How To Optimize Your Resume For Applicant Tracking Systems

Kumar Gauraw

A few of my good friends are in the recruitment business and we have discussions about the job market whenever we get together. Recently, in a discussion about the job market, one of my recruiter friends told me a few interesting things about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which is currently dominating the recruitment industry.

Job Seeker - Getting Selected And Beging Congratulated After A Successful Job Interview

I had not known about this concept before. But after I got some insights from my friend, I did some more research on this topic and decided to share my knowledge with you. May be this information will help you (and your friends) in leveraging the power of Applicant Tracking Systems in landing jobs faster.

What Is Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Wikipedia defines Applicant Tracking System as:

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. An ATS can be implemented on an enterprise or small business level, depending on the needs of the company. An ATS is very similar to customer relationship management systems, but are designed for recruitment tracking purposes.

ATS is widely used across industries today in the recruitment process. In this digital age, it also makes complete sense for enterprises to use digital job postings, digital job applications and automated screening to save time. An applicant tracking software is designed to do exactly that job. It helps recruiters and hiring managers to be more effective and more efficient in hiring the right candidates.

How Recruiters Use Applicant Tracking Systems

More and more recruiters are using ATS, for it makes their lives so much easier in a number of ways. How about its capabilities to leverage the power of social media? Applicant tracking using ATS allows companies to more effectively manage applicant’s data and streamline the selection process through automation. It is just makes the whole recruitment process more effective.

ATS allows hiring managers as well to get direct access to the applicants’ resumés and cover letters for faster review of qualifications and screening of candidates.

A typical ATS usually contains database fields for the applicant’s name, contact information, work experience, job titles, education, employer names, and periods of employment. For each job opening in the company, the recruiter or the hiring manager searches these data fields for the keywords or phrases associated with the position by entering specific keywords.

Based on the match detected by the Applicant Tracking Systems, candidates are selected for the interview or the hiring process begins. It also means that if a candidate’s resumé is not keyword optimized according to the job requirements, even though they may be very suitable, their resumé may not be picked up by the ATS.

What You Should Know About Applicant Tracking Systems

Having an online business, I know how important keywords are when it comes to optimizing my content for search engines. It is very fascinating to know that job seekers also need to pay attention to keyword optimization within their resumés while applying for a job to really leverage the power of Applicant Tracking Systems in their favor.

ATS is a system which ranks resumés based on their keyword density and phrase density. It also allows recruiters and hiring managers to search among candidates from ATS database based on keywords/phrases to identify the most eligible candidates for the position. They do not necessarily see your complete resumé until you are called for an interview. They may only see a report of your skills and experiences based on the search results for screening.

So, if your resumé is not optimized for the position in question, you will not rank well and chances are, you may not be selected for an interview.

So, how do you make sure your resumé is picked up and ranked well for the position you are applying?

Here are some important steps you need to take as a job seeker when you are applying for an open position for optimal results in ATS:

1. Keyword Optimize Your Resumé Based On Job Requirements

It means you need to read the job requirements posted a couple of times to understand what the prospective employer is looking for. If you think your skills and work experience meet the job requirements, tailor your resumé to the specific job requirements referenced in the posting.

Your resumé should be keyword optimized well enough to emphasize your relevant experience and skills in the areas that are critical to that position. Do not submit a generic resumé because that may not even get you picked up by the Applicant Tracking System.

Your resumé should be tailored according to the keywords and phrases used in job requirements frequently in the important sections so ATS will pick up your resumé when it does the screening on your profile for ranking applicants.

2. Provide Your LinkedIn Profile Link Along With Resum

Along with your resumé, it’s important that you also provide the URL of your LinkedIn profile so recruiters can get more information about you from your LinkedIn if you get selected as a good candidate for the position for which you are applying.

That also means you need to have a good LinkedIn profile with your work experience, endorsements and other relevant information about your professional life. Believe me or not, LinkedIn plays an important role in your job search.

3. Always Submit Your Detailed Resum In Word Format

Some Applicant Tracking Systems are not very good at reading PDF documents correctly. Therefore, why take chances? You will be better off having a Word format resumé which is easy to read and interpreted by most systems.

Go ahead and create a well keyword optimized, detailed resumé with as many details as possible about your skills, work experiences, certifications and any other additional information that may help you land that job. Create it in a Word document format and submit. ATS will scan your entire resumé and prepare its database for search. So, the more details you have, the better chances you’ve got.

4. Avoid Using Graphical Components In Your Resum

Just like any search engines, Applicant Tracking Systems can’t read graphical elements. You don’t want to use tables, pictures or special effects in your resumé because it may confuse the applicant tracking software.

Applicant tracking is a process where a software does the job and so, you want to feed it the right stuff so it can produce the results you want. The more text based resumé you submit, the better chances you have to be ranked well by the ATS.

5. Follow The Standard Resum

This is another area you want to be careful when dealing with Applicant Tracking systems. It so happens that some of us refer to our work experience as “Professional Experience” or something along those lines.

Unfortunately, applicant tracking software might completely skip that section because it didn’t understand what you meant. Most applicant tracking systems understand work experience as “work experience”. So, you want to call it your “work experience” only and not something else if you want make sure that every ATS does take this section under consideration.

Along the same lines, it’s important to ensure that your resumé follows the standard format of laying out the details. For example, your work experience should begin with your employer’s name followed by your job title and then dates. The order shouldn’t be reversed because it may confuse the ATS. You want to keep it simple.


An application tracking software is not only helpful for recruiters and hiring managers but also a powerful tool job seekers can leverage to land jobs much faster (if they are qualified.) However, it all begins with correctly formatting and keyword optimizing your resumé according to the job requirements.

You need to understand that application tracking system is just software. You need to feed it with the right kind of information through your resumé so it can help you get in front of the interviewer. Many people have found success with these techniques and I hope you (or someone you know who is looking for a job) will benefit from this information as well.


What role do you think (or you have experienced) LinkedIn plays in the recruitment process? How much importance would you like to give to your LinkedIn profile as a job seeker?

Please share your thoughts (and if you have any questions) in the comment section. You can click here to go to comments. Thank you kindly!

Kumar Gauraw

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Kumar Gauraw is a Personal Branding & Social Media strategist helping entrepreneurs and skilled professionals achieve personal and professional success by developing leadership and leveraging the power of the Internet, Blogging and Social Media.

12 Awesome Thoughts So Far, Add Yours Now...

  1. Hi Kumar !
    I do agree with you that companies use software to filter resumes as per the eligibility and requirements.Powerful software will automatically read the doc,docx or a pdf file and match the keyword from the software’s requirement database . If there is a relevant match then a resume gets selected .Hence, job applicants should make use of right keywords .Thanks for sharing the information .


  2. An awesome article Mr.Kumar. Well descriptive information and some fantastic information.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • You are welcome Atit. Glad to see you around!

  3. Great post Mr. Gaurav. People like me are totally unaware of this ATS. I sure this will be helpful in creating my resume and finding me good job. avoiding table in the resume doesnt fit it. Because table will provide them in understanding all the details of us in a simple manner. Pictures and other graphics must be omitted thats correct. But not to put the table doesnt digest. Please explain.

    • Hello Jack,

      All the best to you in your job hunt. I am glad this post added value to your knowledge. And yes, being prepared to deal with ATS is a great idea. Let me know how it goes for you 🙂



  4. I didn’t know such thing as ATS exist. Thanks, Kumar for sharing the info 😉

  5. It’s pretty cool that businesses can employ these kinds of programs to do some of the heavy lifting concerning applications and new hires. With the way the economy is right now, the trend is that many people apply for hundreds of jobs a month, many of which they aren’t qualified for. These ATS’s can help companies sift through the hundreds of applications they have and lower the number actual HR representatives have to read. Thanks for sharing!

  6. It is a nice idea to apply for a job. The software will automatically read the doc. and match the keyword from their requirements. All the job applicants will be beneficial from that.

  7. That was very helpful post mostly for applicants on how they can manage their resume. ATS is used by number of companies and I have seen companies have their own Applicant tracking systems now. Making an intelligent recuritment system can save lot of hurdles and money of companies in finding perfect persons for available slots.

  8. Understanding how applicant tracking systems work can be beneficial to candidates as they are then able to stack the odds in their favour. Use this information to your advantage to provide yourself with a competitive edge!

  9. Very nicely summed up, specially i want to add something about the point 4 – “Avoid Using Graphical Components In Your Resume”. Recently read a stat which states 88% rejection rate when you include a photo on your resume, weird but yes, it could happen!

Please Note: My goal is to host interesting conversations with caring, honest, and respectful people. Therefore, I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.