Battle the Bot: How to get Your Resume Read by a Real Human Being


Did you know that nearly 75% of resumes are never seen by human eyes? An increasing number of companies are adding an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) each year, as it can sort through hundreds (if not thousands) of resumes in the time it takes a hiring manager to get through a handful. The good news is that it’s fairly easy to get through the system and have your resume seen by an actual human being, as long as you follow these four tips:

Include Relevant Keywords Throughout Your Resume

An ATS will scan the entirety of your resume and check to make sure you included specific keywords from the Job Ad. These keywords can include everything from required skills and experience, to specific job titles and certifications. It’s worth noting that modern ATS also pay attention to how each keyword is used in the flow of the resume (and cover letter), so if a keyword seems out of place it may be rejected. Each keyword should belong where it is written, so sprinkling them randomly throughout your resume will send out a red flag.

Stick to Traditional Font and Layout Choices

While new fonts and layouts are being added all the times, the classics work the best when it comes to your resume getting through the system. Fonts like Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, and Verdana in 10 to 12-point size are all ATS-friendly, as are traditional resume layouts that come standard on most word processing programs. A quick note on bullet points: avoid using special characters or accents on bullets. Most tracking systems have a problem reading them, and they may introduce line breaks or coding that will confuse it.

Avoid Graphs and Tables

While adding charts, graphs, or tables to your resume may seem like a way to add clarity to your resume, Applicant Tracking Systems are not good at reading them. In fact, they tend to read them as stray words or symbols, which can cause the system to automatically reject it. Stick with “standard” resume designs with simple formatting to ensure it is machine readable.

Avoid Slang and Overly Uncommon Abbreviation

Applicant Tracking Systems aren’t very good at recognizing slang, so resist the urge to use acronyms you used around the office for a task and instead try and use a description that can be easily understood. This is especially true if you are referring to a keyword used in the Job Ad itself. If you are highlighting a skill, use the words that were used in the ad, and if in doubt, go with the actual name of the item you are highlighting, such as using “Microsoft Word” instead of just putting “Word.” In addition, avoid uncommon abbreviations, and if something is commonly abbreviated list both the full word and the abbreviation. For instance: Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

The One Tool Every Job Seeker Needs in their Arsenal



Looking for a tool that will add a new dimension to your job search? Partnering with a (free) employment service, like AppleOne, will enhance your job search and provide you with the personalized assistance that every job seeker needs. Here are the three most important ways that an employment service will help you:

Develop a Better Understanding of What Local Employers Are Seeking

The “X-factor” that can you get a job at one employer may be a turnoff to another one. Knowing what specific companies are looking for in your area will help you get you the job you are targeting. AppleOne Hiring Advisors track local and national employment trends. Because they work with specific employers, they can give you valuable insights into how best to present yourself for a particular job.

Stronger Resumes and Cover Letters

The average hiring manager takes only eight seconds to look over your resume to decide whether to call you in for an interview. That is if you can get past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that they use to cut down the initial job pool. An employment service knows what employers are looking for in cover letters and resumes, and they can help you craft something that will get past the computers and catch the manager’s eye.

Access to Jobs That Aren’t Posted on Job Boards

Did you know that up to 85% of all available jobs are never posted on online job boards? Because of the costs associated with hiring and advertising, many of these jobs are actually never even available to the public, as companies look to sources like AppleOne to handle the hiring for them. This means an employment service can help you apply for jobs you would have not found otherwise. These are jobs that aren’t looking for a pool of applicants, but only the ones they want to either interview or hire on the spot.

Want to Get Your Resume Seen? Know How to Beat the ATS


Because companies can get hundreds of applications for one job, roughly 75% of them have introduced an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to their screening process. An ATS searches resumes for keywords and information, meaning that it can quickly scan a resume for specifics, which can save hiring managers countless hours during the hiring process. If you have a resume full of highly attractive skills and experience, yet find that you aren’t hearing back from employers, it may be that your resume is not ATS-friendly. To ensure that hiring managers are actually seeing your resume, here are four tips for getting past an ATS’s electronic eyes:

Include Relevant Keywords throughout Your Resume

An ATS system will check to see if you have included keywords from the job ad throughout your resume. These keywords can include everything from required skills and experience, to the specific job title, and they should be included within the natural flow of the resume (and cover letter) in full and complete sentences. If you used a skill in multiple positions list the skill in all of those positions so the scanner can get an accurate years of experience with each skill. It’s also worth noting that modern ATS systems can tell when a keyword seems out of place, meaning that you should never just add keywords randomly to your resume. Even if you somehow slip through the ATS process, a hiring manager will eventually read your resume, and they will notice that your keywords are not in context.

