How to Optimize Your Resumé for ATS Algorithms

How to Optimize Your Resumé for ATS Algorithms

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Many recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen resumés before scanning them manually. If you were rejected from a job, your resumé probably didn’t pass the ATS algorithm. However, you can optimize your resumé for ATS algorithms by focusing on some key areas.

You can make your resumé suitable for ATS algorithms by optimizing its searchability, tailoring it to the job description, and keeping it brief and concise. To do this, you must include keywords and skills matching the job description and properly format your resumé.

Most recruiters only see the resumés that pass the ATS algorithm. Thus, I’ve made this detailed guide on optimizing your resumé for ATS algorithms so that you can get your resumé in front of the recruiters.

Recommendation: Find Jobs on Salarship.

1. Optimize the Searchability of your Resumé

The simplest way to avoid standardized rejection emails is to make your resumé more searchable. This process includes organizing your information to make it easy for the ATS to scan through your resumé.

An Applicant Tracking System essentially organizes data from the resumés of potential job seekers and approves or rejects applicants based on the hiring manager’s inputs. It culls applicants while recommending the top fits.

Thus, you stand a higher chance of selection if you make your resumé more searchable. Here are the areas to focus on to make your resumé searchable.

1.1. Provide Correct and Up-to-Date Contact Information

Recruiters always look for an applicant’s contact information. However, it can be tedious to search for that information manually, so recruiters leave it to the ATS algorithm. Thus, resumés without contact information are often automatically rejected.

You should ensure that your contact information is within the body of the resumé to pass the preliminary screening. A detailed contact information section in your resumé makes it easier for prospective employers to get a hold of you.

As a rule of thumb, always provide up-to-date contact information in your resumé. The information you should always put in your resumé includes the following.

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Physical address

You may also include your LinkedIn profile or provide a working link to a portfolio website if you have one.

One common mistake many people make is placing their contact information in the header. ATS systems assess the body of your resumé in sections. Thus, they scan your education, professional experience, skills, etc., one by one.

Therefore, you should ensure that your contact information falls within the body of the resumé. An ATS algorithm cannot read content placed in the header or footer. Thus, the algorithm misses any information placed in these sections.

1.2. Use a Readable File Type and Format

Sometimes, ATS algorithms reject your resumé because of the file type. Most ATS algorithms are text readers, which means they can’t read images or colors. Thus, they automatically reject resumés that use unique formatting, images, or many colors and fonts.

To format a resumé for ATS, use a single font type and color and neatly divide each section with subheadings. Don’t use the following items in your resumé.

  • Images
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Background Colors

There are many different file types that you can use to save your resumé. In most cases, the file type will depend on the word-processing application you use.

According to Ivy Exec, the ideal file type for your resumé is a .docx file extension. PDFs often appear as one big image in the ATS algorithm, and other file types are completely unreadable.

Do not forget to avoid common filename errors when saving your documents. Michigan Tech provides key tips to keep in mind when saving your document, which are as follows.

  • Do not include any spaces when saving your file.
  • Do not include illegal filename characters such as “&,” ‘#,” “%,” etc., in your file name.
  • Keep your filename simple, readable, and concise, ideally under 31 characters.
  • Save your resumé with your first and last name and avoid unprofessional file names.

Your resumé’s file name should be in the format “First Name + Last Name + Job Title + Resume.”

For example, if your name is Jane Doe and you apply for the position of Senior Engineer, your resumé should be named “Jane Doe Senior Engineer Resumé.”

1.3. Use the Correct Date Formatting

How you format the dates in your resumé also impacts searchability. It’s critical to include dates for your work experience. Otherwise, you risk the ATS system assigning a generic date.

In most cases, the bots in these ATS algorithms will calculate your work experience based on the data provided. This information should be consistent with the minimum experience required for the job you are applying for.

There are several ATS-friendly ways to format the dates in your work experience section. The most common way to format the dates is MM/YYYY.  For example, the 21st of March 2050 becomes 03/2050. 

Another ATS-friendly way to correctly format the dates is to use Month YYYY. For instance, the example above would be 03/25 or March 2025. The most vital aspect is to ensure that all the dates in your resumé follow a predictable and consistent format.

The Career Management Center at Mays Business School also strongly recommends not using the year alone. When you only include a year without an accompanying month, most ATS systems automatically assign a start date of the first of January.

2. Establish Relevance Between Your Resumé and the Job Description

Organizations receive several resumés from potential job applicants. It’s important to remember that your resumé will have to go through the ATS system before it reaches the hands of a human being.

