Career Change – When Your Resume Meets An Applicant Tracking System

There’s an ongoing ‘battle’ for many job seekers when it comes to submitting a resume online for a vacancy. The Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Let me tell you, friends, it’s here to stay!

As many resume writers and career experts will tell you, meeting certain criteria is essential to rank high in the ATS data.

So, what actually does an ATS do?

The shortest answer is, an Applicant Tracking System operates as an online recruiting and hiring tool designed to save the hiring company time. It collects applicant information and sorts/ranks resumes through keyword recognition, and other data, as directed by the person posting the vacancy.

There are resume purists who will tell you that we shouldn’t use terms such as ‘get through’ or ‘get past’ the ATS because essentially it’s all about the ranking system. It’s true that the ATS cannot alone decide if you pass or fail to make it through. It is programmed by the recruiter or hiring manager. When a resume writer or career advisor says they can help get you through or past the ATS, it simply acts as a visual to what is actually happening, that it’s ranking your data.

If you are applying for a job online, the likelihood is that you have been through an ATS. Indeed.com, monster.com, glassdoor.com, careerbuilder.com all have an ATS functionality as do most large companies. Linkedin even has its own unique ATS. Often you will face ‘knockout questions’ before even progressing to your resume being screened. And this is no exaggeration! If your answer doesn’t match what is required, you will be flagged as auto-rejected and will not pass go. You may recognize some of these examples,

Are you legally able to work in (relevant country)?

Do you hold a valid driver’s licence?

Do you have a Licence/degree/certification?

Sometimes, however, there won’t be any questions and you are left to send your resume off into the wide-open ATS space, with nothing but its wits and its Series-7 De-Atomizers (sorry for the MIB reference, just checking you are still with me), hoping you have prepared it well enough for what is about to happen.

Fear not though, there is so much information out there to help get your resume ready.

Let’s get you started with these three tips to help optimize your ranking.

Be honest!

Please don’t try to cheat the system. You are wasting your time and the company you are applying for. There are many cheats (like pasting the job description in white to the bottom of your resume to offer an exact match) but guess what? If it does make it through, the likelihood of a hiring manager appreciating your ‘creativity is close to nil.


Be a student of the job description, study the keywords and how they are used in order to understand the type of person they are seeking. Use these keywords in your resume to align where possible, without leaning too heavily on them and becoming a keyword-stuffer! There is a fine line. I like to think of it as trying to speak the same language.

Format wisely

The truth is that an ATS will often take information from tables and columns but it won’t necessarily be in a sensible order, making it difficult for the reader to decipher.

If you aren’t a confident resume writer, who knows how to reincorporate information from tables into the body of the resume, it’s best to avoid tables and columns altogether.

As you begin your next career adventure, try to see the ATS as a friend rather than a foe. It is actually helping you to level-up and sharpen how you share your experience and skill-set.

It demands more of you in just the same way that one teacher did who knew you had more to give, and they were usually right.

Remember, your resume is one of the most critical components to moving the needle on your career.

Invest time in it and it will serve you well.


If you are really ready to take your resume to the next level – I’ll see you here

Oh, and remember to message me over on Instagram @brandyouday with your questions