How ATS impacts your job search

Posted: March 6, 2014

With a competitive job market on our hands, it’s important to be aware of all aspects of the job search process, and how to put your best foot forward. With this being said, the Wall Street Journal recently found that about 90% of all Fortune 500 companies are now using something called “Applicant Tracking Software”.  ATS screens, parses, scores and ranks uploaded resumes by matching job requirements to resumes that document matching skills and experience. The systems used are typically programmed to scan for keywords, previous employers, experience, and schools the candidate has attended.

The following are some “dos” and “don’ts” to ensure your resume is compatible with Applicant Tracking Software:


  • Read the job description and include keywords within the job (keywords refer to skills or attributes preferred for the position, for example, “MATLAB” or “Leadership”)
  • Use ECS templates (which are preformatted to be ATS friendly; can be found under “Resources”à “Resource Library” in your Handshake account) or similar, simple templates implementing basic, text-based formatting
  • Avoid fancy formatting… decorative bullets might change to unexpected symbols, and tables or graphics might not translate at all
  • Save your resume file so that it includes your name (ex: John Doe Resume)
  • Test your resume to see if it’s ATS friendly; you can do this by copying and pasting your resume content into a notepad application, save it as a txt file, close it and then reopen it with MS Word; what you see will be what the ATS sees


  • Include boxes, tables, columns, lines, or graphics
  • Employ decorative bullets; stick with text based elements
  • Use “fancy” font or anything above 12 pt. font (stick with conservative fonts such as: Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri)
  • Have margins on top/sides that are smaller than .75-1”, or below .51” on the bottom of your resume

“Knowledge is power.”
-Francis Bacon