Why Your Resume is Being Ignored by ATS (And How to Fix It)

In the digital era, the majority of large companies and many smaller ones too, use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sift through the overwhelming influx of resumes they receive daily. These systems are designed to screen out up to 75% of applicants automatically. But what if your resume is part of that percentage, despite your qualifications? Let’s explore the reasons why your resume might be overlooked by ATS and, more importantly, how you can remedy it.

Why ATS Might Ignore Your Resume

Non-Optimized Keywords

  • Mismatched Jargon: Each industry or company might have its unique set of jargon or terms. If your resume doesn’t align with these, the ATS might overlook it.
  • Generic Phrasing: Using generic phrases or duties might not align with the specific job posting, causing the ATS to skip over your application.

Complex Formatting

  • Unreadable Layouts: Creative resumes with multiple columns, fancy graphics, or unique fonts might confuse ATS systems, leading them to reject the resume.
  • Header and Footer Information: Some ATS can’t read data in headers and footers, which could result in missing crucial information from your application.

File Type Mismatches

  • Unsupported File Types: While you might prefer sending a PDF due to its consistent formatting, some ATS can only read DOC or DOCX files, making your resume invisible to them.


  • Too Many Qualifications: If your resume indicates that you’re overqualified for a position, some ATS might automatically filter it out to avoid potential future turnover.

How to Fix Your Resume for ATS

Optimize for Keywords

  • Tailor Each Application: Customize your resume for each job application. Ensure it contains keywords from the job description to increase its ATS compatibility.
  • Use Job Titles: If the job listing is for a “Customer Service Representative,” and you’ve held that title before, ensure it’s prominently listed in your experience.

Simplify Your Formatting

  • Stick to Standard: Utilize a straightforward, ATS-friendly template. Avoid using headers, footers, text boxes, or multiple columns.
  • Font Choices: Stick to standard fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Avoid script fonts or any stylized choices.

Choose the Right File Type

  • Follow Instructions: If the job listing specifies a file type, follow it to the letter.
  • Play it Safe: If no file type is specified, a DOC or DOCX is generally a safer bet than a PDF.

Match Your Qualifications

  • Position Appropriately: Rather than omitting qualifications, position them in a way that shows you’re not just looking for any job but are genuinely interested in the position at hand.
  • Cover Letter Narrative: Use your cover letter to address potential overqualification concerns and express your keen interest in the role.

Additional Tips for Navigating ATS

Understanding the Importance of the First Page

  • Highlighting Key Information: Most ATS provide a snapshot of the first page of your resume to hiring managers. Ensure that your most critical qualifications, skills, and achievements are prominently displayed on the first page.
  • Professional Summary: Including a well-crafted professional summary can give the ATS keywords it’s searching for and provide hiring managers with a succinct overview of your capabilities.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

  • Natural Inclusion: While it’s essential to incorporate relevant keywords, it’s equally vital to ensure they’re included naturally within the context. Overloading your resume with a noticeable repetition of keywords might get it past the ATS, but it could deter the hiring manager.
  • Use Variations: Don’t just rely on the exact wording from the job description. For instance, if the job description mentions “project management,” you can also use terms like “project leader” or “project coordinator.”

Include Relevant Acronyms

  • Industry-Specific Terms: Many professions have acronyms that are commonly recognized. For instance, a Certified Public Accountant can be both written out and abbreviated as “CPA.”
  • Spell Out and Abbreviate: To maximize your resume’s visibility, it might be useful to include both the full form and the acronym in your application.

Regularly Update Your Resume

  • Stay Current: As you acquire new skills or achievements, ensure they’re updated on your resume. This not only enhances your qualifications but can also introduce new keywords that an ATS might be looking for.
  • Remove Outdated Information: As the industry and its jargon evolve, some terms or skills may become obsolete. Regularly review your resume to remove or update such information.


While it may seem daunting to tailor your resume for both ATS and human eyes, understanding the intricacies can significantly increase your chances of landing that interview. A well-optimized resume showcases your professionalism and attention to detail, traits that every employer values.

When you’re ready to ensure that your resume isn’t just ATS-friendly but also aesthetically pleasing and professional, browse through these curated templates.