Tips to Get Your Resume Past ATS Bots And Stand Out

The internet has provided job seekers with access to hundreds of more opportunities. Gone are the days where we’d be scanning through the daily newspapers or run to the nearest bakery and library to look at job postings from local businesses. More and more positions are geo-agnostic as well, which means as job seekers, you have more options than ever.

This also means that an open position can easily get far more applications than companies have the resources to read. Since companies can now receive tons of applications every day HR and recruiting systems use automated resume scanners to identify top candidates and prioritize accordingly. They’re typically called Applicant Tracking System (ATS) scanners.

As candidates, this means your resumes need to be optimized for ATS scanners as well as appeal to the hiring manager. And that can bring up a host of questions. Follow these tips to create an ATS-friendly resume that’ll parse right through them, and impress the hiring managers reading them too.

#1. Use single-column resumes

The most common and traditional resume layout is also the friendliest to get parsed by ATS scanners. These scanners are designed to scan standard resumes from right to left, picking important information based on keywords.

Single column format is arguably the most detailed resume format as well giving you room to exhaust all the information needed to be shared. Plus it’s something most recruiters and hiring managers are used to reading and getting valuable info from.

Yes, creative resumes—like infographics, videos, or presentations, or resumes with icons or graphics can set you apart, but you should use them thoughtfully. I’d recommend only using them when sending directly to hiring managers.

Here’s a great resource for downloading different resume templates –

#2. Start with a summary

A resume summary statement is similar to an objective statement in that it is a quick way for a job seeker to catch a hiring manager’s attention by summarizing critical information at the top of your resume in an easy to read format. It can also help highlight important key words that pertain to the job you’re applying for.

They should be short, 4-6 lines, focusing on your years of experience, your core expertise and hyper targeted for the position you’re applying for. Here’s an example –

Data scientist with over 6 years of experience analyzing and capturing critical insights from complex data sets. Core expertise in SQL programming, database management, and creating regression models using predictive data modelling and data mining algorithms. Ability to oversee business-critical data science initiatives and ensure action-oriented solutions.

#3. Have a section for listing skills

List all of your skills one after the other for, as this lets ATS systems better scan your resume for relevant keywords and help you stand out.

Example skills to show according to Indeed. Source

Here’s an example.

Programming Languages: Python, R, Java, SQL, MATLAB, Shell scripting
Web Technology: JavaScript, HTML5, XML, CSS, PHP, Bootstrap, Git
Data and Business Analysis:  Data Modelling, Data Warehouse, ETL, ELT, Apache Hadoop, Spark, Elasticsearch
Libraries:  NumPy, Pandas, Matplotlib, SciPy
Tools: Tableau, Talend, MS Excel, Snowflake, PowerBI, MS Azure, AWS, MySQL, MS Office

How the above skills would look like on a real resume

#4. Keep your achievements and experience in reverse chronological

There are lots of different ways to organize the information on your resume—like the functional resume or combination resume—but the good old reverse chronological (where your most recent experience is listed first) is still your best bet.

The reverse chronological resume lists your work and other experiences in reverse chronological order, meaning your most recent jobs are at the top of your resume and your least recent jobs are down below. 

As a rule, show only the most recent 10-15 years of your career history and only include the experience relevant to the positions you’re applying for.

#5. Focus on the outcomes

Make sure you focus on the positive outcome you brought to the organization. Use as as much facts and figures as you can to justify the outcome. Could you quantify the efficiency increase you brought based on implementing agile principles? How many people were impacted by your work? By quantifying your accomplishments, you allow recruiters and hiring managers to picture the level of work or responsibility you needed to achieve them.

Here’s an example –

Evangelized the GitHub devops brand with technical articles, ebooks and webinars, and conference talks leading to a 150% increase in annual traffic to the platform

#6. Simple is better

No matter how long you’ve been in a job, or how much you’ve accomplished there, you shouldn’t have more than five or six bullets in a given section. Recruiters receive hundreds of resumes, so the shorter and succinct you can keep your experience, the easier it is for them to skim through them.

You may also want to throw in lots of industry jargon so you sound like you know what you’re talking about, but ultimately you may also want your resume to be understandable to the average person. It’s a balance.

Here’s an example of a complex experience by a software developer that’s filled with job-specific jargon and not focussed on outcomes delivered.

Developed complex report containing 243 fields which will capture all the Delivery details apart from Transfer order details and added a custom functionality in GUI Status which will trigger form output segregating report details according to the combinations of Material, Batch and Storage Bins.

This is bad. Avoid sentences like the above

#7. Show proof if available

You may have a ton of projects done. Maybe you worked on a side hustle building mobile apps. Whatever they are, try to list relevant ones, and try to add full links for hiring managers to read through them.

If you have any PDF reports or publicly hosted web or mobile app projects, I’d recommend adding a full bitly link for hiring managers to take a look. It also shows your confidence in your work by sharing them.

Here’s an example of an academic project I worked on at school.

Published by Keshav V

I’m a seasoned product manager having built and scaled multiple SaaS products from idea to highly profitable ventures. In my spare time, I enjoy communicating the value of outcome-driven, data-centric product innovation, and educate the community on amplifying the voice of the customer in the software lifecycle. I have consulted with different firms, and spoken at numerous conferences about various concepts in technology and innovation.

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