Making Friends with the Applicant Tracking System

ATS

The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a piece of sophisticated software used by many large companies to collect, sort, screen, rank and track candidates that respond to their vacancies. If you’re shooting for a role in an organization with a couple hundred employees, chances are, they are using some sort of an ATS to sift through the resumes and cherry pick the best matches. Only these select few are then assessed by a Hiring Manager. So if you’ve spent days, weeks, or months sending out resumes to no avail, here is the harsh truth: no matter how well-qualified you are for the position in question, your application might have been cut by the ATS.

That, however, is no reason to get discouraged. Though all recruiting systems are different, there are ways to make your resume more ATS-friendly, thus, dramatically increasing your chances of getting invited to the interview. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind!

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Tuesday Tip: Steer clear of going crazy with formatting

TT - Steer clead of going crazy with formatting

Using Curlz MT font coupled with boldface on a hot pink background will certainly make your application stand out among others; in a bad way. So in addition to ensuring that your resume is relevant and targeted to your desired position, make it eye-pleasing, or, at the very least, readable.

Unless you are a professional graphic designer, go by the “Rule of 2 or less”:

  • No more than 2 fonts. – Defaults like Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri are a safe bet, while Georgia and Cambria are great for headers. And don’t go lower than 10 pt in font size.
  • No more than 2 colors. – Aside from black or dark grey for the text, you may safely use light blue, grass green or some other neutral color to embellish section headers. Take care not to pick hues that are too bright, as these are distracting.
  • No more than 2 types of bullets. – And only one of them should be fancy (i.e. a check box or an arrow).
  • Boldfacing, italicizing, underlining and using small caps in a phrase all at once is overdoing it. Combining any two of the above-mentioned formatting tools is okay.

And here are a couple of other helpful tips:

  • Regardless of how much (or how little) formatting you decide to apply, make sure you leave enough white space.
  • Avoid lengthy paragraphs. Opt for bulleted lists and clearly defined sections instead.
  • Make sure your formatting is consistent. That means same design of headers, same font and size for the main text, same intervals between sections and so on.