Job Seeking? How to Get Your Resume Viewed by Ruthless Resume Bots (ATS)

Waiting to hear back after submitting a job application isn’t a pleasant feeling. What’s even less pleasant is the feeling that your resume got overlooked. And you don’t know why because you’re ideally suited for the position.

Why was my resume rejected?

Something as simple as using a certain font or margin size can eliminate you from the lucky pool of final candidates. For every 300 candidates, only 4 – 7 professionals will make the final cut. The odds are stacked against you unless you get smart about ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software. The good news? There are several techniques you can apply to your resume to appeal to these ruthless resume bots.

Match the keywords in the job description, exactly.

Use the exact phrasing provided in the job description. Here’s a simple example:

  1. ‘Lead a cross-functional team managing process improvement’ is on your resume.
  2. ‘Collaborating with a cross-function team’ is contained within the job description.

Solution? Modify your resume by deleting lead and inserting collaborating in a natural way.

Your resume must use the keywords not once but match the number of instances each keyword appears in the job description. Daunting? Nope, just tedious for the time it takes to tweak.

Keywords are the key when it comes to beating the resume bots. An easy way to include more keywords naturally is to add a “Core Competencies” section that lists your hard and soft skills. Then, you can include these keywords more throughout your work experience and education sections.

Avoid use of headers, footers, tables, charts, graphic images.

Machine learning bots are scanning for words. Anything beyond numbers, words (consonants or vowels) or bullet points (use the generic black dot) is unknown by ATS. It is a mistake to use ampersand (&) to reduce word count; this character will NOT be recognized by ATS. An ATS usually cannot read images, charts, and graphics when scanning a resume. Acronyms aren’t recognized either in most instances. Better to spell out any and all acronyms, followed by the well-known acronym in parentheses. For example, list education as Master in Public Health (MPH) in your education section or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).

The impact of ATS

It’s critical for you to tailor your ATS resume to the job description and hone in on the most important resume keywords. One way to do this is by analyzing the job description for key skills and phrases that are emphasized or repeated. Tedious, I know, but essential.

Although there are 400 ATS available, there are approximately the top 20 used by 90%+ employers. Taleo, with a whopping 30% share, parses the text from your resume / application and then compares it to the job description. Recruiters can filter out applicants that don’t score above a certain threshold, normally set at 80% matching.

Taleo will pose knockout questions which are commonly incorporated into online job applications. They are typically pass/fail and allow recruiters to automatically screen out applicants who don’t meet basic requirements. For example: “Are you willing to work weekends?”

Give LinkedIn some love, too

A well updated LinkedIn profile includes your headline, summary, professional experience, recommendations, skills, volunteer experience, and other sections that are applicable. It’s also a good idea to personalize your LinkedIn URL for personal branding purposes.

Want more about ATS?

Message me for your copy of my proprietary ATS Revealed.


  1. A master resume sent to all job vacancies will rarely, probably never get past the ATS filters because the keywords will not precisely match.
  2. Be selective when applying to your positions. Be sure that you are qualified when seeking advancement from Manager to Director because if your resume doesn’t match the job description title, your resume is heading to the junk pile.
  3. Keep your design simple and your formatting straightforward. This will help the ATS system focus in on what’s important—your skills and experience.

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