Stick to Fonts the System Will Recognize

While there are new fonts being introduced all the time, you want to play it safe and stick to the classics when it comes to your resume. ATS systems best recognize fonts like Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, and Verdana, all of which are traditionally used for resumes. Be aware that larger fonts can also confuse the system, meaning that you should stick to 10 or 12 point throughout.

Avoid Graphs, Tables, and Overly Fancy Designs

While you may think that adding a chart, graph, or table to your resume will add some clarity, most Applicant Tracking Systems are not good at reading them. In fact, they tend to read them as stray words or symbols, which can cause the system to automatically reject it. Stick with “standard” resume designs with simple formatting to ensure it is machine readable.

Don’t Get Fancy with Bullet Points or Abbreviations

Bullet points are common in resumes, as they help break up the text to highlight specific key skills and experiences. While you want to use them, you want to avoid using special characters or accents for bullets. The Applicant Training System may have problems reading a special character or accent, so stick to common bullet points that are offered to you on your word processing program. Avoid uncommon abbreviations, and if something is commonly abbreviated list both the full word and the abbreviation. For instance: Certified Public Accountant (CPA).


Getting By an Applicant Tracking System

If you find that your resume isn’t getting the response you have hoped for, it may be because it isn’t making it to the hiring managers. Recent studies have shown that 72% of resumes are not seen by employers at all. The reason for this is that many companies are using an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to filter resumes. An ATS searches resumes for highly specific keywords and information. If you are not hearing back from employers, it may be that your resume isn’t ATS-friendly. To ensure your resume gets into human hands, here are four tips for getting past an ATS’s electronic eyes:

Make Sure You Include ALL the Keywords in Your Resume

When you read through a job ad you are going to find a number of keywords that stand out in the text. These keywords include the job title, criteria for success in the position and the skills that someone looking for the position would be likely to search on. You want to include all of these keywords in the text of your resume so that it can be located by the ATS. It is important to note that all keywords need to be in in context (modern Applicant Track Systems search for keywords in context), meaning that you use full, well thought out sentences. If you used a required skill in multiple positions, list in multiple times for each position rather than putting a list of keywords at the bottom. This will also help your resume stand out when it is looked at by a hiring manager once it passes the system.

Avoid Graphs, Tables and Overly Fancy Designs

Applicant Tracking Systems can be confused by charts, graphs and tables. Because of this, the ATS may read them as stray words or symbols when trying to decipher them. Stick with “standard” resume designs with simple formatting to ensure it is machine readable.

Stick To Fonts that Are Normal for Resumes

A brand new font that is all the rage may sound like something you want to use on your resume until you find that an ATS may not be able to read and recognize it. When it comes to fonts in your resume, stick with traditional options like Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet and Verdana. In addition, since larger fonts may confuse an ATS, make sure that you keep them to 10 or 12 point throughout.

Don’t Get Cute with Bullet Points or Abbreviations

When you are dealing with bullet points you want to avoid special characters or accents for bullets. The Applicant Training System may have problems reading a special character or accent and not take into account what the bullet point actually says. Don’t get too cute with abbreviations either. Don’t abbreviate words to save space, stick with the full word. When you do need to abbreviate, use the both the spelled out version of a word as well as the abbreviation. For example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

For more information on how to navigate an Applicant Tracking System, see page 15 of the AppleOne Navigating the Hiring Process book.

Resume Writing Tips for the Age of Automation

Here at the ACT-1 Group, we often find that job candidates are hampered by a resume that’s formatted poorly and fails to express the candidates’ unique qualifications for the job at hand.

A clean, easy-to-follow resume that illustrates not just your skills for the job but the career path you took to acquire them is what hiring managers want to see. Dedication to craft, commitment to employers and a focused career plan are what shortlist candidates for an interview.

A well-formatted resume is also an ATS goldmine. ATSs (applicant tracking systems) are automated software tools that large companies use to identify candidates with job skill keywords. These systems, while decried by some as taking the human element out of the hiring process, can be used to your advantage if you know what the machine is looking for.

