Do you think your resume or CV will be read by humans…….

November 21, 2013

…or by robots? Huh? Did you say robots? Yes, I did. Let me explain: Recruitment agencies and companies use software often called ATS or Applicant Tracking Software. Programs like Taleo, Kenexa, PeopleSoft and others. To support recruiters and staffing people, this software performs a lot of tasks for them. One of them is that a modern ATS has a built-in functionality to parse (or read) your CV or resume. I would say that about half of all organizations (and a majority of large organizations) use ATS’s to pre-qualify or screen applicants making the lives of recruiters easier. So, it is important for you to be prepared and optimize your resume or CV to get past the ATS. Here are some do’s and dont’s to think about when you prepare your resume for an ATS:


  • use creative formatting to make your resume look nice, an ATS can choke on it
  • use pictures, logos or other graphics, an ATS has no eyes
  • send your resume as a PDF, not all ATS’s can handle that
  • use non-standard fonts
  • insert information in tables in your resume


  • use standard fonts like Tahoma, Verdana, Arial
  • make sure that your resume is rich in keywords to match the job description
  • use bulleted lists of your qualifications and skills
  • spell check your resume and use appropriate punctuation
  • include your contact information near the top of the page

Make sure your resume or CV is organized in neat sections with proper headings. It is best not to use header and/or footer in an ATS version of your resume or CV. Also, check for abbreviations, to be safe it is best not to use them but to spell out words, ATS’s can be a little limited in vocabulary and may not understand abbreviations that you use. When you need to do cutting & pasting, have an ASCII version of your resume ready to prevent nasty things happening to your formatting. If you can, upload your resume or CV. Bear in mind that an ATS analyzed keywords, titles etc. to assess your experience. These systems are capable of rejecting the majority of candidates that do not meet the requirements. 


Is this good or is it bad? Well, both. It is good because it helps the staffing folks speed up the processing of applications. It is good because you as an applicant, can include more information in preparing an ATS-friendly resume to help you stand out from the competition because an ATS doesn’t care about the lenght of your resume. It is bad because ATS’s can’t think the way humans can, it’s a bit like performing surgery on patients using garden tools. It is bad because hiring managers and recruiters will miss out on well qualified candidates because the robots have decided they didn’t make the cut.

Good luck battling the robots in landing your next job!