How to Get Past Online Job Applications & Tracking Systems - Career Sidekick

How to Get Past Online Job Applications & Tracking Systems

How to get past online job applications

If you’re applying for jobs online, it’s crucial to know how to get past online job application systems.

If you don’t know how to beat the applicant tracking system, you won’t be getting the interview!

So in this article, I’m going to walk you through EVERYTHING you need to know about getting past online job application systems / ATS (applicant tracking systems) that employers are using to filter applicants. 

How to Get Past Online Job Applications & Resume Robots

So you’re at your laptop browsing job sites and you find a job that’s really appealing. Not necessarily for the pay or because they’re close to where you live, but because they sound like a serious company that goes the extra mile for their customers and employees. The more you read, the more you like them and wish you were a part of their team. And then you reach the “Apply for this job” button with “957 Applicants” proudly written beneath. Oh, and now it’s 962.

You could mutter “Bummer” and move on, apply anyway but keep your expectations on the low side, or you could follow these steps to make your application unique and noticeable:

Use Simple Resume Formatting

If you’re creating a resume in Microsoft Word, use simple formatting and headers. Bold, italic, and bullet points are all great (as long as they’re done in moderation).

However, where I see job seekers run into trouble with online job applications is using tables, columns, and other complicated formatting.

Also, many of the newer resume templates for sale online (or available for free) feature a two-column layout. They have a “main” column and a thin side column for your contact info and other details.

These designs look great, but some applicant tracking systems and online applications can’t read this smaller column. So while it may look sleek, it’s not helping you get past automated job application systems. 

Keep your resume simple with one column if you’re concerned about how to beat applicant tracking systems.

Here’s a full article if you want more info on how to format a resume. 

Tailor Your Resume for the Job Posting

Do not, under any circumstances, use your standard resume for a job that you really want. Not only do recruiters and hiring managers have an eye for these things, but it’s also important for beating the applicant tracking systems employers use.

So research the company and the job you’re applying for and use the information (mainly from the job description) to give your resume a boost.

Put the most relevant info near the top. Consider adding more pieces that are relevant to the specific job you’re applying for (like more bullets, more skills, etc.)

And also consider removing some irrelevant content. Sometimes less is more on your resume.  If something isn’t related to the job you applied for, it’s just “burying” the more relevant info that’ll actually help you get hired. And that’s not going to help you get hired or get past online applications. 

If you aren’t sure how to tailor your resume for a job, this article will walk you through it step by step.

Keep Your Fonts Simple

We’ve heard conflicting reports on whether or not online applications systems can read most fonts, or only just a few. 

While it’s likely they can read most fonts, it’s best to play it safe and choose a font that’s extremely common.

This can be Helvetica, Georgia, Calibri or Arial.

Avoid Times New Roman; it will make your resume look dated and old. 

Include Keywords

Part of why I recommend tailoring your resume (mentioned above) to get past online application systems is it helps you figure out what keywords to put on your resume.

Virtually every ATS/application system scans your resume for keywords from the job description, especially hard skills (like Customer Service, Web Design, Digital Marketing).

Don’t overdo it. You should always write your resume for a human reader first and foremost, because that’s who makes the final decision on whether to interview you.

But including some keywords from the job description is the single best way to get past the online job application systems employers use to filter resumes.

And once you get to a human reader, it’ll still help you! The amount of employers that use “Ctrl + F” to quickly go through hundreds of applications is the reason why using keywords should be your top priority. 

Use Long and Short Variations of Keywords

Use both long and short variations of keywords on your resume when possible.

For example, MBA / Master of Business Administration.

You never know which keyword the employer programmed into their online application system, so if you have an opportunity to vary how you’re saying it, that’ll boost your odds of getting through to a human reader

Use a Chronological Resume Format

This is the only resume format I recommend when it comes to impressing a human reader, too. As a recruiter, I NEVER liked seeing a “functional resume” or anything that hides the order of jobs you held, and what tasks you performed in each job.

Employers and recruiters want to see a list of past jobs, dates, and bullets for what you did and learned in each job!

And this is also the best resume format to beat the applicant tracking system. 

Don’t Put Any Important Info into a Resume Header or Footer 

If you want to put something small in the header or footer of your resume for styling reasons, go ahead, but don’t count on an applicant tracking system picking it up or “reading” it. So nothing you put in a header or footer of your resume will help you get past the ATS.

I recommend not using a header or footer at all when creating your resume in Word. Just use the main section of the document.

However, if you do want to use a header or footer for some reason, just keep this tip in mind. 

Use Standard Headers for Your Resume Sections

Don’t get fancy when it comes to the headers before each section of your resume.

Keep it simple with names like “Work Experience,” “Skills,” etc.

This is the best way to make sure you don’t confuse the applicant tracking system and have it miss one of the key sections that might have gotten you the interview!

If you want help with this, here’s a full article on resume sections and titles

After the Online Application: Preparing for the Interview

That should be more than enough to get you through even the toughest online job application systems, show those resume robots you’re a good fit, and land you the interview. However, the interview is critical, so make sure you’re ready. Here are a few interview tips to help.

First, don’t panic, don’t fret about it and get plenty of sleep the night before. If you are prone to stressing out, think about what makes you who you are and what you appreciate about yourself.

This can actually be a good chance to think about the most difficult question employers like to torment their interviewers with – what’s your greatest weakness? You might think there’s no right answer to this and they practically already rejected you if asked that, but it’s actually not at all true.

Don’t try to memorize full answers to questions they might ask. Instead, write down a few pieces of information that you are keen on mentioning and try to fit them in as the interview progresses. This will make your answers appear spontaneous. Also, prepare a stunning elevator pitch to catch their attention right off the bat.

If you read the steps above, you now know how to get past online job applications, and you’ll be ready to turn your interviews into job offers, too.

While nobody gets a response from 100% of their online applications or turns every interview into an offer, you now know how to boost your odds and give yourself the best possible chance of success. 


Leave a Comment: