The Problem with ATS Resume Checkers

compare resume to job description

If you’ve done your research as a job seeker, you know that many companies today use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan resumes.

ATS software is used by most large companies and many mid-sized and small firms today to essentially cull the herd of the hundreds if not thousands of resumes they receive for job postings.

Job seekers may be intimidated by ATS because if your resume doesn’t get past one, it may not even get seen by the HR manager or hiring manager.

As a result, many job seekers have fallen into the trap of trying to manipulate ATS software. ATS systems primarily look for keywords in resumes, among other things, to weed out applicants. In turn, some job seekers attempt to “keyword stuff” their resumes to get past the ATS.

We’ll explain why keyword stuffing is never the right tactic when writing a resume and applying to jobs. There are many ATS Resume Checkers online today – some for free – that will analyze your resume and give you a score based on how well it performs against a hypothetical ATS.

However, it’s crucial to take ATS Resume Checkers and Tests with a grain of salt. Let’s discuss the best ways to beat and ATS.

What is an ATS?

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First off, what exactly is an ATS? Many job seekers have probably heard of one but may not know precisely what they are.

ATS is a type of software used by companies to streamline the hiring process. The software scans and sorts resumes, and then it ranks job applicants based on various factors.

ATS was initially designed for large companies that had to sort through thousands of resumes for open positions. But recently, the software has been adopted by many mid-sized and small companies, too. Multiple studies estimates that about 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software.

ATS software essentially serves as an electronic gatekeeper for hiring managers. The software analyzes resumes based on factors like keywords and formatting, and then it ranks candidates based on those factors. ATS cuts down on the time managers spend looking at resumes and picks out the ones that are most qualified and fit for the position.

Why ‘Keyword Stuffing’ Doesn’t Work

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Knowing an ATS software can deny your resume is frustrating. A Harvard Business Study estimates that 75% of resumes are rejected by ATS. Yikes!

Facing these steep odds, some job seekers are tempted to keyword stuff their resumes. The idea is that by including as many keywords from the job description as possible, you’ll manipulate the ATS to get past it.

But this tactic can backfire. True, you’ll want to include the main relevant keywords from the job description. For example, if you’re applying for an accounting role and a CPA is required, you’ll need to ensure that you include that in your resume. However, there is such a thing as overoptimizing your resume.

Don’t overstuff your skill list on your resume with keywords – especially if you don’t really have the soft and hard skills you list. Also, don’t use too many keywords in one sentence. It leads to clunky sentences, and it’ll be evident to a hiring manager what you’re trying to do if they read it.

Remember that, hopefully, a hiring manager will look at your resume. Yes, you want to get past the ATS, but what happens when it’s read by a human?

Resumes that are keyword-stuffed look robotic, spammy, and suspect. Managers can be turned off by the fact you try to manipulate the software. In addition, the resume could be so stuffed with keywords, it’ll have bad grammar and look like it was written by a computer and not a real person.

About ATS Resume Checkers

compare resume to job description

So, keyword stuffing is a big no-no, as we determined. But what about ATS Resume Tests and Checkers? While these sometimes-free services have their merits, don’t put your complete faith in them.

Many online companies offer ATS Resume Tests that simulate how your resume would fare against ATS software. The ATS Tests operate similar to regular ATS, and they check for the same things like keywords, formatting, etc.

There are benefits to using an ATS Resume Test. Most of these tests give you an objective look at how you’d stack up against a real ATS, and they can give you some insights and ideas on how to beat the software.

Keep a few things in mind, though. ATS Tests aren’t entirely reliable for the simple reason there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of ATS software types on the market. Different companies use different software, and they could also set up wildly different parameters in their settings.

ATS software – and the tests and checkers themselves – have no universal standards or regulations. It’s kind of a free-for-all. So, because it’s such a mix, you could score high on one test but maybe much lower on another one.

Also, we frequently work with clients who want multiple versions of their resume tailored for each job to try and score high in the ATS; however, it works best to have one resume with custom tailored cover letters for each role. The resume will have the same job roles regardless, but the cover letters can be tailored each specific job. Also, you can only have one LinkedIn account that should reflect the resume.

Bottom line: ATS Tests are helpful, and there’s no harm in trying one. But don’t think just because you passed one test, your resume is guaranteed to get past the real thing.

Tips on Beating an ATS

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When it comes to beating an ATS, there are a few tried-and-true tips that usually work. Because ATS software is so advanced today and different with each company, there are no fail-safe methods. But a few things help tremendously.

Here are some tips on beating an ATS:

  • Use the correct file format. In most cases, PDFs aren’t compatible with ATS software. If the company asks for a PDF file, send one by all means. But if they don’t specify, play it safe and send your resume as a Microsoft Word file.
  • Don’t include images or graphics. Images and graphics may look great to the human eye, but ATS can’t decipher them. Stick to a plain format and leave out images, charts, boxes, and elaborate designs. These things will appear as a garbled mess to an ATS, and they may leave the vital info they contain out entirely.
  • Use a clean resume design. Less is more when it comes to resume templates and designs. ATS software doesn’t like fancy templates, just like it’s not able to read charts. Instead, stick to a clean design with a simple hierarchy in a Microsoft Word file.
  • Include keywords. Include the most important keywords from the job description in critical parts of your resume that you have actual experience or accomplishment with. But remember, don’t overdo it and overoptimize. There’s no general rule for how many keywords is too much, so just use common sense and don’t go overboard.

ATS Software is More Advanced than Ever

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Believe it or not, ATS software has been around for a while. The earliest ATS systems appeared in the late ‘90s, around the same time that internet job boards like Monster became popular. However, ATS software has come a long way and is getting much more advanced every year.

Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies use the ATS software known as Taleo or Workday. In addition, some large companies like UPS and Microsoft use proprietary ATS software.

ATS software is a billion-dollar industry, and there’s so much diversity and so many types that it’s vital to take ATS Resume Tests with a grain of salt. For example, your resume may pass an ATS Test online, but who’s to say the company you apply to has an entirely different software set up with different filters and settings?

It’s also important to remember that keyword-stuffing rarely ever works. ATS systems are more advanced today and may spot it. But, even if they don’t, hiring managers will likely be turned off by a resume that manipulated the system.

Your best bet is to partner with a professional resume writing company. Getting past ATS software is tough, and resume writers like Empire Resume know precisely how to craft resumes that beat them.

Contact Empire Resume today at 801-690-4085 or and ask about our free resume review.

We write resumes for a wide variety of clients, from entry-level to senior executive job seekers, and we guarantee 100% client satisfaction.

Also, stay tuned to Empire Resume’s blog for more insights into resumes and employment, including articles like 10 Words and Phrases to Never Put on a Resume, 7 Signs of a Fake Job Offer, and What it’s Really Like Working at Google.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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