How to Get Your Resume Read by an Employer

Who sees your resume first when you apply for a job? A better question might be what sees your resume first.

Because employers are often inundated with resumes every time they post a job, automation has come to save the day in the form of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATSs scan all of the resumes that come in for each job, then presents the top candidates to a living, breathing human being. It sounds pretty efficient from the employer’s point of view.

From the applicant’s point of view, though, the ATS can be the reason they’re not getting a job. Studies have shown that up to 75% of qualified applicants are rejected by ATSs because of problems with the applicants’ resumes. Of course, you want to be part of the 25% that are chosen. 

If you’re qualified for a position, being part of the top 25% isn’t difficult, but there are several rules you MUST follow to make friends with your potential employer’s ATS.


Your resume is not the place to get creative. Save your creative juices for your next painting project. An ATS is more likely to accept resumes that follow these formatting rules, simply because it’s easier for the system to find the information it is looking for:

  • Use a .doc or .txt format – Do not use a .pdf or any other format. The system best reads editable text and often mistakes .pdf documents as great big pictures. Speaking of pictures…
  • Use no graphics or tables on your resume – Graphics and tables throw off a system’s ability to get information from your resume and, rather than try harder to get the information, it will simply reject your resume.
  • Do not use resume templates – Resume templates often use formatting tricks that are invisible to the eye, but very real to the ATS. Keep it simple.
  • List employers first, then the date – This is a big deal for ATSs. When they see a date first, then the employer, they get confused and reject resumes. List the employer, then dates employed.
  • Upload your resume instead of typing it in – Even if you copy the text straight from your resume and paste it into the system, the system will give preference to resume documents that are uploaded. 


Thanks to Google and all other search engines, communications live and die by keywords. Like all search systems, ATSs are becoming more sophisticated, so it’s important to use keywords correctly. 

  • Unique key words – Rather than using a more generic keyword over and over, take a good look at the job posting you’re responding to and find some unique keywords that the employer is using over and over themselves. (Weak: Marketing. Strong: Event Promotion and Marketing)
  • Use them in a laundry list AND contextually – It’s great to use your unique key words in your skills summary, but make sure you’re using them in the body of your resume as well. This will add strength to your key word use.
  • Learn the corporation’s culture – Every corporation has their own corporate ‘speak’ that is used more within the corporate walls than in everyday speech. If you know the company uses words like cadence, back schedule, strategic brief, or any other such words, go ahead and sprinkle them in. If you know someone who is working at the potential employer, ask them what some of their corporate-speak words are. 

Other recommendations

  • Submit a personalized cover letter whenever you can, and use some of the strategies mentioned above.
  • Capitalization, punctuation, and spelling matter! You’re not texting someone here, so reach back and use those skills you learned in your English classes. 

Keep your resume simple, concise and clean. Whether it’s being scanned by a machine or a human being, and easy-to-read resume will always come out on top.


Let’s get to work!