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Job Resume: How to Pass ATS and Stand Out to Hiring Managers

career mastery roadmap job search Jun 22, 2023
Be Brilliant sign, photo byTimothy Paule II


Creating a lasting first impression is critical in today's competitive job market. Hiring managers are inundated with hundreds of resumes daily, making it essential to ensure that your resume stands out from the crowd. However, before your resume even reaches the hands of a hiring manager, it must first pass through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening. Be aware that your chances of getting an interview by applying through ATS may be as low as a 1-3% chance. A better option is to network to meet the hiring manager and bypass ATS altogether.


What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS): 

The ATS software scans resume for keywords and phrases that match the job description and qualifications, which helps automate the screening process for recruiters and hiring managers. Shockingly, around 75% of resumes are rejected before being seen by a recruiter in larger businesses.


To pass the ATS screening, it's crucial to tailor your resume to the job description and optimize it for the ATS software. In this article, we'll offer tips and tricks to help you optimize your resume and pass the ATS screening, ultimately increasing your chances of landing an interview and securing your dream job. From formatting to content, we'll cover everything you need to know to make your resume stand out to hiring managers.


The ATS system is critical in identifying keywords and phrases that match the job requirements and qualifications. Thus, it is essential to tailor your resume to the job description to pass the ATS screening. Failure to include the necessary keywords may cause your resume to be rejected during the initial screening process, and you may miss out on the opportunity to land an interview.


Furthermore, the ATS system helps recruiters and hiring managers organize resumes and applications, making it easier to manage and shortlist candidates. Therefore, optimizing your resume is crucial to improve your chances of landing an interview and securing your dream job. 


Common ATS Screening Criteria

To optimize your resume for ATS screening, it's essential to understand the criteria used by the software. Here are some of the most common standards used by ATS systems:

  • Education and Experience: The ATS system scans resumes for keywords related to education and experience. It looks for specific degrees, certifications, and years of experience.

  • Skills: The software scans resumes for keywords related to specific skills required for the job. It looks for technical skills, soft skills, and industry-specific skills. Click here to learn how to define and describe all relevant skills, and here to optimize your CV, resume, and LinkedIn profile with action verbs.

  • Job Titles and Companies: The ATS system also looks for specific job titles and companies you've previously worked for. It seems for industry-specific job titles and recognizable companies.

  • Keywords: The ATS system scans resumes for keywords and phrases related to the job description, industry, and company. It looks for exact matches and variations of these keywords and phrases.


The Importance of Keywords and Where to Find Them:

Keywords play a crucial role in helping your resume pass ATS screening. Here are some places to find relevant keywords and phrases:

  • Job Description: The job description is the best place to find relevant keywords and phrases. Carefully read the job description and identify the required skills, experience, and qualifications.

  • Company Website: Visit the website and identify the keywords and phrases used. Look for the mission statement, values, and job postings to find relevant keywords and phrases.

  • Online Job Boards: Job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor are great places to find relevant keywords and phrases. Look for job postings related to your desired position and identify the keywords and words used.

  • LinkedIn Profiles: Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people who hold similar positions to the one you're applying for. Identify your keyword skills in typical and phrases used in their profiles to use in your resume.


How to Optimize Your Resume to Pass the ATS

Customize your resume for each job you apply for. To optimize your resume for ATS screening, here are some tips and tricks to follow:


1. Use Simple Word Formatting

Have you ever experienced difficulties copying a PDF into a Word document, resulting in distorted formatting?

In most cases, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSes) cannot interpret PDFs or complex templates. It's best to use a simple and clean format to ensure your resume is read correctly. Avoid using tables, columns, and other advanced formatting options. Stick to a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial and ensure your resume is easily read. You can find ATS-friendly resume templates for free in MS Word or Google Docs by clicking here. Upload your resume to the ATS in a regular Word file.


2. Avoid Using Graphics, Images, and photo

Use plain text with bullet points to improve your chances of passing the ATS. Avoid images and graphics. Also, avoid headshots, as the ATS may filter out resumes with photos to prevent discrimination claims.


3. Use target Industry-Specific Keywords

Demonstrate your industry expertise by using industry-specific keywords and jargon without going overboard. Use words commonly used in the industry, such as acronyms and technical terms. You may put the entire advertisement and your resume into AI services such as  ChatGPT and ask the service to optimize your resume to the ad. 


4. Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description

One of the most critical steps in optimizing your resume for ATS is tailoring it to the job description. Carefully read the job description and identify the keywords and phrases used. Use these keywords and phrases throughout your resume, especially in the skills and experience sections. Use pages like to determine your match to posted positions and give you pointers on how to optimize your resume.


5. Use Keywords in the File Name

Save your resume using a file name with relevant keywords related to the job. For example, if you're applying for a marketing position, save your resume as "Marketing_Resume_Jane_Doe."


How to Optimize Your Resume to Stand Out to Employers

Correctly formatting your resume is essential for passing the ATS screening and grabbing the attention of hiring managers and decision-makers. If you bypass the 

 On the other hand, if you are submitting your resume directly to the decision-maker, you may add a touch of personal flair to make it stand out. Use a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial to ensure your resume is easily read. Some people adjust the font to match their potential employer's preference to create a sense of familiarity.


Use Bullet Points to Highlight Your Skills and Experience

Recruiters typically spend only 3 to 10 seconds scanning resumes, so ensuring they can quickly find all the essential details during this brief window is crucial. Using bullet points to highlight your skills and experience can make it easier for recruiters to scan your resume. To make your bullet points stand out, start each one with an action verb and use quantifiable results to demonstrate the impact of your work. For example, instead of saying "Increased sales," say "Increased sales by 30% in six months."


Use White Space Effectively

Use white space effectively to make your resume easy to read. Break up long paragraphs and use headings and subheadings to organize your resume.


Use a Professional Tone that matches the company culture

Use a professional tone in your resume. Avoid using slang or informal language. Stick to a formal style and use industry-specific jargon where appropriate.


Remember also to update your LinkedIn profile.

Customize your LinkedIn profile to match your resume using relevant keywords and keep it complete and up-to-date. Recruiters search LinkedIn for potential candidates, so consistency is critical. 

Follow research-based advice and ensure you make a great first impression with your profile picture. Get unbiased and free feedback in Photofeeler by uploading your image to Photofeeler to see if you match your aspiring role title.   Related article: LinkedIn Unleashed: Your Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Dream Job



Optimizing your resume for ATS screening is crucial to landing your dream job. Take your time to get it right. Tailoring your resume to the job description, using relevant industry-specific keywords, and highlighting your achievements and quantifiable results is essential. Remember to use a clean and straightforward format, use bullet points to highlight your skills and experience, and use white space effectively. Finally, don't forget to network and ask for referrals so you can bypass the ATS as much as possible. With these tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to securing your dream job.  


The Dos and Don'ts of Resume Writing

To make your resume stand out, here are some dos and don'ts of resume writing:


- Use a clean and straightforward word-format
- Use bullet points to highlight your skills and experience
- Use quantifiable results to show the impact of your work
- Customize your resume for each job
- Use industry-specific jargon where appropriate


- Use graphics or images
- Use slang or informal language
- Lie or exaggerate your experience or qualifications
- Use a generic objective statement
- Include irrelevant information

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