A Guide to Making Your Resume ATS-Friendly with a Resume Review Service

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Applying for a job doesn’t mean your resume will end up in the hands of a hiring manager. Most employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to review resumes. ATS reject resumes that don’t meet the organization’s criteria. To increase the chance of passing an ATS scan, many candidates seek help from a resume review service.

A resume review service, like the one offered by YES, evaluates your resume to ensure it’s ATS-friendly. Contact us to learn more about our resume review options.

What Are Applicant Tracking Systems?

Think of applicant tracking systems as a figurative grocery store for resumes. Your local grocery store sorts all foods and beverages according to different factors.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are usually on the store’s perimeter, and in the various aisles, you’ll find sodas, cereal, and other packaged items. Frozen foods are in a separate section, and there is a deli for meats and cheeses. Grocers sort all the incoming food and discard things that don’t comply with specific criteria, like expiration dates.

Similarly, applicant tracking systems sort all the incoming applications and resumes from job seekers. They scan the contents of each application, looking for primary and semantic keywords, education, and experience.

Applicant tracking systems rank the relevance of each resume from highest to lowest. Typically, only the resumes that rank in the top 10 end up in the HR Department. The rest go to a figurative dustbin, never to be seen again.

Resume review services are familiar with the secrets to ranking highly with applicant tracking systems. When you work with resume services online, you increase your chances of putting your resume in the hands of HR and hiring managers.

How ATS Work

All ATS follow the same essential process. Once they receive your resume, they scan it for specific keywords based on the job description and any manual input from HR teams.

Resumes that contain more keywords than others will rank higher. Resumes with few related keywords pertaining to the job will end up on the lower end of the list, eliminating the chances of the applicant’s landing an interview.

Some employers include knock-out questions in their application process. The wrong answer to a knock-out question will automatically lead to a rejection, even if you have the relevant qualifications. For instance, a company may include a knock-out question about your location. The ATS system will automatically reject you if you live outside the desired region.

Virtually all enterprise-level corporations and organizations use ATS systems, and most medium-size businesses do, too. If you’re trying to land a new job and not getting any response from employers, you likely don’t have an ATS-optimized resume.

Rather than waste time with further applications, turn to YES’s resume review service for help. It’s free. If you decide to engage us redo your resume, we’ll ensure it is fit for ATS.

Reasons Why Resumes Fail an ATS Scan

There are numerous reasons why a resume may fail to make it past the ATS review scan. Here are a few to be aware of:

Buried Contact Information

Providing your contact information is critical if you want to hear back from a recruiter. However, many people include contact details directly within their headers, which some ATS cannot scan correctly.

Missing Keywords

Because ATS can scan for specific keywords, not including the keywords in your resume can be detrimental to your chances of getting an interview. These keywords appear throughout the job description and indicate the experience and education the organization is looking for in a new hire.

For instance, a company looking for a new controller will likely seek someone with a CPA certification and experience overseeing an entire accounting department. The applicant should include keywords like “CPA” and “head of accounting.”

Confusing Templates

Software like Microsoft Word contains some visually appealing resume templates with lots of bells and whistles. Still, ATS may find these difficult to scan, resulting in a low-ranking score for your resume—even if you’re a highly experienced professional.

Wrong File Type

Surprisingly, one of the primary reasons a resume is tossed is simply that the applicant chose the wrong file type. Before submitting your resume for a role you’re interested in, see if there are any file specifications. Some companies will accept only PDF documents, while others prefer a .doc or .docx format.

If there are no file specifications, stick with a .doc or .docx file. The majority of ATS scanners can read those file types.

Optimizing Your Resume for ATS Scanners

Follow these key steps to ensure your resume passes ATS muster:

1. Don’t Include Your Contact Information in a Header or Footer

First off, ensure that your contact information is prominent but separate from your name. It should be a different line item, clearly distinguishable from other info. If you’re using a template that places your contact information in the header of your resume, either change templates or move the contact details outside the header. You’ll have a better chance of ensuring your details are appropriately understood by the ATS system.

A professional resume review service like YES will ensure your contact information doesn’t confuse ATS.

2. Integrate Keywords Naturally

Read the job description thoroughly and identify which keywords are most important to the role. Then, include these keywords throughout your resume. You can also peruse job descriptions for similar positions in other organizations if you’re unsure what terms to include.

If your keywords include abbreviations like CEO, you’ll want to have both the acronym and the full term within your resume in different places.

