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Mind the ATS

ATS = Applicant Tracking System

ATS is a type of software used by HR Professionals at (typically larger) companies which is used to collect and organize the resumes of and communications with candidates.

When you’re applying to a job online through a company’s website, you’ll often be required to copy and paste the information from your resume into text boxes. This is the ATS. It streamlines the work for HR professionals, but makes the job application process more tedious for candidates.

The ATS allows HR Professionals to search by keyword(s), filter based on responses to qualifications such as education level and skills, and/or rank based on experiences.

As you probably have surmised by now, this process is great for HR Professionals when they have hundreds and thousands of applicants for each job; it is not reasonable for them to read every one. However, the ATS forces candidates to become strategic.

Here are a few tips for Minding the ATS:

1. Tailor your application for every job.

This is one of my top 3 rules anyway - every job you apply to should have its own resume and cover letter. [Check out my free Job Tracker to stay organized!]

This is most important with the ATS where your information will literally be filtered based on keywords! Don’t copy and paste directly from the job description (and never lie!) but use the exact words and phrases you see in the job description on your resume.

Bonus tip: don’t use complicated acronyms or abbreviations on the ATS. Unless its a very commonly used acronym which is also seen on the job description (like FDA, PCR, ELISA, USA), spell it out.

2. Keep it simple.

Have a fancy graph or table on your resume? Don’t use it here. Don’t bother with trying to incorporate it into the text box on the ATS, just translate that information into succinct yet descriptive verbiage.

Don’t mess around with columns or fancy fonts which may translate into illegible symbols when copy/pasted into the ATS.

3. Upload your resume and cover letter in the Attachments section. Even if the application doesn’t ask for it. If there’s a field which allows you to upload documents, use it!

Got any other tips from your experience with ATS? Comment below!

Or email at or send a message on LinkedIn or Twitter

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