1. Understand the job description

When applying for a job, be sure to read (and reread) the description to fully comprehend what the employer is looking for – and how to best package yourself to stand out as meeting and exceeding the requirements. Pick out crucial keywords like “IT help desk experience” “MS Office” or “MBA preferred” and be sure to plug those into your resume as you tailor it to survive the ATS parsing engine.

2. Customize each resume

You must use the keywords from the job description and incorporate them into your tailored resume. Making your resume as customized as possible for every job will help get it noticed by applicant tracking systems and hopefully get you that interview.

3. Word or PDF?

Once upon a time, the ACT-1 Group strongly cautioned against sending your resume as an Adobe PDF because many ATS tools lacked the ability to parse them in the correct order/format and the machine would read it as a jumble. This is becoming less and less true and we still do recommend a RTF (Rich Text File) or Word document as the default resume file format. However, for some jobs where a uniquely stylized resume is essential (such as in the design world), a PDF can be acceptable.

4. Tables and Graphics

ATSs generally struggle to parse tables, graphics and other atypical text blocks. Generally, we advise against including them, but of course there are exceptions. A standing rule, however, is to not include any graphical or unusual text element on your resume that will make it not make sense if that element is removed.

5. Call your work experience “Work Experience” (as opposed to “Professional Experience” or “Career Achievements” etc.)

ATS are pretty dumb. They have a limited vocabulary and you don’t want to confuse them. Getting creative on your resume might be nice if there is a human reading it, but in the first round of resume selections, you have to impress the robots and unexpected titling conventions may get your resume tossed in the round file.

6. Lead your work experience entries with employer name and job title…not date.

The ATS default is company, title, date. Starting with date may confuse the machines and jumble your work experience order. Avoid this.

No one’s work history is perfect. Every career is a series of starts, stops, resets and re-directions. As you create your professional resume, your goal is to take what is doubtlessly a broad and varied catalog of your work experience and weave from those disparate threads a compelling narrative which will convince a hiring manager that you’re the exact person for the position.

The choices you make about what information you include and what to omit, as well as the formatting you select to display it are nearly as important as the actual real-world experience behind the resume. Remember, a resume’s job is not to get you hired by on its own. Rather, it must highlight core qualifications and pique enough interest to get you in the door. Once you land the interview, the strength of your interpersonal skills and professionalism is what will land you the job.

Resume-writing tips:

  • Start by making a list of your job skills, both abstract and concrete. What do you know and howdid you learn it? What software proficiencies do you have? What core functions have you performed in the office environment?
  • Next, list your work experience, from most recent to oldest, with months and years noted on your start and end dates. Take a moment to note every employment gap longer than three months or so – you will be addressing those gaps specifically, either in your resume formatting, or your interview.
  • Come up with two or three bullet points for each resume entry that highlights key contributions you made while working for the company. At AppleOne, we call these “MSAs” – elements you “made, saved or achieved” at your job. Calling out concrete examples, such as “I redesigned the print-on-demand fulfillment process to be quicker by 30%, saving the company $18,000 over two years” is undeniable proof of your value.
  • Always spell check your resume, playing close attention to date consistency and formatting. Have someone whose grammar you trust proof it.


Formatting and Addressing Specific Problems with Your Resume

Even if your work history is not perfect, a perfectly-formatted resume can market you in the best possible light.

  • Been out of the workforce for a long time? A Functional Resume can address long periods of unemployment or gaps in your work history by directing the focus to the skills you possess first.
  • Done a bit of job hopping? Leading your resume with a Profile can again redirect the focus to you, not the fact that you’ve held 4 jobs in the past five years.
  • Have a rich work history, but some of your experience has nothing to do with the position for which you’re applying? A Chronological Resume with bullet-points tailored to how each job has prepared you for this one can help. Even if you drove an ice cream truck and are now applying to manage an IT team, your ability to solve problems, manage budgets and deliver what’s asked of you on time are all relevant job skills.

Resume examples:

Diana De La Hoya has a three-year gap in her work history, but her skills-oriented Functional Resume directs the attention to her rich employment history and variety of valuable skills and accolades.

Rudy McBride’s long term of work at Blockbuster did not directly relate to his desired role as a graphic designer, but instead of leaving it off his resume, he chose to spin it as related to management and visual design within the video store.

Our recent college graduate, Gretchen Chen, does not have a whole lot of real-world job experience. But by highlighting her skills and presenting her coursework in a way that makes sense to hiring managers, she positions herself well to jump into the job market.