Some ATS judge your experience by the number of times a keyword appears on your resume. You should include each keyword at least twice—three times if it naturally fits.

Of course, avoid using keywords if you don’t have the relevant skills. For instance, if you want a job as a digital marketing manager but have no experience with search engine optimization (SEO) or social media management, you should not include those terms in your resume. You should instead take this as a sign that you likely won’t gain traction with a search for that type of job. However, a career coach can help you determine the fastest way to transition into that line of work.

Your resume should contain a Skills section that includes bullet points for critical skills you possess. Your skills section is ideal for inserting relevant keywords, and you can pepper them into your work experience, too.

Resume services online, such as YES, can optimize your resume’s keyword placement so your resume ranks highly with ATS.

3. Avoid Images and Graphics

Templates often include graphics that separate items of your resume to be more visually appealing to hiring managers. Using these colorful templates and complex designs in order to stand out from other candidates may be tempting. However, colorful resumes with graphics can confuse ATS systems, so if you’re serious about landing your next interview, you’ll want to avoid them.

Instead, select a plain, black-and-white resume template that ATS and HR recruiters can quickly skim and read. Avoid submitting resumes that highlight your experience and education using fancy digital art.

If a colorful resume template is vital to you, all is not lost. You can provide a copy to the hiring manager if they select you for an interview. However, don’t send it through ATS if you want to land an interview.

4. Use Regular Bullet Points

You’ll want to use bullet points on various parts of your resume, such as your Skills section, and to separate your responsibilities for your prior roles. However, avoid using overly fancy bullet points that may confuse ATS. Instead, use solid circles or squares that an ATS scanner can easily understand.

When you work with a resume review service or resume consultant, they’ll ensure your formatting is easily legible by ATS.

5. Follow a Resume Hierarchy

Your resume should have distinguishable sections that are easy for an ATS and human readers to comprehend. Most resumes use the following hierarchy structure:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Professional summary
  • Skills
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Software and computer skills

Modifications to the structure are acceptable in certain cases. For instance, a recent college graduate would list their education above work experience and might include an additional section for awards or extracurriculars.

If your resume varies too much from traditional structures, the ATS will have difficulty scanning it, and a human reader may find it overly frustrating.

A resume consultant can ensure your resume follows a hierarchy easily digestible by ATS and hiring managers.

6. Submit the Right File Types

Before uploading your resume for a role you’re interested in, read any provided instructions carefully. Remember that some companies will specify that they accept only specific file types. If you submit the wrong file type, the ATS will likely not be able to read it.

A resume review service will check your file’s quality and ensure you have the suitable formats available when you apply for jobs.

Pass ATS with Help from the Resume Review Service at YES

When you apply for a new role, you’re competing against dozens or hundreds of other applicants—many of whom will have work experience and credentials similar to yours. To ensure that your resume gets the attention it deserves, you want to make sure it sails through ATS.

 With the help of resume services online, like YES, you can streamline the application process and optimize your resume for ATS. We’ll carefully review your resume and make the necessary adjustments to increase your chances of landing an interview. Book your free consultation here today to get started with our resume review service team!

About the Authors

Katherine Metres Akbar is the founder and president of YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services, one of Washington metro’s two top-rated career success companies. She and her team have helped over 5,000 people and organizations perfect their resumes, master networking, get interviews, receive offers for dream jobs, resettle employees through outplacement, and optimize their teams. Katherine is the world’s only Interview AikidoTM coach, a Certified Talent Optimization Consultant, Certified Professional Career Coach, and a Certified Professional Interview Coach. An award-winning writer, she previously served as a U.S. diplomat and executive director of a civil rights non-profit. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University.

Michael Akbar is the co-owner and vice president of YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services. He is a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Federal Career Coach, Certified Business Advisor, and Certified Talent Optimization Consultant helping leaders build their dream teams. Michael leverages his business development background to help coachees get their dream job, often on the hidden job market. Michael has  spent 15 years as an entrepreneur coaching business owners to break through their barriers to success. After talking his way into two jobs in order to get a work visa, Michael was inspired to create Interview AikidoTM to help people get jobs, even when they are underqualified. He holds a Bachelor of Science from McGill University and a Master of Science from the City University of London.

The home team is completed by Farah Akbar, a joyful, stubborn, and—some say—adorable terrier/pitbull mix the Akbars adopted from the shelter after a traumatic early life.



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