Everything you need to know about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Jul 12, 2022
Applicant tracking system tips

You’re applying for DOZENS of job roles, but you're not getting any response?

Argh, how frustrating! 🀯

But hey, It's not you – it's the robot. Most likely you didn’t pass the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). πŸ€–

Let me tell you something: You’re not alone. About 75% of your competitor’s applications have never been seen by a human recruiter either. I know – WHAT. A. BUMMER.

But no reason to worry, I’ll explain how the ATS works and guide you through the most important resume tricks that can help you to beat the system, pass the bots, and get you that job interview you want. 

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Think of it as a resume spam filter. With an average of 100-150 applicants per advertised job, there's a lot of resumes to go through. Some large organizations, such as Google, receive up to 75,000 applications in one week. To the hiring organization, the majority of applications sent in represent only noise. It would be a waste of time to review these.

According to a recent study by Jobscan, almost 98% of Fortune 500 companies and about every second mid-sized organization use an ATS.

This means you need to adopt strategies to make your resumes robot friendly.

Watch my video about ATS resume tips on Youtube or keep reading down belowπŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸΌ

How does an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) work?

Very similar to how SEO works for websites, application trackers and programs use natural language processing to sift through resumes. 

The ATS first parses your resume. The parser uses language processing algorithms to identify the text in your resume and breaks it into strings that can be machine analyzed and they use this information to infer things about you.

The friendly robot outputs a series of strings that includes information about your education, your contact information, your skills, and your experience.

These strings are run against a list of keywords that the software is configured to scan for. These are keywords that most likely describe a strong candidate for the position. They typically refer to competencies or their synonyms. They might be phrases someone with a particular competency is likely to use.

They reflect the criteria set up by the organization's recruiting department. Based on this scan, your resume is given a relevancy score. The higher the score the more likely you are to get called in for an interview πŸ”

How to beat the ATS (and take massive action to secure your job interview)


Use keywords (+ synonyms) from the job description, but keep in mind that it’s not just about plugging words in here and there.

Think about the way you craft your summary. If you’re going for a digital marketing role, specifically working with influencer campaigns on social media, the company will probably list that they want experience with influencers, community management, and community engagement on the job description. So, try to take this information on what they’re looking for and turn it into a sentence like:

"International Digital Marketer with 5 years of experience spanning trend analysis, influencer marketing, advocacy, community management and community engagement."

Some skills might be less tangible, but highly important – "people management," "project coordination," or other phrases that suggest something about an ability to execute a task. If a job description asks for a candidate who can "manage a project from A-Z", you want to hit on how you have produced work from end to end using words like “from initiation through to completion”.

Soft keywords, on the other hand, are skills you can’t really test for, like “Nurturing Budding Engineers.” There’s a common misconception that you can cut soft skills off your resume because they aren’t as relevant as hard skills. The truth is that soft skills are extremely important to reflect your personality, emotional intelligence, and decision-making ability.

In other words, an ATS might filter you out if you don’t match hard keywords. The recruiter is able to reflect on your soft keywords before making the final decision.


Your goal is to match the language of the job description – if it says client experience over customer service or leadership over management, do that too!

Work on the wording of your job title to suit the position you’re applying for. You can also add it to your headline (Office Manager/Project Coordinator) or put an extra sentence under your name (for a graduate you could say 'BComm Graduate//Aspiring Digital Marketer').

Having a Bachelor's degree that sounds unique or a job title that is a bit creative ("Brand Guru") won't do well in passing the AI test. If you’re unsure about your job title, hop on O*Net (onetonline.com) and search for it.

If your resume shows you have a recent job title that matches the one you’re applying for, it’s very likely that your resume will get picked by the system. If you work for an organization that gives unique job titles, include the more generic job title or your primary responsibilities/tasks in the parentheses next to the job title.

For instance, if you’re a Plant Manager at a certain company, you may be responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing operations, but your job title will probably go unnoticed by the ATS when you’re applying for an Operations Director post. To work around this, you can list your job title as follows:

"Plant Manager (Operations Director Equivalent), 2015 – Present."

Look on the company’s website and search for industry buzzwords and hints on their values. Read the profiles of people in similar jobs on LinkedIn – what language do they use? You don’t want to sound repetitive so go above and beyond the job description to brainstorm different synonyms. For example, when applying for marketing jobs, use verbs like “marketed,” “advertised” and “promoted” to describe your accomplishments. When applying to a Start-up, use verbs like “built,” “created,” and “initiated.”  Your personal branding needs to align with the role you're chasing - this is KEY, badass.


Listen up, creative job hunters: ATS bots can’t read graphics or images, so focus on text only. Only send them if you know for sure that the recruiting process doesn’t involve an ATS, or just link to your website if you want to opt for something more original. 

Unique fonts also don’t translate well in the tracking software. Just keep it simple and stick to evergreen fonts such as Arial or Calibri.


Did anyone say bonus? I’ve got three more tips for you! πŸ™ŒπŸ»

  • Write out the exact years of experience. It’s more sophisticated because it allows the ATS to actually analyse the dates.

  • Express magnitude for a skill or task because more developed programmes can actually determine that. Use adjectives like "significant," "strong," or "compelling." An adverb might be "successfully," "effectively," or "efficiently." The same effect shows up in emphasized nouns, like "mastery," "proficiency," or "competency."

  • Once you’ve implemented all of these ATS resume tips, you can visit Jobscan.co. You can upload your resume and the description of the job you’re applying for and the tool calculates your relevancy score. Cool, huh?

Do you agree that Applicant Tracking Systems can be mastered quite easily once you know how they work? As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences – let’s connect on Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Youtube! πŸ‘‹πŸ» πŸ’¬

Happy job hunting and stay badass,

Rosie x

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