Jonathan's Blog

Back in January I started up my job search in full force after having been laid off a few months prior. My first week of sending out resumes, I heard nothing back. That’s when I took a hard look at my resume and rewrote it for a computer to read.

The results were dramatic and at the peak of my job search, I was doing 2-3 phone interviews a day.

Looking back, it’s frustrating to think about how many job seekers are implementing bad advice that they are reading online from HR “experts.” Most of the advice online are not suited for how  modern day job applications are handled. For example, unique and customized cover letters that people are encouraged to spend hours on, are simply not read due to the high volume of apps that a recruiter has to go through. Unless you have a referral, getting a job today is a numbers game and that means shooting out as many resumes as quickly as you can.

The applicants that get the first round interviews are the ones who have resumes that beat the applicant tracking system (ATS).

What is an ATS?

ATS or applicant tracking system is the software that powers hiring at pretty much every company. Companies use and ATS in order to process the large number job applications and ensure HR compliance. Some examples of popular ATS in the tech world are Taleo, Jobvite, Zoho, and The Resumator. (Seriously reconsider working at a company that uses Taleo. It’s that terrible.)

An ATS scans your resume for keywords and skills, then calculates how much experience you have in those skills. Finally, the ATS decides how well your application matches the job description and ultimately decides if your resume is worthy of being seen by a human recruiter.

Format Your Resume for the Computer

Most of the popular HR advice online gives tips on how to make your resume standout to the recruiter. What they fail to tell you is that an ATS decides what resumes a recruiter even sees. If you format and write your resume to impress a human, you run the risk of being rejected immediately by the ATS.

Machines are dumb and they certainly don’t appreciate any pretty formatting on your resume. In fact, if your formatting interferes with how the ATS processes your resume, it will be rejected. The best way to ensure that your resume is seen by a human being is to make it boring blank an white with as little format as possible.

Keyword Stuffing

This outdated SEO tactic will score you major points with the ATS. To start, clearly label the skills section on your resume as “Skills.” and make it nothing but a list of keywords that show up in the job description. You don’t get points for reading between the lines with the ATS, literally put down the identical skill keywords that are present in the job description, into the skills section of your resume.

Further Reading

This article from CIO is really the best article I have ever read on ATS. Every job seeker needs to know about this.


Worked growth marketing in startups my whole career and now sharing my stories on this blog. Always down to grab some coffee and talk shop.

  • Vmon Kv

    Key word stuffing is explained properly in its context through this article.

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