How To Make Your Resume Stand Out (And Get Past The ATS)

August 18, 2020 Christina O'Handley


Knowing how to make your resume stand out to hiring managers is one of the best ways to land a new role. However, you may find it extremely frustrating to apply to roles that seem to fall into a black hole, even though you know you’re a great candidate for the position.

Many people question how this can happen. For that, we have three words – Applicant Tracking System.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a technology many organizations use to filter out multiple candidates from their system to get the most qualified candidates. However, many applicant tracking systems can fail to deliver every qualified candidate due to technicalities.  That means your resume may not make the ATS’ cut even if the HR manager may love your resume.

If you want the secret for how to make your resume stand out and get into a recruiter’s hands, you’ll need to learn how to optimize your resume for an ATS. Here are a few ways to do this.

Analyze job descriptions to discover the right keywords for your resume

When you apply to roles, many applicant tracking systems are scanning your resume for specific keywords relevant to the role at hand. That’s why you’ll need to include the most important keywords within your resume. Look at all the jobs you are applying for and take note of the skills and tasks that continue to pop up. You’ll need to include those relevant skills or tasks within your resume.

Use the exact wording of job descriptions

The wording is especially important when analyzing your job descriptions. In fact, you may want to use the exact wording listed within a job description to get through an ATS. This is because these systems look for exact matches for their keywords, which means that any synonyms or abbreviations may not make it past the system. For example, if you are only writing out “CPA” in your resume while the job description only spells out “Certified Public Accountant,” your resume may not make it past the system. If you are applying for a role you really want, make sure to use the wording listed within your resume to get through the ATS.

Format your resume appropriately

If you have an intricate format for your resume, you’ll need to simplify this if you want to get past an ATS. Many applicant tracking systems typically reformat your resume into a text-only file. If you have any graphics, tables, or columns, the ATS may not be able to pull the relevant information to make it to the next stage of the hiring process. To keep your resume organized yet simple, stick to bullets, and feel free to use color, italics, and bolds to style your resume.

Read also: 10 Quick Changes That Will Boost Your Resume

Use the right file for your resume

Once your resume is optimized, you’ll need to also make sure your resume is saved in the right format or you don’t stand a chance of it getting to a recruiter. You’ll want to save your resume as either a PDF or a .docx file. While PDFs are common, many systems can most accurately scan .docx files.

Don’t try to trick the system if you are unqualified for the role

Optimizing your resume and learning how to make it stand out is needed in our digital world. However, it’s important not to trick the ATS to get through to the recruiter. Once a recruiter sees that you’ve tricked the system through keyword stuffing or pasting the entire job description in white, your resume will end up in their trash folder. Remember to only apply to roles you are qualified for and provide context to the keywords you are using in your resume. This way you’ll be able to optimize your resume for both the ATS and the recruiter to help you land the role.


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