Resume Not Working Like You Thought It Would?

September 28, 2017

In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about how deafening the silence can be when basically no one is responding to your resume, even if the description of the job you applied for reads almost exactly like your career history.

The problem is that your resume is not making it through the ATS. The Applicant Tracking System is becoming more and more popular, particularly with mid-sized and, especially, large employers who need technology to quickly scan the thousands of resumes they receive, and automatically rule candidates in…or out.

It’s critically, critically important to make your ATS resume the right way. So let’s go over one of the major areas that could be getting you kicked out of the system before a real human being even has the chance to consider you.

It’s Your Experience

Why? The experience section of your ATS resume can end up being the stickiest issue. Yet, it’s for the simplest reason: you have to keep your ATS section headings super-simple, or else the ATS literally doesn’t even know what you’re saying.

The wrong words to use as headings for your experience section include, “Highlights of Experience,” “Experience & Achievements,” “Achievement Highlights,” “Leadership Experience,” and “Experience & Successes.” All of these are perfect for a Word resume when you know you’re emailing it directly to a human being.

Yet these are the absolute kiss of death when you’re applying online and your resume is going through the ATS. The ATS will either skip over the section entirely, or simply mark your resume as “rejected” when it gets to something it doesn’t understand. Neither outcome spells good news for you as the candidate.

For Once, DON’T Differentiate Yourself

I promise you, this is the ONLY time you’ll ever hear me say that, as a professional resume writer. It’s counter-intuitive: resumes are about standing out, both in the visual formatting and the content of your achievements. With an ATS resume, however, the visual formatting is the one thing that’s got to go, pronto!

When it comes to ATS, Plain Jane is the way to go every single time. All the ATS understands are extremely simple section headers:

Contact Information




Leave off all the extras, such as:

Volunteer Experience

Board Appointments



The goal is for your resume to make it through the ATS, so that you can be considered. Even though the ATS resume is the ugly version of your presentation, it’s enough for a human being to glance over it, learn what it is you bring to the table, and make the decision to call you for an interview.

When you get that call, ask for the person’s email address so you can send the Word version of your resume.

“ATS Express!” is an all-new feature in my full online job search master class, “5 Game-Changing Job Search Hacks for the 50+ Job Hunter.” Register to see a live demonstration of an ATS transformation, so you can grab your screen shots and make sure yours is correct. And your resume may be selected for “ATS Express!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *