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The number of resumes that do NOT make it past the big bad bots, aka Applicant Tracking Software algorithms, is rising steadily. In 2018, there were 109 of these programs in use to screen applicants  Today, according to, there are 373 products that will separate the wheat from the chaff. If you aren’t a country girl like me, that means, they pull out the cream and the rest drains away. Anywhere up to 30% can be sweet cream that is coveted for delicious treats. In other words, 75 to 80% get rejected before a person ever sees them.

If you submit your resume through an online portal, whether it’s LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or Indeed, your resume is going to be read by a bot first. It’s been programmed to look for specific things. If you don’t have enough of a match, you are rejected. It’s that simple.

In a previous blog I wrote about Marissa Meyer’s resume. It’s filled with graphics, charts, photos and more. If submitted online, it would be rejected immediately by ATS.

Here are 12 Things ATS doesn’t Understand.

  1. Font: It only reads specific fonts. If yours isn’t right, it can’t read it.
  2. Layout: ATS can’t understand your columns. It’s programmed to read left to right only.
  3. Graphics: The programming in ATS is for text only.
  4. Headers & Footers: ATS doesn’t read them. So, if demographic info is in the header . . . poof!
  5. Colors: Everything your computer produces is still in binary code. Color adds extra code.
  6. Length: Different career levels have different word count limits. No 3,000-word novellas.
  7. Bullet points: Use the wrong one and some ATS will reject it.
  8. Symbols: In highly technical resumes, some specific symbols are needed. Otherwise, don’t.
  9. Boredom: While an AI can’t actually get bored, it can see a lack of dynamic verbs.
  10. Personal Pronouns: This is a business document that everyone knows is about you so don’t.
  11. Spelling: Spellcheck is not enough. We’ve seen “Senior Manger” instead of Manager. Proofread!
  12. Grammar: Strong verbs, limited phrasal verbs, concise writing, consistent punctuation.

What’s the option? Use the KISS principle. Keep It Simple & Succinct

According to “While beautiful resume templates, custom cover letters, and charts may wow a human recruiter, chances are that the ATS bots won’t appreciate the extra effort.

Make your resume very specific to a single field/position type. Generic, cookie cutter resumes won’t get you anywhere. You will be missing the keywords that AI has been programmed to find. Read the job description carefully. We once wrote a resume for a client where the job listing said, “Your resume must contain the word “armadillo” to get past ATS.” The job wasn’t about animals. They were simply ensuring that you read the listing carefully.

Use a simple, clean design. Embedded charts and other images, custom font styles, and intricate bullet styles will get scrambled or simply skipped over when the ATS scans your application.”

It all sounds daunting, right? We agree. That’s why we have done the research, committed the time and effort to create resumes that pass ATS and are a pleasure for recruiters to read. If you make it into that top 20% that get to a human, it still needs to be easily read. You have, on average, 6.2 seconds to grab their attention.

So, do you want to be cream? Or skimmed milk?

Joanne Rosen is one of the founders of Analytic Advantage Career Consulting. The team has written thousands of resumes with amazing results. Send your current resume to: [email protected] and we’ll tell you how much cream it contains.