Your Resume – Making Keywords and ATS Work FOR You

In any job search, the name of the game is rising to the top of the stack of resumes and submissions.  There was a time, not so long ago, that all you needed to do was to make your resume concise but complete (yes, that is an oxymoron) in order to get the person culling through the stacks of applications would put your resume in a pile of applicants to be considered.

Ah for those kinder, gentler times.  Today the average corporate job receives upwards of 250-300 resumes.  Assuming that the company’s goal is to interview the top 3-6 candidates and select from among them, manually reading through each resume becomes unwieldy.  For this reason, the first gatekeeper that most job applicants encounter is the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Originally created to handle hiring by large corporations, today ATS software scans most applications submitted for most jobs.  Industry experts estimate that 95% of Fortune 500 companies and 75% of ALL companies use this type of software to minimize the list of applicants before a human being sets eyes on any resume.

Rising to the head of the pack is tough enough when a person is scanning your resume, but getting past the ATS to make it to the desk of the human filling the job can be challenging.

Understanding how ATSs work can help keep your resume in the stack and keep you from being removed from the running.  ATS systems are NOT designed to find the MOST qualified applicants –  they are designed to weed out the LEAST qualified applicants.

Among the quirks of ATSs is that many of these systems have trouble correctly reading and understanding headers and footers.  Resume writers who lack knowledge of the way ATSs work frequently write important information into the header, assuming that the more prominent placement and font will draw more focus to crucial pieces of information.  The placement of contact information is also vitally important when considering how an ATS reads your resume.


Everybody is familiar with the concept of keywords and optimization, but few understand what these mean and how to make them work for you.  Too often, people who write their own resumes make the mistake of using buzz-words, the latest “hot” “biz-speak” words and think that they are using keywords to optimize their resumes.

Use of keywords is vital, but these words not only change from job to job, and industry to industry, but they also regularly change over time.  Having a clear awareness of shifting “core competencies” and keywords is essential to making it past the watchful eye of ATS.


Different systems operate differently.  Some systems weight your skills based on the length of time you have performed these functions.  In other words, listing a core competency like SEO Optimization separately, in a list of skills, might make it “pop” to the human eye, but an ATS will not associate the two jobs in which you performed this function for seven years.  In this case, SEO optimization might be picked up (or not) by the system but will not be weighted heavily.

Some ATSs rate keywords based on how many times they occur, so listing a particular skill only once is not going to help you.  Others give greater weight to skills listed closer to the top of the resume.

Having a clear understanding of the different types of systems currently popular helps us to create resumes explicitly designed to help you past the ATSs so that you can move on to the desks and interviews.  We want very much to service your need for resumes, CVs, cover letters, LinkedIn optimizations and more.  Whether you decide to work with us, another service, or create your own documents, make sure that whoever is preparing these crucial documents for you is current with keyword optimization in your job and industry as well as being fully versed on current trends in Applicant Tracking Systems.

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