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


• Is your resume getting the attention it deserves?
• 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.

Each time you submit a resume online, chances are that ATS software will be 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 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…
As part of the MBA Career Team at a major University, we manage the school's job boards. We see behind the scenes. There are over 40 common search criteria which both employers and staff, use when posting jobs and searching for qualified candidates.
When the Career Department creates resume books for employers, we create a resume book for a specific business concentration. The career staff uses embedded, ATS software to create search parameters such as degree, start date, graduation date, etc… This will help us quickly and effectively, pull the correct resumes from the system. Note: this is predicated on whether students, have complete, candidate profiles (ie: 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 or digital e-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. A trained Human Resource professional, will know what the acronyms are but ATS software often does not. You may be screened out! 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?

 MyCareerManager © 2013- All Rights Reserved. Blog post by Sharon B. Cohen  Career Transition Specialist. 


  1. Amazing! This blog looks just like my old one! It's on a totally different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!
    my web site: Getting A Career In Phlebotomy

  2. Great information!! It can be quite frustrating for a job seeker to decide what information to put where and how to correctly place strategic wording within their resume to not only catch the eye of a human HR person (for when one is looking) but also to catch the eye of the ATS (which is more probable). Your article gives great information about how to address these concerns.

    Although placement is important when a human is reading the resume, the ATS will capture the keywords regardless of placement. I find that placing the most vital information nearest the top is always best since you want the most important information to be easily found when read by a human. Then, as you suggest, make sure you have done your research within your chosen industry to find the right keywords to include in your resume. No sense spending all that time putting together a resume and then not have it read by the ATS because you didn’t know the keywords to include. Then, as you apply for each job, make sure you review their job announcement and add their specific keywords as well. That’s why it’s so important NOT to use a “master” resume for every job you apply for.

  3. Thank you. I'm glad that the post resonated with you.I help individual clients, uncover the key ATS search terms for their industry and pepper these terms throughout their paper-tools.

  4. Sharon, I took me awhile to find this great nugget of information but it is exactly what I was looking for ... how do I best feed into the ATS system. As a PMP (Project Management Professional), your example was spot-on. Thanks

  5. Hi Brian,

    Thank you! I'm glad this post was useful. I'd recommend that you research 5-7 job postings in your field and scan for key words. This is what recruiters and employers will use in their online searches. Incorporate these key terms in your online, personal branding - including your resume.

    Best wishes with your career advancement!

  6. Hey Guys,
    Amazing and good articles blog post , i was searching such content since long time, today's i am very happy reading your blogs, will come back again on your blog in future, please share more info about Applicant Tracking System Software for us. Lastly i would like to big thanks fro this blog post.