Impress the Applicant Tracking System

How do you impress the applicant tracking system or AI? More and more companies are using AI and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for their recruitment efforts today. These ‘resume reading robots’ help manage the back-end processing of job applicants, especially where there are hundreds of applications. You can be qualified, but still need to convince the robot that you are the right person for the job. Here are our top tips to ensure your resume runs through the ATS gauntlet and make it safely to the other side and into the hands of a human!

Job portals like Seek use ATS to ‘highlight’ the candidates they deem to be best amongst all the applications. The ATS allows companies to efficiently read resumes at a lower cost. Their algorithms are programmed to look for vital information on your resume and present the findings in a uniform manner. The system categorises applicants on the basis of their resume match with the job requirements.

Therefore, it is important to learn how to navigate an ATS to get your resume in from of the hiring manager so that you secure an in-person interview.

Read our top tips to ensure your resume impresses the applicant tracking system:

Simple language is key

Use basic language and terms that are easily understandable by AI algorithms, not English professionals. This does not mean you need to ‘dumb it down’ but also steer clear from elevated vocabulary. Your sentence structure should be clear, concise and use words that are relevant to your role. For example, a receptionist might have “Managing client expectations verbally” which sounds very posh but it should say “answering high volume calls”.

No abbreviations

An ATS will not recognise most abbreviations and you don’t want to risk important information getting lost in translation. Internal abbreviations might make sense to you but not to the end reader or AI. 

Use relevant keywords

ATS compare your resume to the job description. They recognise keywords that are delineated in the job description. Ensure you use similar language to trigger the algorithm. Having words that match your skills and the roles you apply for – the words used in advertising copy for those jobs and the position description all contribute to you ranking higher on the list.

Use standard section headings

ATS use headings to navigate your resume to ensure information is correctly stored and understood. Use simple headings like education, contact information, skills and work experience.

Include a skills section

This allows you to include relevant keywords again, as well as adding the one’s that didn’t naturally fit into your work history section, but are important keywords. Use this section to highlight skills you want to bring to the job and ensure you describe them; for example, “Accounts Payable – high volume processing using SAP software”

Include referrals

An online application may ask for referral name, or if a current company employee is known to you. Remember to put in someone’s name here to increase your chances of making it through.

Submit the right file

Ensure you use the desired file type. Some ATS find it easier to ready Word Document (.docx) resumes than PDF’s. Read the guideline on the job description and follow it. If you are worried that a Word Document can be altered, make it read only.

Formatting tips
  • Access our updating your resume tips
  • Use universally basic fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman or Georgia
  • Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling as an ATS functions like a word-processing spellcheck
  • Avoid imagery, graphics, tables and headers footers as the ATS can’t read these
  • Don’t worry about the length of your resume as unlike humans, the ATS takes seconds to sort, scan and rank your resume even if it is more than 2 pages long
  • Use the chronological resume format for better optimisation


Resume-reading robots are developed to help employers streamline their hiring process; by implementing these tips you will ensure your resume goes to the top of the list. 

Let us know how you go!

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