How To Beat 75% Of Job Applicants

“I’ve spent countless hours working on my resume, sent out hundreds of applications, but still got zero responses.”

Not knowing what went wrong is surely frustrating, but perhaps it’s time to reassess your strategy.

One common reason for not hearing back about your job application is that it never made it onto a recruiter's desk. This is most likely due to the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

In this article, I explore effective strategies to pass your resume through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and onto the hiring manager's desk. To get started, download our proven resume template below!

What Is An Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Your resume typically passes through an applicant tracking system (ATS) before it reaches a hiring manager when you apply for a job.

The ATS evaluates resumes based on specific criteria and accepts candidates who appear to be the most qualified for the role.

Approximately 75% of qualified applicants are automatically rejected by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)1, used by nearly 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies and 66% of large organizations in the United States 2.

How Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

An applicant tracking system is an electronic gatekeeper between employers and hiring managers. The ATS breaks down resume content into categories and scans it for specific and relevant keywords to determine if a job application should be forwarded to a recruiter.

In essence, it is responsible for sorting out unqualified candidates. This allows the recruiter to focus more on evaluating candidates who are likely to be an ideal match for the job position.

Therefore, an applicant tracking system is designed to reject the least qualified candidates rather than identify the most suitable ones.

Beating The System: How To Pass The ATS

It may be worrying to read so much about the ATS. But don't panic - by following these tips, I’m confident your resume will stand out among all other candidates!

Step 1: Identify And Incorporate Keywords

Many applicants do not realize the importance of using specific words or “keywords” in their applications. Always ensure your resume utilizes relevant keywords from the job description and the company website.

To help you with that, there are many resources available to help you identify the buzzwords associated with a company, such as WordClouds, Jobalytics, and Resume Worded.

Furthermore, it is important to integrate keywords throughout your resume. However, be careful not to clump them together or excessively use them when adding them in.

Another way to make your application stand out is by including keywords from your work experience or current projects. Try to tailor each resume according to the criteria of each job you are applying for. This will be beneficial as the ATS keeps an out for specific keywords.

Step 2: Focus On Formatting

It is recommended that you submit your resume in .docx format, as some Applicant Tracking System (ATS) have difficulties reading PDF files.

Whenever possible, avoid unique formatting. This includes but is not restricted to tables, boxes, images, special characters, etc.

One good way to format your resume is to list your experiences chronologically to avoid any mishaps and unnecessary confusion. It is also best not to use headers or footers in your documents, as ATS may fail to recognize information in these sections.

The importance of distinguishing between job titles and other required credentials related to the job is immense. Therefore, the use of commas and lines is encouraged.

It is to ensure your bullet points follow a standard format, and caution is to be taken so as not to use any other unconventional bullet options such as stars and checkmarks.

Step 3: Choose Your Content Wisely

It is essential that the language you use is appropriate, clear, and concise. This means that using puns, metaphors, or idioms is strictly a no-go.

Moreover, in case of any abbreviations that may be present, make sure that they are spelled out. Abbreviations seem casual and don't provide easy searchability either.

It is also important to provide concrete evidence and figures to support your work claims. For example:

Instead of  "developed social media campaign," try "conducted market research and spearheaded a social media marketing campaign that yielded a 20% increase in website traffic and a 15% boost in sales."

Step 4: Highlight Your Experience

Use an "active voice" while writing your resume. Words have an impact, and using action verbs like implemented, executed, planned, etc., is sure to give you an edge over other applications.

The best approach to overcome this is to work with a reliable and effective resume template equipped with a comprehensive list of action verbs. With these action verbs, you can optimize your resume to maximize its potential. Get started now by downloading our free template here!

In addition, emphasize how you have been actively involved and a leader in your field of work while showing the impact of your contributions.

Be sure to quantify your experience on your resume - include metrics and evidence highlighting your actions’ results.

Aspects To Further Consider

Sure, it is necessary that for your application to be accepted, you need to have the perfect formatted resume. But why stop there?

Here are a few other things you need to keep in mind to land the job of your dreams:

1. Test Your Resume

Once you are satisfied with your resume, get to checking it! This can be done by saving it as a plain text file and then reviewing it for any format or content changes.

You can do this either by following the guidelines or referring to online websites such as Recuitee or Zety.

2. Submit An Early Application

It is better to send in your application early, as many organizations may limit the number of applications they consider for a job posting. Therefore, it is beneficial to be early rather than miss an opportunity.

3. Leverage Your Network To Secure A Referral

Have a colleague from a prior workplace who can vouch for your skills and work ethic? Then, make use of it and get referrals to provide a reliable impression.

The Final Takeaway

Experience extends beyond paid work. Thus, you must focus not only on your scores but further. Showcase your utmost potential by emphasizing your extracurricular activities and other achievements. It should be noted, however, that it is most relevant to students and young professionals.

Moreover, before you hand in your job application, ensure that your LinkedIn information corresponds with that on your resume. This is essential as recruiters often review LinkedIn profiles, and any inconsistencies may cost you your job opportunity.

Whether you are new to the professional world or a seasoned expert,  the key to an impressive resume is leveraging the best resource out there: a tried-and-tested resume template.  

Don't wait any longer – kickstart your career by downloading our free resume template below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How can I make my resume ATS-friendly?

The format of an ATS-friendly resume is designed to make it easy for an ATS to read and understand.

In addition to incorporating keywords and phrases pertinent to the job vacancy, it also features language aligned with the job description.

It is much more likely that your resume will be seen by hiring managers if you write it with ATS software in mind.

Q2. Are there any resume formats that are ATS-friendly?

Absolutely! Chronological resumes are the most common and highly ATS-compatible format. With this resume style, your work experience is presented in reverse chronological order, beginning with your most recent role.

Ready to craft an ATS-friendly resume effortlessly? Download our free resume template now and get started!


1 Anonymous • “Over 80% of ATS Hiring Software has an Auto-reject Feature Stopping You from Getting Hired” • RCF Career • 2021 

2 James Hu • “Over 98% of Fortune 500 Companies Use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)” • Jobscan • 2018

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