ATS software is screening your resume! 5 resources to get noticed.

Is your resume getting the attention it deserves?

• Ever wonder what happens when you apply online?
• Ever try to apply to a job for which you are qualified, only to be blocked by the software?
• Wonder if the keywords in your resume are the “hot” keywords for your industry?

If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you need to learn about ATS software. It is used to screen you in, or screen you out! Learn how to build your resume with the keywords employers want.
ATS software

What is it?

According to Wikipedia, an “Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. Nearly all major corporations use some form of Applicant Tracking Systems to handle job applications and to manage resume data. This provides a central location and database and enables companies to manage resumes and applicant information. Data is either collected from internal applications via the ATS front-end, located on the company website or is extracted from applicants on job boards.”

“Who uses it and why?
Further, Wikipedia states that “the majority of job and resume boards (Monster, Hotjobs, Career Builder) have partnerships with ATS software providers to provide parsing support and ease of data migration from one system to another.” According to Pat Kendall, from Jump-Start your Job-Search Online,” Web-based recruiting costs are about one-third the cost of traditional recruiting methods. The right keywords determine whether you are successful in getting your product or your message to your targeted audience. Whether you're trying to attract customers or employers, the right keywords equal success.”

How is ATS used by Human Resource staff, to prescreen applicants?

Employers use keywords to search for candidates with specific skills, which match their job postings, department needs and/or company culture. Your resume should contain the keywords which reflect your skills, knowledge and experience. The ATS software, can find keywords, regardless of where they appear on your resume. The most common keywords which employers look for is the position titles, education and degrees and the position descriptions. To increase your resume’s visibility, and online matches/hits, research the standard industry keywords. Though, software may be the “first set of eyes” to see your resume, hopefully, eventually a human being will see it. As such the top half of the first page is the prime real-estate. This is the section that recruiters and HR professionals can read, without having to scroll down the page.

How does it work: from the company/employer side?

Budgets are tight, HR departments have been cut, resumes are flooding the market. There just isn’t enough human capitol to manually screen resumes and applicants. Thus, companies are increasingly relying on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to receive, store, and filter resumes. This software stores each resume into an online databases. Whenever the employer wants to search for candidates, they type in keywords, to find applicants in their database. Thus, it is essential that job seekers use the “hot” keywords to get their resumes noticed.

Examples of ATS software in use…
At GSU, Business Career Services, we manage several local, national and Global job-banks for our students. Currently, we have about 8,000 business student and 11,000+ employers in our databases. There are over 40 common search criteria which both employers and career staff, use when looking for candidates. One example is when the Career Department creates bi-annual resume books for employers. We create a different resume book for each major and specialization. However, we use ATS software to create search parameters such as degree, start date, graduation date, etc… This will help us quickly and effectively, pull the correct resume from the system. Note: this is predicated on whether students, have followed instructions and listed their degree and major correctly in the system. There are always last minute add-ins, which we have to manually enter into the system. Once the ATS software has pulled the resumes, we create hard-copy resume books, and send them to our key, recruiters and employer partners.

Example of how ATS software: may make mistakes…

One tip I would recommend is to avoid overuse of industry jargon and acronyms. IE: if you have a project management certificate, don’t just list “PMP, also list Project Management Professional. Regardless of whether an employer searches by acronym or term, your resume will have double the chances of being noticed. The ATS systems, aren’t discriminative or “smart.” A trained Human Resource professional, will know that PMP is the acronym for Project Management professional. However, the ATS software, often doesn’t have this capability and may screen you out! I have seen this occur, even when candidates match the job criteria perfectly. When this occurs on job-boards, which I manage, I create a manual over-ride, to allow the resume to go through. Many of us have had the experience of applying for jobs online, for which we are qualified, only to be stumped by the software, which doesn’t let us progress to the “submit” stage.

5 Resources for discovering “hot” keywords. Get your Resume to the top of the pile@!

1. Conduct info interviews w. industry contacts. What buzzwords are they using? What skills sets come up as “must have” over and over during your meetings?

2. What hot topics appear in your industry newsletters, online sites? What topics are experts in your industry presenting at national, trade conferences? Stay involved in your industry’s trade associations, events, lectures etc. It is as important to stay current, while you are employed, as when you are not. These days there isn’t any job security.

3. Job Descriptions: Go to the major job-boards, type in the job titles you are interested in. Read the job descriptions, very carefully. Are there any trends? Do all of them ask for 2-3 specific skills?

4. Classified ads/online ads: what skills are the employers asking for? How is this worded?

5. Check out the major search engines (Google, Yahoo). Review articles about your field. How do they describe jobs in your field?

Want more? Check out these related posts...
Resume Fashions: 1989 or 2009?
Resume Fashions, What’s Hot, What’s not!
Cover Letter Fashions, What’s Hot, What’s not!

Author: © 2010 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, Dip. Educ, MA Counseling Psychology, CPRP, NCDA - Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist.

Read all of my Career Blog postings at
On LinkedIn: "Sharon B. Cohen" On Twitter: "Mycareermanager"

Stay tuned for info on the March 20th workshop in Atlanta...


  1. Hi Sharon,

    I was searching the Internet and found your blog. Haven't goner through much but I really think that your posts must be good and may help me out.

    just one question though, can a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist help me in making a decision about my career which is very very crucial for me right now? I am confused because of many reasons, I can't list them down here cause list is big. I have been struggling for past three to four months regarding this. I also tried to chart down pros and cons of every decision which comes to my mind. But on a scale of 100 every decision got equal points. which is irritating me very much.

    I have a dream of being an entrepreneur and this decision will hamper my future not for me but for my family also.


    1. Nice Comment , i like it so much , please click here and get info about web based Applicant Tracking System Software service. thanks

  2. Hello K,

    For people considering a major career transition, an experienced, Career Counselor, can help. Ideally, the counselor would be licensed to administer and interpret, Business Career Tests. I offer Online Career Testing and phone advising packages to help clients explore their career options and best, career matches.

    Feel free to email me at, to set up a complimentary, 30 minute phone consult.

  3. capitol
    "There just isn’t enough human capitol to manually screen resumes and applicants."

  4. In order to find the right software for applicant tracking we have made a customized software which allows you to maintain a database of applicants and therefore save times and reduce cost per hire.

  5. Inova-hire 1 week ago

    Great article, I especially would stress point #5

  6. Your summaries are always top-notch. Thanks for keeping us apprised. I’m reading every word here.
    HR Software

  7. Love the image UB that kats face says it all hope good and stay fresh as ever!!!
    HR Software

  8. Wel it gives a lots of knwledge about Real Estate........
    I like tit & iit gives directions before going to choose any Real Estate.....
    HR Software

  9. Thanks for this useful post, very helpful to understand the need of applicant tracking software in the company.

  10. This post is great! It really helps a lot especially to all job-seekers out there. Maybe they can get a higher chance to pass.

    Is this ATS Software checks your resume, if it's right or wrongly done? Well, this surely is useful. Thanks a lot for posting!

  11. Nathaniel,

    I'm glad this post resonated with you. It's a risk to 'expose' the flaws of any online career tools.

    ATS software's potential accuracy is based on the job-screening parameters embedded in it's HTML code. Sometimes, I've seen good candidates "screened-out" of interview schedules, when they actually do meet the criteria.

  12. Hi

    I read this post two times.

    I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

    Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

    Source: Software job

    Best regards

  13. Reply - A career counselor is the specialist who can assist with career testing, career goals and career technology.

  14. I have been a fan of all your posts. I saved all your blogs. This is my first time to comment. This particular blog and all the comments have been especially helpful to me since I have just start for search jobs.