18 Tips To Pass Automated Screening Resume Software

Updated March 10, 2023

Some companies use automated screening software as part of their job application procedure. Automated screening programs can help hiring managers streamline the hiring process. If you're applying for a job at a company that uses ATS, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with how ATS works to ensure the program approves your resume. 

In this article, we discuss the definition of automated screening, the reasons companies use this software and tips for writing a resume that can pass automated screening.

What is automated screening for resumes?

Automated screening for resumes (ATS) is a type of software used by recruiters, human resources representatives and others involved in the hiring process. ATS programs categorize your resume into different sections. ATS categories may vary depending on the company using them but may include work experiences, skills, education and contact information. The ATS software then searches for the specific keywords and phrases that relate to the job and company where you're applying.

Companies may use ATS software to screen resumes received through emails, online portals or another digital method. Larger companies with a greater workforce are more likely to use ATS software.

Related: 13 Best Practices for Beating an Applicant Tracking System

Why do companies use automated screening software?

Companies use automated screening software to quickly review many job applications. Some companies receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for each job posting. Hiring managers often find it challenging to read and consider that many applications, especially since they frequently recruit for more than one position at a time. ATS software helps recruiters and other involved professionals find qualified candidates more quickly. With ATS software, employers can optimize their hiring process and fill job positions faster.

Related: How To Write an ATS Resume (Template)

18 tips for writing a resume that can pass automated screening

Here is some advice for crafting a resume that makes it through a company's ATS scan:

1. Use keywords

Include keywords throughout your resume. Resume keywords are words or phrases that describe your qualifications for a specific job. Keywords vary based on the job position, years of experience required, company and related factors. The best way to figure out likely resume keywords for a particular role is to carefully review the job posting. Look for specific words the posting uses to describe their ideal candidate's experiences or skills. If you believe you fit the job description, incorporate those exact words or phrases into your resume.

Another great way to find keywords is to research the company. Read over their mission statement, values and company culture. Consider and include in your resume qualifications that relate to the company's vision, ideals, work environment and community. If you're part of a professional organization for your industry or job, you might also discuss possible resume keywords with fellow members.

Read more: Get Your Resume Seen With ATS Keywords

2. Put your keywords in context

Integrate your keywords into the rest of your resume. Most ATS programs prefer applications that do not list one keyword right after another, such as in a skills section filled with only keywords. ATS software is more likely to approve resumes that incorporate keywords into the rest of their text.

After you've decided on your keywords, elaborate on your skills or experiences related to that keyword. For example, say that your keywords are "motivated," "communication" and "photo editing." Instead of just listing those words on your resume, you could write bullet points related to specific work experiences that integrate these keywords, such as:

  • "Managed telephone, email and other communication methods for the entire office."

  • "Proficient at photo editing with both web- and computer-based programs."

  • "Highly motivated to find employment at a dynamic and hard-working company."

3. Pick a file format the ATS can read

Many people save and submit their resumes in PDF format, as PDFs are a common file type and help preserve your resume formatting. However, if you know or suspect ATS software may view your resume before an employer, save it in a text format instead. ATS programs often have trouble reading the text in PDF files, as they may scan the PDF as one large image instead of a textual document.

If possible, save your resume through Microsoft Word as a .docx. A .docx is easily read by ATS and is the most likely to preserve your resume formatting. You can also save your resume in another text format, such as a .doc, .rtf or .txt. Only submit your resume as a PDF if the online portal or job posting specifies PDF as an accepted format.

Related: How To Save Your Resume in Different File Formats

4. Limit your unique formatting

Unique and professional formatting can sometimes help distinguish your resume among hiring managers. However, unique formatting often confuses ATS software and may cause the ATS to misread or ignore crucial information on your resume. Reduce the following aspects of your resume when submitting an application that you know or suspect ATS may scan:

  • Graphs

  • Tables

  • Charts

  • Boxes

  • Graphics

  • Columns

  • Animations

  • Pictures

  • Colored fonts or elements

  • Special characters, such as an asterisk or backslash, on the same line as your name

5. Make your resume readable for ATS and employers

Present the information on your resume in a way that's easy for both ATS robots and human employers to understand. Choose a standard resume format, such as a chronological or functional format. Consider using a resume template to ensure that you include your most relevant qualifications logically and clearly.

Related: How To Create an ATS-Friendly Resume Template

6. Minimize the information in your header or footer

Limit how much you write in your resume's header or footer. Many people use a resume header or footer to include their contact information. While this can be a great way to format resumes reviewed by human professionals, some ATS programs have trouble reading the text inside headers and footers. Write your contact information in the body of your resume instead.

7. Customize your resume for each posting

Personalize your resume for every job you apply for. You can use the same basic template for each of your resumes, but try to customize different versions of your resume for each job application. 

Companies often program their ATS software to search for specific words or phrases found in their job posting, company values or mission statement. For every job you apply to, scan the description and research the company to find their unique keywords. Include these in your resume to help ensure that your application passes through the ATS scan.

Related: Why Quality Over Quantity Matters in Your Job Applications

8. Incorporate details

Write details on your resume. More advanced ATS programs often search for specifics related to the position you're applying for, such as types of technology you've used or numerical data. Increase your chances of getting through the ATS scan by adding more details to your resume.

For example, say one of your bullet points about a previous job reads:

"Helped customers regularly."

Determine if you could add any further relevant and specific information to that statement. Here are a few ideas:

  • "Helped an average of five customers an hour solve their technology problems."

  • "Helped customers repair, test or troubleshoot their purchased devices."

  • "Helped customers over the phone, by email and through live online chat."

9. Choose clear phrases

Use concise and direct language in your resume. Incorporating unique phrases in your resume can help human recruiters remember your application. However, ATS typically cannot understand unique phrasings, such as idioms, metaphors or puns. Choose straightforward words and phrases instead.

For example, your resume for human employers might use unique section headings, such as "find me here" or "where I've been." Change these headings to more standard phrases for ATS software, such as "contact information" and "work experiences."

10. Write out acronyms

Write out what an acronym or abbreviation stands for the first time you use it on your resume. If you include the word again in your resume later on, use only the acronym.

For example, if you know search engine optimization (SEO), write out search engine optimization the first time you mention this skill on your resume. If you discuss SEO later in your resume, you only need to use the abbreviation.

11. Test if your resume is scannable

See if ATS can read your resume before submitting your application. Make your resume into a plain text document and check the document for any unusual formatting. 

For example, look for headings that may have shifted into the middle of a section or characters that the plain text format cannot read. Compare the plain text version of your resume to the original to ensure that all the information is still there. If all the information in your plain text resume is present and formatted properly, then ATS software can successfully read your resume.

Related: How To Edit Your Resume: 8 Steps To Make Your Resume Perfect

12. Keep online information up to date

Ensure that your information online aligns with the content of your resume. For example, any information about your jobs shared publicly on social media should match the work experience in your resume. More advanced ATS programs may gather research or check information about you online and compare it to your resume.

13. Submit your resume early

Send your job application by email or through a company's online portal as soon as possible. Some ATS programs only accept a certain number of applications before closing. Increase your chances of submitting your resume early by subscribing to email or text message job alerts.

14. Add a cover letter

If possible, include a cover letter in your job application. Most ATS programs don't scan cover letters. However, a cover letter can make your application more memorable to hiring managers and may help you bypass ATS software.

Address your cover letter to a specific person at the company. If you know the professional who created the job listing, address the letter to them. If the job posting doesn't specify a contact person, do some research and address your letter to the company's human resources representative, recruiter or the head of the department you're applying to.

Use your cover letter as an opportunity to:

  • Elaborate on important bullet points from your resume

  • Explain how you could help this department or company

  • Draw further connections between your qualifications and the company's desired candidate, values or culture

  • Show your enthusiasm and passion for the position and company

  • Discuss unique skills or experiences that don't fit into a section on your resume

Read more: Is a Cover Letter Necessary? (With Other FAQs About Cover Letters)

15. Use keywords multiple times

Include your keywords multiple times. Your chances of passing ATS software may increase if you incorporate keywords into your resume several times. However, do your best not to use the keywords just to increase your keyword count. Figure out ways to integrate the keywords naturally into the text of your resume.

16. Select regular bullet points

Use standard bullet point designs. Many word processing software offers various designs for bullet points, such as squares, stars or checkmarks. Some of these designs can help get your resume noticed by recruiters or hiring managers. However, ATS programs often cannot interpret unique bullet points, so including them may cause the software to misread information on your resume. Use standard bullet points instead, such as solid circles or circular outlines.

17. Separate titles and names

Make sure that the formatting of your resume clearly distinguishes your name and job titles. If a professional title is too close to other information on your resume, ATS software may interpret all the information as part of the title.

When listing job titles for your past work experiences, for example, separate your job title from your dates of employment with a comma. If you include a professional title in your contact information, such as "freelance graphic designer," be sure to have that title appear on a separate line from your name.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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