Standard Titles
You may think ‘Professional Experience’ sounds better, but it’s best to stick to the basics when it comes to section titles. Use ‘Work Experience’ instead of ‘Professional Experience’ or ‘Professional Profile’.

No Headers or Footers
It can be hard to fit everything you want to in a 1-2 page resume, but do not resort to using header or footer space, not even for your contact information. ATS often just look at the page content and ignore headers and footers.

No Lines, No Tables
Avoid breaking up your resume using tables (even if they have invisible borders) and lines that stretch across the page. Some ATS will view these as stops and are unable to scan the entire resume past the line or table.

Remember Your Personality
Yes, the ATS is a robot – but the hope is your resume eventually makes its way to human hands. You want to ensure to balance your resume but making it legible and easy to read for ATS, but not making it so tailored that it feels cold.

Start building your resume that passes the ATS and human test today >