The bad news is that ATS systems typically reject 70% of the submitted resumés, even before they reach the hands of a human recruiter. One of the main criteria used to reject these resumés is when the information provided in the resumé is not relevant to the job description.

Below are some useful tips to show the relevance between your resumé and the job description.

2.1. Include the Job Title in Your Resumé

While it sounds simple, you can optimize your resumé for ATS algorithms simply by including the job title of the application in your resumé.

According to career resources provided by Workable Technology Limited, including the exact job title and the company’s name in the resumé could push your resumé through the ATS algorithm.

According to the above source, the career objective section, the summary section, and the cover letter are all excellent places you can include this information to optimize your resumé for ATS.

Recruiters input certain keywords in the ATS database to find appropriate candidates. In most instances, the hiring manager will type the job title or relevant skills into the database. The ATS system will then retrieve information about the profiles containing those keywords.

For example, a hiring manager looking for a customer service representative will either type in the job title or related skills, such as time management or customer service.

Including the job title as a keyword in your resumé gives you an edge over the other applicants.

2.2. Make Sure Your Education Matches the Job Requirements

Most job descriptions include information about the required skills, experience, and academic qualifications needed. Some organizations will ask for a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or other certifications.

You can optimize your resumé for ATS algorithms by including all certifications, degrees, and other relevant professional courses, qualifications, and licenses related to the job description.

This section is a great place to include any extra certifications or courses you have completed, as many recruiters ask about additional qualifications during the interview.

This way, if the job description includes a specific educational achievement that you have included in your resumé, you have a much higher likelihood of being selected. Additionally, you will pass the education keyword criteria when the ATS robots screen your resumé.

2.3. Include Keywords Related to Hard Skills

The ATS algorithm places a lot of emphasis on hard skills keywords. According to Workable Technology Limited, using the right keywords will likely get you past the ATS bots.

This source also notes that these keywords increase the likelihood that recruiters will take your resumé seriously.

Hard skills are quantifiable and objective skills you have gained from your work experience, training, or school. Simply put, these are skills that you can teach and learn.

Like in the case of education and relevant professional experience, you can easily determine the hard skills required for the job.

In most cases, recruiters will highlight this information in the job description.

You should thus establish the relevant skills needed for a given role and add them to your resumé. Examples of hard skills include:

  • Statistics
  • Project management
  • Data analysis
  • Design 

The job description will usually include the hard skills the recruiter is looking for.

You can optimize the chances of getting past the ATS algorithms by including the skills outlined in the job description in your resumé. Essentially, you should mirror the language recruiters use in the job description. 

However, avoid stuffing your resumé with keywords. Using too many keywords can make your resumé look sloppy and unprofessional.

2.4. Include Keywords Related to Soft Skills

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are interpersonal skills and character traits that affect how you work with people. Like hard skills, soft skills are also usually included in the job description. These include good interpersonal communication, willingness to learn, etc.

Including the soft skills highlighted in the job description will increase your chances of passing the ATS algorithm.

3. Other Tips

While the above guidelines highlight the best approaches to optimize your resumé for ATS bots, there are other worthy considerations. While these may not necessarily improve your resumé rating, they will help prevent it from being negatively graded.

3.1. Avoid Negative Words or Cliches

A resumé is a formal and professional document submitted by a job seeker to a potential employer. Accordingly, your resumé should reflect a high level of professionalism. 

Therefore, you should avoid using cliches, casual language, or slang. According to Business Insider, hiring managers are not keen on seeing cliche terms like “hard worker,” “ambitious,” and “team player.”

Therefore, overloading your resumé with fluff, buzzwords, and clichés will likely work against you.

3.2. Keep Your Resumé Brief and Concise

One common mistake potential job seekers make is assuming a resumé is the same as a curriculum vitae.

A resumé provides a concise summary of your skills and qualifications relative to the job description. In contrast, a CV is more detailed and provides a more comprehensive history of your academic credentials and work history.

Therefore, while the length may not be a problem when writing a CV, your resumé should ideally be between one and two pages long. Generally, keep your resumé under 1,000 words unless you apply to an executive or government position.

Conclusion

With more companies adopting technology, ATS algorithms play a critical role in screening and culling resumés deemed unsuitable for the job. These algorithms look for relevant keywords, skills, educational qualifications, and brevity.

Many applicants get rejected because their resumés don’t pass the ATS screening. However, by adopting the tips highlighted in this article, you can beat the ATS algorithm and increase your chances of landing your dream job.

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About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a mathematician who cares about the job market.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job search engine where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.