Get Maximum Traction in an Application Tracking System (ATS)

Get Maximum Traction in an Application Tracking System (ATS)

Ever been told to apply online at a career fair? It’s not that the employer is trying to get rid of you. It’s probably because recruiters need electronic resumes that can be scanned using an applicant tracking system.

So, how do you maximize your impact in an ATS? Keywords. When a hiring manager looks through a pile of resumes, he or she scans each resume to find these keywords. An ATS does the same thing. These are words found in your skills, abilities, credentials, and qualities that tell a hiring manager that you could be a fit for a job.

Similarly, when recruiters are searching databases and social networks, including LinkedIn, they type in the keywords they are seeking for a particular job. So, what is a keyword? Basically, it’s how insiders describe themselves and others in their profession. The keywords most relevant to your job search are the words and phrases a recruiter would use to describe your next job. Think of keywords as the jargon of the industry.

Using the right keywords on your resume will show the hiring manager that you are a good fit for the job. For example, naming a specific software application like Microsoft Project is better than saying “strong computer skills.”

Before you add a keyword, make sure you capture the most relevant title being used in your industry. Search industry trends for your profession. You can pick up a lot of relevant keywords simply by searching job descriptions that interest you. Make a note of the terminology used and replicate it on your resume (if applicable). These terms will often be in specific sections of the job listing, such as “qualifications” and “responsibilities.” This language may also appear on the company’s “About Us” web page.

Relevant keywords can include:

Job title


Desired location

Past job titles


Can you drive a forklift? Operate medical equipment? Are you a Lean Six Sigma?

Software, particularly if it’s unique to your job, industry, or profession (e.g. SAP, WP, etc.).

Internet tools and apps

Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, etc. in your line of work?

Awards and recognition: Salesperson of the Quarter, etc.

Professional and community organizations (plus committee membership and current or former officer titles)

Certifications, licenses, or other proof of professional or industry knowledge

Education specifics: degrees, majors, applicable course work, post-graduate courses, professional training, on-the-job-training, and certifications, etc.

Publications, websites and media

Presentations at trade shows and conferences

But don’t exaggerate. A resume is a place to tout your skills but beware of exaggeration. Don’t claim a skill if you can’t back it up. Keywords are especially important in the top portion of your resume, but they can, and should, be used throughout.

By Chris Newsome