The Problem with ATS-Formatted Resumes


problem with ats-formatted resumesHow should a resume be formatted to get through an applicant tracking system?

I’ll answer this question first, but then I’ll tell you the problem with ATS-formatted resumes.

If an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) asks for a .rtf or .txt document, the resume needs to be untreated font only (i.e. Courier). No bold, italics, underline, bullets, borders, colors, boxes, etc. are to be used – just text.

If the ATS accepts a .pdf, .doc or .docx document, then most borders and font treatment will be recognized by the system.

Most applicant tracking systems nowadays are more sophisticated and can digest modern document formatting. However, no system will be able to recognize 100% of the document elements and text formatting. There will always be technical limitations within an ATS or email system.

Here is a secret: If you have the skills and experience a company needs, and your border is off under your name, most recruiters will still call you knowing it is an issue with the ATS (I did when I recruited, and I know many recruiters who would still make the call.)

So don’t stress about formatting too much. Instead, focus on making the content strong.

Now here is what is wrong with writing ATS focused resumes:

Job seekers are focusing on how only 15-20% of hires are made.

Most hires (70%) are made through employee referrals, social media connections and personal contacts – these interactions do not have an ATS acting as a gatekeeper.

If a hire cannot be made through one of these three ways, then a job ad is posted.

When the job ad is posted and a candidate applies, this is where the initial ATS filtering comes into play.

These job postings are clearly harder to fill since the hiring manager most likely already tapped their personal and professional networks to find potential candidates. They’re the tough-to-fill, everyone-and-their-mother-is-applying-for and depend-on-a-computer-to-filter-your-resume job postings.

Following me?

So stop writing your resume for the ATS.

Focus on writing your resume for people.

And then contact people.

Use color, borders and font treatments to catch the eye of the real people making 70% of hires.

That’s the key.

To review, take a break applying through applicant tracking systems.

Or at least limit job board postings to 20% of your job search time.

Spend your time writing your resume for the 70% of how hires are made.

How are the other 10% of hires made?

I’ll be sharing that with you in the coming weeks.

Here’s what you can start doing today:

Click this LINK to register for one of my upcoming Live, No-Cost “How to Design a Powerful Executive Resume to Land Interviews and Get the Offer! training sessions on either Tuesday, July 25th or Thursday, July 27th at 1:30 p.m. ET. Join us to learn how to turn your resume into a powerful career tool that works for you in your quest for career advancement.


Be well!



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