Is Your Resume Ready for the Robots?

by Tyler D. | 5 min read

The proliferation of technology in different areas of business has provided companies with certain valuable tools. Recruitment is one part of running an organization that can be challenging for managers. Given the high number of applications that HR departments have to deal with, it becomes necessary to find a management strategy. It is because of this need that applicant tracking systems have become so popular. As a job seeker, when you come across a company website or job board that uses ATS, you have to find ways to structure your résumé accordingly. The system tracks résumés mechanically, so you don’t have the same advantages as when writing for a real person. Learning how résumé tracking systems work gives you an idea of what your résumé needs.

Understanding Applicant Tracking Tools

An applicant tracking system is designed to manage the recruitment process automatically. Think of this software as a résumé database. When candidates send in their résumés, their information is logged into the system and is transferred from one component to another as the hiring process progresses. Once your details are in the system, recruiters will look for certain priority keywords when evaluating résumés. Enterprises are investing more in this tracking software to simplify the recruitment process. Picking two or three people from a thousand to fill vacant positions in a company requires tact. Managers want to ensure that they get the right people to avoid wasting money on unsuitable hires.

How to Optimize your Résumé

Recruiters can customize applicant tracking software to rank résumés in a specific order; in most cases, by qualifications. For example, a hiring manager can command the system to only track résumés with the term “Product Management.” It means that the software can identify even old résumés that are on file. You may have sent your résumé six months ago then suddenly a hiring manager calls you. Optimizing résumés for applicant monitoring systems is what makes this possible. So how do you do it?


The content of your résumé has never been as important as when writing for an applicant tracking system. Before you start assembling your qualifications and achievements, get a list of all the critical terms regarding the job you are applying for. The system will flag these terms because they are used to match applicants with job positions. Look at a job description and note the keywords included in the text. Manually matching the keywords on your résumé to those on the job description can be tedious, but a résumé optimizing tool can help you avoid errors.

Be careful of the spelling of titles and positions. For some managers, “Program Manager” and “Project Manager” mean the same thing while to others, they are completely different. Also, don’t cram your résumé with too many keywords. Just because the word Oncology appears ten times in your résumé doesn’t mean that it will jump the line in the database. In fact, it may go to the back burner altogether.

Avoid Spelling Mistakes

Poor spelling can disqualify you in seconds, whether you are dealing with a tracking system or a human. However, a human recruiter may pass over one or two misspelled words but not the robot monitoring software. Ensure that your résumé doesn’t have careless spelling errors. A misspelled keyword means that it will be hard to find when the recruiter runs a search for it. Go through your résumé several times before submitting and use a proofreader just to be sure.

The Format

If you want an applicant tracking software to parse your résumé correctly, stick to a particular format when writing it. You want to ensure that the information in your résumé is not just to pad up your application. Put the title of the position you are applying for next to your name. Don’t get fancy with your heading; use the regular ones like work experience, skills, and education. When noting down your employment history, make sure to list each one in the same order, and that is company name (include Inc., Corp., or LLC if necessary for proper identification), then the title(s), city, state, and date.

For the system to go through your résumé without wasting time, don’t insert graphics and images. The point is to keep it as simple as possible. Some candidates assume that the more unique a resume is, the higher its chances of attracting attention. It may be true for human recruiters, but this is software. Keep the creativity at a minimum by removing fancy bullets or special font. Underlining words can make lower case letters such as f, y, and g hard to identify, which will interfere with the parsing. Your contact details should be part of the body, so don’t place them in the header or footer because some tracking systems can’t read header/footer information. Boxes and tables are not advisable because they will interfere with parsing, so avoid using Word Templates.

Tailor Your Résumé

Each of your résumés should be different, depending on the job vacancy and skills required. Recruiters use varying wordings when placing vacancies on job boards or websites. It means that your résumé should factor in all the unique elements of each job placement. Even when you already have a résumé that is perfect for a new job advertisement, try to rewrite it to fit the wording on that particular site. There are tools online that can help when trying to put together an ideal ATS résumé.

Remember the Humans

Don't focus to much on getting your resume ready for the applicant tracking software. Remember that your resume will eventually end up in the hands of a human. You want to make sure that after it gets through the system, a recruiter will be impressed when he/she looks at it. Humanize your résumé as much as possible by using a language that appeals to the person reviewing it.

Résumé monitoring systems have grown in demand as enterprises deal with high numbers of job applications. Job-hunting is hard enough without having to worry about your résumé passing through an electronic tracking tool. Knowing how the systems operate and what they look for in résumés gives you an edge. Invest time in creating a résumé that adheres to the basic rules of tracking software so that you can boost the chances of your name making it to a recruiter’s desk.