By Kamara Toffolo

Some resume service providers don’t want me to make this video.

But job seekers deserve to know the truth.

In this video, I’m going to debunk many of the myths you’ve heard about the applicant tracking system, the ATS, or the robots as they are often called, and give you nothing but the truth about this resume scanning software.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation floating around about the applicant tracking system, which for time’s sake, I’ll refer to as the ATS going forward.

I have personally misunderstood the ATS in the past which influenced the advice I gave and my approach to resumes.

But there are some resume service providers, or other types of professionals turned job search advisor hobbyists, who use ATS fear-mongering as their form of marketing.

For those of you who don’t know what an ATS is, let me break it down quickly.

When you apply to a job online, it is often passed through the ATS, which is software used to manage your application through its different stages, and different touchpoints. It’s used often by recruiters and talent acquisition professionals.

When you’re asked to re-enter your information even though it’s on your resume. Yeah. ATS.

My concerns over ATS misinformation and ATS fear-mongering has inspired my mission to understand the ATS more fully.

I have spent countless hours researching and engaging with recruiters to learn how they actually use the ATS in their work.

I want to share what I’ve learned with you by debunking several ATS myths and serving up many truths.

You’ll want to stick around for the entire video because at the end of the video, I’m going to share a pro tip for checking how well your resume works with the ATS.

ATS Myth #1The more keywords the better!

This is not true. When it comes to keywords, quantity over quality.

Quality means, we’re aligning them with the job posting…

And we can and do back them up with accomplishments.

The purpose of keywords is to be searchable. By humans. 

When we focus on quantity, we fall into the trap of keyword jamming. You may have heard advice to use white teeny tiny font to include a bunch of keywords in your resume?

This is one of the worst pieces of resume advice on the planet. You’re not fooling anyone with this tactic, and you can quickly say goodbye to the possibility of an interview.

ATS Myth #2: Hyperlinks will cause your resume to get rejected

Maybe you’ve included hyperlinks in your resume for your email address or LinkedIn profile to make it easier for the recruiter to contact you.

This is perfectly OK. The ATS will not reject our resume due to links.

What you’ll want to make sure you do with hyperlinks is to include the full text of the URL address. This also gives recruiters the options to copy and paste the address into their browser if necessary.

ATS Myth #3The ATS doesn’t like fonts that are smaller than 11 points, or are serif like Times New Roman.

Look, Times New Roman is a boring font. And fonts smaller than 11 can be hard to read, but the ATS doesn’t have any discerning tastes about fonts.

Font size and style should be considered for human readers. The ATS doesn’t give a shit.

ATS Myth #4Don’t ever submit your resume as a PDF.

The old thinking was that the ATS was so simple, that even uploading your resume as a Word document was risky. It was recommended to use plain text.

Now how something supposedly this simple could also be considered to have font preferences, is beyond me. 

Companies career pages will usually define what file types are acceptable.

If PDF is approved, you can submit your resume as PDF.

If it’s not, stick with Word.

ATS Myth #5: Your resume can be auto-rejected by the ATS without a human ever seeing it.

Humans reject resumes. Not The ATS.

You may have heard that 70% or 75% of resumes don’t even make it to the human.

This is almost never true.

The only time it is true is based on show stopper types of questions like can you legally work in the country?

Like, hello, if you can’t legally work in a country, you can’t expect that an employer will interview you.

So that said, in nearly all cases, a human is reviewing your application before they decide whether to take you to the next round, or pass.

Even if you get a thanks but no thanks email in the middle of the night, even if you get it quickly after submitting your application. A human had eyes on your application and decided not to move forward.

So now that we’ve debunked a bunch of myths, I’ll now dish up some ATS truths that’ll help keep you most effectively apply for jobs.

Truth #1: Only apply to jobs for which you’re qualified

When you find yourself reviewing a job posting and thinking “I could do that job,” that’s not enough.

You should be thinking to yourself, I have done that job, and my resume shows that. 

When you get to that stage, that indicates you’re qualified, and it’s appropriate to apply.

Applying when you aren’t qualified will just cause you frustration when you don’t hear back, and cause the hiring folks frustration because they’ll think that you didn’t give much thought to your application.

Truth #2Always submit resumes in a chronological format, not a functional format.

What is a functional resume anyway?

It’s where you lump your accomplishments together in categories at the beginning of your resume, and then just list your jobs.

A chronological resume allocates the accomplishments to the jobs in which they happened.

Using a functional resume won’t help you play to the ATS. ATSs are designed to read chronological resumes.

Truth #3ATSs can’t read text boxes, the header or footer section of a resume, or images.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the ATS will reject your resume.

Instead, what will happen is that any parts of your resume using text boxes, header footer section, or images, will show up as blank.

Avoid using these Word tools, and build your resume in the body of a document so that it takes up the whole width of the page, and reads from left to right.

Check out a few of the different training videos on my channel which cover resume formatting.

Truth #4: Another formatting truth, columns aren’t advisable.

The only exception to this is if you’re building your skills section in columns. This is OK and I’ve linked to a video that shows you how to do this.

What causes problems is particularly if you use what’s called a multi-panel resume, where it’s actually 2 huge columns.

As the ATS reads from left to right, just like a human would, when you use multiple panels or columns, it’s going to get confused and not send information through properly.

And the pro tip that I want to share with you:

If you’re wondering how your resume looks to an ATS, convert it to a plain text file and review how the content looks.

This shows you how the ATS will be interpreting it.

And will also show you if you need to make any fixes.

To sum up, the ATS is a tool used by hiring professionals. It is not a tool with a mind of its own. It’s not a robot. It’s not AI taking over the planet. If it was, why would people need to do the hiring?

And that’s the most important thing to remember as you write your resume. Always keep the human reader in mind.


This article was named a Top Job Search Blog Post for 2020 by The original article can be found here.



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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