How to beat the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

How to beat the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

The definitive guide.

Jacquie Liversidge

By Jacquie Liversidge

What is it?

An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS for short, is essentially a software that parses your resume for keywords in reference to a particular job description.

You can try our totally free applicant tracking system right here

The ATS then provides recruiters with a suitability profile out of a possible 100 points.

ATS is particularly attractive to large recruiters who may need to sift through hundreds of applications for any number of roles that they have available at that time. The software is often seamlessly integrated with the recruitment website, through which the majority of people submit their resumes.

To get your application past ATS, there a few key changes that you can make to your resume that will optimize it straight away.

  1. Images and Infographics
  2. Non-linear text placement
  3. File type
  4. Correct section headings
  5. Keywords
  6. Referees
  7. Language
  8. Examples
  9. Try our FREE Applicant Tracking System

Don't use images and infographics.

Images and infographics within resumes which were on the rise up until recently, and which are still offered for free and paid resume generating websites, disrupt the softwares ability to read the content of your resume and can hinder your chances.

Particularly if the template website you are using places the text on images or beside it.

As an example, infographics are popularly placed in front of contact details as you can see in the above image. Ultimately, what the ATS will read is “icon.png 1300272477 icon.png Level 3, City Mill Hobart 7000”, which is going to appear strange to the reader, is useless data for the ATS, and negatively impacts the overall suitability result displayed to the HR manager.

Non-linear placing of text.

Referring again to resume templates, a common feature of templates is text placed side by side.

This will also negatively affect the resume when the text is parsed by the ATS– essentially it will look like jargon.

We used to love the days of the colourful, creative resumes, but beating the ATS is now a priority that cannot be understated. If you want to have two or three columns of text, format as such using columns rather than text boxes.

File type

If you think not using a word processing system like Microsoft Office Word or Mac Pages isn’t necessary anymore, you would be very wrong.

If you submit your file in PDF, JPEG or PNG the ATS is going to either struggle to assess the text, or be completely unable to. If your text is actually an image file, the ATS simply won’t be able to parse it all.

Use correct section headings

Professional Experience, EducationSkills, and Referees are all sections that should be included within your resume.

For those with technical skills, make sure to include a technical skills section and use dot points.

And for those with a great deal of experience, split your Skills section into different categories. Examples could be People Management, Communication, Change Management, all of which are brilliant ways to clearly define your skill by the area.

This is important because the ATS WILL take into account the sections that you have chosen to use.


Unless your committed to pay the hundreds of dollars a month that an ATS system can cost in order to check your resume, it’s likely that you won’t know what an ATS is going to yield after processing your resume.

But you can keyword optimize just fine without an ATS.

We recommend printing off the position description and highlighting important keywords, then making sure you include these in your own application.

Another cheap way of checking for keywords and the number of occurrences is using MS Office Word’s Find function.

After highlighting all relevant keywords and including these within the resume, double check quickly using Find to make sure they are all included.


But beware: you will be penalised if you over stuff your keywords!


Have them! At least 2, always. Make sure you display it in this format:

  • First Name, Last Name
  • Title
  • Relationship to you
  • Business
  • Email
  • Phone Number


Make sure you use active voice over passive voice. Active voice puts you at the centre of the narrative, and makes exactly what you’ve done much more clear. You can find out more about how to use it here.


With approximately 73% of companies now using ATS it is crucial that your incorporate it in to the design and content of your resume.

We hope that’s helped you inform a better approach for your resume, and as always, don’t hesitate to get in contact with any questions you might have.

Happy hunting!

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