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Six important tips for getting your resume noticed when companies use an ATS

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is the software that reads your resume and ranks it according to keywords. At least 65% of medium to large companies are now using Applicant Tracking Systems and this has often created a nightmare for job seekers. In fact, a recent study indicated that about 75% of qualified job seekers are being eliminated because they do not know the rules.


ThirdQuarter uses a system called NJOYN that is constantly being improved as we work hard to better know our candidates in order to match you with the best opportunities. When you register your profile or your preference for job alerts (click here) this is a form of an ATS.

ThirdQuarter job seekers hear from us personally either by email or phone or often in person.  We are launching a series of information pieces is meant to assist everyone in the process and to work together for your success

There are six important tips to ensure that your resume will be properly interpreted by the ATS and may be standing in your way to being noticed.

1. Do not use Microsoft tables or text boxes or other templates that use boxes or tables

Most Applicant Tracking Systems cannot read information enclosed in tables or text boxes. So if your name or other important sections of your resume are in tables, remove the tables, and convert the sections to text.  This is a simple matter of “Clear Formatting” and changing tables to text functions in MS Word. 

2. Start your resume with PROFILE or PROFILE SUMMARY

These important terms tell the ATS what section it is in. So if you just have a job title like SALES EXECUTIVE, followed by your value proposition, this will not be seen without the Profile header. Instead have PROFILE: SALES EXECUTIVE and the Applicant Tracking System will correctly read the section after the word “profile.”

READ MORE:  The Bullet Point Formula for Your Resume

Much of the resume advice of the past has been to start with an “objective” while in 2014 – 2015 we hear that this is not necessary and often is detrimental to being noticed.  Some recruiters call this a ‘fluff item.’   They care about their company objectives not yours.

READ MORE:  Marketing Yourself In the Job Search:  Part I An 8 Minute Tutorial

Consider using:  Key Words that describe your capabilities and qualifications right up front. 

3. Clearly indicate other key sections

Below your PROFILE or PROFILE SUMMARY, the other key sections are EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, CERTIFICATIONS, and AFFILIATIONS. So don’t preface your career chronology with something like “Value Offered.” It might not be seen.

4. Ensure your past or current job positions are understood.

The Applicant Tracking System will be scanning for Company name, Title, and Dates of employment and these must be entered in such a way that these can be identified.

The company name should be followed by Inc., Corp., LLC or something similar so the system can identify a company.  You must also have these three components next to each other.   For example:

This may not be interpreted correctly –

ABC Software Inc.
Leading provider of CRM solutions
Senior Project Manager (6/2006-Present)

Instead show it as this –

ABC Software Inc. – Senior Project Manager (6/2006-Present)
Leading provider of CRM solutions

Or as this –

ABC Software Inc.
Senior Project Manager
Leading provider of CRM solutions

Note too that if you have held multiple positions at the same company, you need to repeat the company name again.

5. Use Headers or Footers for subsequent pages.

If your resume is longer than one page long (which is fine) do not use words such as “more” or “continued” and/or your name and contact information at the top or bottom of the subsequent pages as this can confuse the Applicant Tracking System. Use the header or footer for page number, your name and the date you are submitted the resume. 

6. Submit your resume in the right format.

Send your resume in MS Word .doc format, not .docx and not PDF files as not every system can read these.  The rule may vary here depending upon the particular format.  Many ATS (including ThirdQuarter) will stipulate which format if preferred.   If in doubt – use MS Word. 

Follow these rules and your resume will be correctly interpreted by most Applicant Tracking Systems. And don’t forget to have a “pretty” version of your resume in hard copy to hand out when you are networking and in job interviews.   Avoid things like a photo of yourself or fancy fonts or bullets or wingdings. And use good quality white paper with black ink.  Your fonts should be Arial or Calbri.