ATS Resume Test - Why CVs from Highly Qualified Applicants Are Rejected

I've heard a lot lately about the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) resume test and about problems that some applicants encounter when dealing with this kind of selection system. An ATS is used by employers to go through CVs and pass on what the system considers relevant and qualified to the hiring manager.



Unfortunately, many suitable CVs are rejected because they are not ATS-compatible (e.g. wrong format, missing keyword optimization etc.). In fact, a person's CV is never seen by a human, which in many cases is a questionable situation.


A colleague of mine, who works for a corporation in Berlin explained to me how an ATS works. Here’s what she told me:


  • An ATS scans resumes for work experience, skills, education and other relevant information defined for a certain position. Documents that meet the requirements are sent from the system to the recruiter/hiring manager.

  • You should use a standard resume format free of any backgrounds, borders, text boxes, shadings, tables, columns, as it is easier for an ATS to process it correctly.

  • Hyperlinks are considered viruses.

  • Underlines, arrows, symbols or other images can adversely affect the screening of a resume. It’s OK to use small bullets to describe activities in subsections.

  • An ATS mainly searches for keywords that match the job description or industry. It will be helpful for you to create a list of competencies that allows you to optimize the keywords each time you apply for a new job.

  • The resume should include relevant information so that the ATS can identify the qualifications needed for the role. This is of great importance when it comes to a career switch or similar.

  • An ATS can process a Word document more easily than a PDF.

  • Don’t include abbreviations as the system may not recognize or confuse them.


I hope these ATS compliance tips will help job seekers improve their applications and not be rejected from the start.

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