3 Ways to Get Past Resume Filters

By now you’re probably familiar with the role software can play in the application process for an open position.  Gone are the days of going door to door hand delivering your resume to companies in search of a new job.  In today’s digital age, not only is it assumed that you must apply for a position online through a company website or job board, but that a company is likely using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  An ATS is a tool used by companies to organize, filter, and rank candidates for an open job.  With such a disparity between qualified job seekers and open jobs, employers use an ATS to help narrow their options to candidates that have the right keywords, phrases, and work experience designated in the job posting.  Here are a few tips you can use to help get past an ATS:

  1. Don’t put images or charts on your resume as they likely will cause havoc with the formatting of the document once it is screened by the ATS.  Some folks still include a headshot on their resume but this is considered outdated and unnecessary for nearly all professions.
  2. Carefully read the job description for the position you are applying to.  Look for keywords and phrases that fit your experience and use the same language on your resume before submitting.  An ATS scans resumes for keywords related to the position and the more matches you have, the higher of a rank you will receive against your job seeking competitors.
  3. Most ATS scanners have specific file types they can read.  Usually PDF files are not accepted and you’ll want to have a formatted Word doc or plain text file handy to submit when the time comes.

The ATS is just the first hurdle in your application, but having a resume specifically formatted with keywords will give you a boost over your competition.  The goal is to get your foot in the door for an interview and from there you can let your personality and qualifications seal the deal.  Good luck!


  1. Angela – We absolutely recommend incorporating bullet points in your resume. Our advise is to utilize them in your work experience section to call attention to accomplishments or measurable achievements that you want to emphasize.

  2. Glenna –
    I find that some sites allow (or even encourage) upload of a separate cover letter – if you are allowed this option, use it! Otherwise, you can append the text of the cover letter to that of the resume at either the beginning or at the end. The ATS software doesn’t usually detect where one stops and the other begins, but it will scan both for key data points and if the combination gets in front of human eyes, the human will know what is resume and what is cover letter.
    I would give one caution in omitting photos – in many parts of the world, they are a required part of a resume or CV, so if applying for work with a non-US employer make sure you know the local custom and follow it.

  3. In the United States, including a photo on your resume is a huge No-No. Some H.R. consultants won’t even accept resumes with photos, for fear of being accused of discrimination based on gender, race, age, etc. I get around this by including on my resume a link to my online business profile, which does have my photo.

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