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Master The Applicant Tracking System

Marcus Castro

7 mins read
July 10, 2024

If you're on the relentless quest to land that dream job, or trying to guide students to do so, you’ve likely encountered the notorious ATS (Applicant Tracking System). 

It might sound like a tech-savvy gatekeeper, but trust us, it’s not here to ruin your chances. Think of the ATS as a resume-sorting wizard, making sure the best candidates get their time in the spotlight.

But how do you make sure your resume dazzles this digital wizard? Fear not! With a few strategic tweaks, you can turn your resume into an ATS-friendly masterpiece that’ll glide through filters and land on a recruiter’s desk. Let’s dive into the world of ATS optimization and ensure your resume stands out.

What is an ATS?

An ATS is an Applicant Tracking System, its main task is to make sure only the best resumes get inside. The ATS scans your resume for keywords and criteria set by hiring managers. If your resume fits the bill, you’re in!

ATS Myths Busted:

  • Myth: ATS is a robot that auto-rejects resumes.some text
    • Reality: It’s more like a super-organized assistant.
  • Myth: Gaps in employment? Automatic rejection.some text
    • Reality: Nope. The ATS doesn’t discriminate.
  • Myth: Only young candidates get through.some text
    • Reality: Age is just a number, baby.

How to Outshine the ATS

Apply Smartly

Don’t shotgun your resume everywhere. Focus on roles where you meet at least 70% of the qualifications. Research by LinkedIn shows women often undersell themselves, applying only when they meet 100% of the criteria. So to all, take note too—70% is your magic number.

Why 70%?

Hiring managers are looking for candidates who can hit the ground running. Meeting 70% of the qualifications shows you're a strong contender while leaving room for growth and learning. Plus, it saves you time and effort applying for jobs that aren’t the right fit.

Keywords Are Your BFFs

Your resume’s text is your secret weapon. Load it with relevant keywords from the job description. Think of it as SEO for your career. CareerOS’s Job Description Keyword Finder can help you hit the bullseye.

How to Find Keywords:

  • Analyze Job Descriptions: Look at several job listings in your field and highlight recurring terms.
  • Use Tools: CareerOS's Keyword Finder compares job descriptions with your resume.
  • Tailor Each Application: Adjust your resume for each job to include the most relevant keywords.

Pro Tip: Avoid overused buzzwords like "team player" or "detail-oriented." Focus on specific skills and technologies mentioned in the job listing.

Placement Matters

Spread those keywords throughout your resume. Like seasoning a steak, sprinkle them evenly. Use action verbs to spice things up—words like “generated,” “oversaw,” and “created” pack a punch.

Strategic Placement Tips:

  • Professional Summary: Include 2-3 key terms right at the top.
  • Work Experience: Embed keywords within your job duties and achievements.
  • Skills Section: List hard and soft skills that match the job requirements.
  • Education and Certifications: Mention relevant courses and certifications.

Be Specific and Quantify Achievements

Numbers talk. Instead of saying you "improved sales," say you "increased sales by 20% in Q2 2023." Specifics make your resume stand out.


  • Sales: "Increased sales by 20% in Q2 2023 by implementing a new CRM system."
  • Marketing: "Boosted social media engagement by 35% through targeted campaigns."
  • Operations: "Reduced operational costs by 15% through process optimization."

Keep It Clean

Fancy designs might look cool, but they confuse the ATS. Stick to simple, clean templates. CareerOS offers ATS-friendly resume templates that make it easy to look professional.

Design Tips:

  • Fonts: Stick to readable fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri.
  • Formatting: Use bullet points and plenty of white space.
  • Sections: Clearly label sections with standard titles like "Experience," "Education," and "Skills."

Avoid These ATS Pitfalls:

  • Keyword Stuffing: Don’t go overboard. The ATS knows when you’re trying too hard.
  • Header Overload: Keep critical info out of the header; it’s not prime ATS real estate.
  • Photos: Leave your selfies for Instagram. The ATS can’t process images.
  • Complex Formatting: Tables, graphics, and text boxes are a no-go.
  • Wrong File Type: Always opt for PDF. It’s ATS-friendly and looks sharp.
  • Mismatch: Ensure your cover letter matches your resume. CareerOS’s tools make this a breeze.

Additional Tips:

  • Consistency is Key: Ensure your resume and cover letter use similar language and formatting.
  • Proofread: Spelling errors can be a dealbreaker. Use tools like Grammarly to catch mistakes.

Coming Soon!

How to Create an ATS-Optimized Resume with CareerOS

  • Upload/Import: Start with your current resume or LinkedIn profile.
  • Keyword Matching: Use our tools to match your resume with the job description.
  • Design: Choose from our optimized templates. Customize to fit your style.
  • Export: Save as a PDF and you’re good to go!

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Optimize with Keywords
Navigate to the "AI Resume Builder" and input the job description of the role you're eyeing. CareerOS will highlight the key terms you need.

Step 2: Design Your Resume
Select a clean, professional template. Customize fonts, colors, and layouts to reflect your personality and industry norms.

Step 3: Add the Right Content

  • Professional Summary: Craft a compelling summary with 2-3 key terms.
  • Experience: List your jobs with achievements using keywords and action verbs.
  • Skills and Certifications: Include all relevant skills and certifications.
  • Education: Mention your degrees and relevant coursework.

Step 4: Finalize and Export
Once satisfied with your resume, click "Export" and save it as a PDF.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to write a personalized cover letter. CareerOS’s tools can help ensure it complements your resume perfectly.

Know more about CareerOS