why does my resume get rejected?“I’ve applied to so many jobs, but I never hear back! Why does my resume get rejected – for every job I apply for?

Clients call me every day, frustrated about high rates of resume rejection when they apply for jobs online. The reason that so many resumes are rejected when job candidates apply online lies in one deadly acronym – ATS, or Applicant Tracking System software. I’ve written about this before, both in The Wall Street Journal and on LinkedIn.

Here’s how to avoid your resume getting rejected

Keep it simple:  The resumes I write aren’t at all fancy; no templates, fancy formatting or multiple fonts. Formatted resumes are a mistake because ATS can’t read fancy formatting or resume templates. That’s why I don’t use them. And as someone who read thousands of resumes when hiring in financial services, telecom and SaaS, I can promise you that recruiters appreciate a clean, easy-to-read document.

Forget the fancy fonts and italics: stick to Arial, Tahoma, Verdana or Helvetica. Some resume writers include Calibri, but it looks cramped to me. And check to make sure that you use a font large enough to be easily read without having to enlarge the document. You know that silly rumor that resumes should be one page long? Not only is that ludicrous, but it also often requires tiny fonts (and narrow margins) that can cause the ATS to drop text. Many people like to use italicized text to differentiate lines of text, but there’s no need for that. Only names of publicized media get italicized.

Here’s what an ATS developer said about why your resume gets rejected

You included degrees or certifications, such as Latisha Smith, MD, or Isaac Smith, PMP on the first line. Why? Diana Logan, a recruiter I know,  explains:

If you upload even an MD resume, it will be lumped into your name and the spacing can be off. When data is uploaded it can parse in an odd way. Furthermore, names are not included in the searchable fields, so if a recruiter is looking for an PMP or CPA, he or she will search the body of the resume or search by skill or credential (each system is slightly different).”

Diana suggests putting credentials after the name in email or printed resume; otherwise put them in the searchable section for best results. That’s a good hack if you want to err on the side of caution, but frankly, my clients haven’t had any problems with online rejection when they append this type of credential to their name.

You put employment dates on the left or middle of the page instead of  the right side. And while the developer doesn’t have a recommendation regarding use of months, I opt to omit them. They belong on the job application, which is a legal document, not a resume, which is a marketing tool.

You didn’t proofread! Maybe the person reading your resume won’t notice mistakes in capitalization or punctuation, but the ATS will, and according to this developer, mistakes can affect how the information is read and assigned into the ATS.

You used acronyms without also spelling them out: Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Project Management Professional (PMP).

Most important advice to avoid Your resume getting rejected

Don’t limit your job search to applying online. Why risk ATS rejection at all? It’s a well-documented reality that networking is how candidates get jobs, so appease the ATS as much as you can, but focus your energy on getting your resume in front of an actual human. Software has no place in “human” resources.

Need help avoiding resume rejection? Read about my pricing and process.


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