CV Improvement Tips, Job Search Tips

How To Trick An ATS & Get Shortlisted every time

Written by mrafeeq · 6 min read >

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

You’re sitting at your desk, staring out of the window. You’ve just completed a job application and submitted it to an ATS system via some job board, but it’s been weeks since you had any feedback. It feels like you are in limbo — maybe the hiring manager is looking over your resume, or perhaps they aren’t. It’s frustrating not knowing what is happening with this recruitment process! What do you do?

This article will help guide you through tips that can increase your chance of getting past ATS systems and being shortlisted for the next stage.

Understand what an Applicant Tracking System is and how it works

ATS or applicant tracking software, otherwise called, is a computer system that filters through resumes and shortlists the ones they deem most qualified for the position.

First, understand how it works. There are many different types of ATS systems, and they all work differently. Therefore, when qualified candidates write their resumes to make them ATS-friendly, they need to word them selectively. Otherwise, your crafted resume could be filtered out before even being viewed by a human.

The ATS will scan hundreds of resumes and look for words or phrases relevant to the position. Of course, this means you need to use keywords, but these should not be used too often; otherwise, it could trigger a red flag in job applications.

Why do recruiters use ATS?

Applicant tracking systems have several benefits for recruiters. First, an ATS system can automate some tasks to save time and money while increasing recruitment. This is because resumes are scanned against criteria which will narrow down the candidate pool quickly by removing those who don’t meet requirements or qualifications. This can save recruiters hours of work and make the interview process quick, as, on many occasions, the turnaround times expected from recruiters are relatively low.

Why does ATS reject resumes?

Sometimes, ATS will reject job seekers’ resumes if there are formatting errors or other mistakes that can’t be fixed, such as an incorrectly formatted email address or missing information about your location, which can be used to determine if one is a local applicant. These systems work by scanning the document for specific keywords and phrases to check against their criteria — so typos or spelling mistakes might cause your application to be rejected.

Amongst other reasons why an ATS rejects resumes are critical skills may not be in the right place, or there could be spelling errors which will cause your resume to fail against some criteria for the job position you’re applying for. It’s essential to take the time to research what these criteria might be, which will help you write your next application. Hence, it is more likely to get shortlisted for the subsequent phases, creating more opportunities.

Why are keywords important for resumes?

Keywords are words or phrases that describe what you do, so make sure these are included. They are essential because they will trigger the ATS system to find your resume. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes by not including keywords, so their application won’t be read! It’s more difficult when you’re applying for many jobs at once, so you must keep an eye on what words and phrases describe you as a candidate.

This is a great way to make your resume stand out. For instance, if you have marketing experience, it would be helpful to include this in one of your skills sections or even under “Experience”. Recruiters will then find your resume and can shortlist you for further processing!

Why is ATS so good at finding typos?

The ATS system will scan your resume and search for typos automatically. This is one of the reasons why it’s essential to proofread thoroughly before submitting a job application! Typos can be the downfall of your application, so make sure you do everything possible to ensure this doesn’t happen. Some ATSs have a built-in spellchecker, and others will alert you if they find an error. It’s always safe to double-check, just in case! The first step is proofreading your resume by hand or using software that can detect typos. After that, it would help to ask a friend/colleague to proofread it.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What are some ways to be ATS-friendly and be shortlisted for an interview?

  • One way to increase your chances of getting past the ATS system is by tailoring your resume based on the job listing itself. This means you must tailor it based on the position you’re applying for so relevant keywords match the job description or requirements criteria.
  • Use keywords from the job description in your resume and cover letter. Add those keywords in bold, italics, or underlined font to stand out to the applicant tracking system.
  • If you’re unsure what keywords to use, look at job postings or other resumes in your industry and see which words come up more often than others!
  • A good rule of thumb is that ATSs prioritise keywords in the bold font when scanning them for relevant information. So if you want people to see that you’re a team player, use the word “team” in bold!
  • As mentioned before, formatting is vital. One of those areas is with page breaks. Include one at the end of your resume so ATS can import them into their system correctly without interruption or confusion. This will help make sure your resume is read and scrutinised! Remember, do not forgetfully leave a blank page at the end. It adds no value and reflects poor attention to detail.
  • Remember that ATSs are programmed to scan for keywords, so include only the most relevant ones on your resume. There should be no more than two or three pages of information.
  • Once your resume is clean, ensure the document’s formatting is correct and all page breaks are in place before uploading. This will help give ATS an accurate representation of your skills!
  • A good rule of thumb is that ATSs prioritise keywords in the bold font when scanning them for relevant information.
  • Research the company, understand its goals and tailor your resume to its needs. This will increase your chances of getting shortlisted for further processing by the recruiter.
  • Save time by using templates already designed for the position you’re applying for. This will save you from starting from scratch regarding formatting and help ensure your resume aligns with what’s expected from hiring managers!
  • Know the job description before you write your resume. Make sure to include all relevant skills, qualifications, and experience that is easy to read.
  • Please ensure there are no more than two or three keywords per page so ATS can scan them! For example, “Skills “, “Experience”, and “Qualifications” are keywords.
  • Include relevant skills on your resume. Make sure to include all relevant essential skills, qualifications, and experience that is easy to read.
  • Try not to use more than three words with the same root word — this is called “keyword stuffing” and can hurt a candidate during an application or hiring process.
  • Be aware of synonyms for certain words — some may be more popular than others regarding ATS algorithms, so keep track of what is trending then! Include only the most relevant keywords on your resume.
  • Job title, job role, work experience and other relevant achievements are all places you can use.

Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

Reasons few resumes that don’t have strong enough keywords and why it’s bad for job seekers:

– A person’s resume could be too long and contain no keywords. ATS will have a hard time scanning through it!

– An applicant includes only one keyword, which was bolded, but the other text on that page doesn’t align with what they are looking for in terms of qualifications/skills. The poor formatting of this resume will make it difficult for ATSs to read! In addition, the PDF format is more likely to retain formatting like custom fonts or graphics. This can be a disadvantage when applying for positions that rely on interviewers reading resumes online because the content won’t appear as intended. Another thing to note about PDFs is that they can store and encrypt files if desired, so you don’t have to worry.

– Few CVs have good formatting, but their keyword density is too high, meaning they use more than the average number of keywords per page. Such applicants should remove some irrelevant skills and only include relevant ones in bold print.

– Some resumes are well-formatted, but they only use one keyword, and it’s not bolded.

– Some person’s resumes use a lot of keywords. The lack of formatting will make this difficult for an ATS to read through and scan for important information.

How do I know if a company uses ATS?

Companies will usually give you this information in the job listing section. You should also research if the company you’re applying to uses an ATS system. The website may not have an applicant tracking system if you work for a small company. Try looking at the URL in your web browser because it may say what type of software the business uses.

How do you check if your resume will pass ATS?

You can use a free ATS checker like to test your document. This will scan it for errors and give you feedback about what you must do to pass! There are many more free tools available on the internet that you can make use of. No ATS is perfect, Some are broken, and some are not, so it’s important to keep trying! Management of a potential employer knows this very well and acknowledges that ATS is one way to shortlist but not the only way. For example, they do not accurately distinguish between singular and plural. They do not recognise some well-known acronyms. Gaps in employment are also flagged as red. This makes the application process slow, making it difficult for candidates to impress recruiters with resumes that must be filled out multiple times.

Our resume is your first impression of a potential employer before being called in. So make it count with these tips! ‍Of course, just because your job application has been rejected doesn’t mean all hope is lost. However, you can do things to increase your chances of getting shortlisted for an interview and ultimately hired by someone who’ll appreciate what you have to offer. Start by using appropriate keywords in your resume so that ATS software will accept it for consideration — this way, no one else needs to weed through mountains of work history or experience just looking for relevant information about you. You also want to be concise, but don’t sacrifice quality either; employers need details if they hire someone like yourself! These are just some basic steps for getting through an applicant tracking system, but more information is available on our other career blog articles at What other tricks helped you get past ATS software? Let us know in the comments below!

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