The Dos and Don'ts of ATS

Why am I not getting the jobs that I want? 
You’ve spent hours perfecting your resume and cover letter, and sent countless applications, but still have not heard back from most companies. Why is that? 
One common hurdle you may face is applicant tracking systems, also known as ATS. These systems organize applicants for recruiters and human resources based on automated resume analyses. Companies all over the world use ATS to sort through thousands of applications without using too many company resources.
ATS primarily acts as a tool to simplify the hiring process for recruiters. Just like a search engine, some applicant tracking systems rank applicants by keywords (skills, job positions) and filters (i.e. location and education).
Recent research found that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS, while a Kelly OCG survey estimated that 66% of large companies and 35% of small organizations rely on recruitment software. Nike, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Allstate all use a tracking system to scan your resume before it ever gets to a recruiter.

CNN: Getting vetted by AI (2020) AI Assessed Interviews (2019)

CNBC: Robots Reading Resume (2018)

Just like every other system, ATS has its pros and cons. These systems look for select keywords and types of backgrounds for specific positions, leaving ample opportunity for good candidates to slip through the cracks. 
Enter Quinncia, a great tool to prepare your resume for the fight against applicant tracking systems! Use this cheat sheet to study the dos and don’ts of ATS.
Areas of Improvement
PDF vs Word
You can use Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create your resume, but you MUST export it as a PDF when you are finished. Submit the PDF version with all of your job applications. Your file may lose its format if it is uploaded as a Word or Google Doc instead of a PDF. ATS may not be able to read your resume if the format is not correct. The system may also struggle to parse your resume if you use software like Canva or Photoshop because these files typically export as images and are not readable by ATS. 

If you use a PDF too many times, it may become corrupted and becomes less reliable. Save new PDF versions of your resume frequently when you are actively applying for jobs. 

Section Titles


  • Resume Summary / Objective
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Skills Section
  • Include Contact Information

Nice to Have:

  • Awards and Honors
  • Volunteer Work
  • Languages
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Publication

Work Experience

You can put all of your relevant and leadership experience under this section, and the ATS will pick it up. You can also have a special projects section, but we do not recommend that. If you decide to create separate sections, ensure that they all have Experience in the title.

Contact Information

Provide information regarding the best way to contact you. Typically, people include phone numbers, email addresses, and LinkedIn profiles. In such a digitalized world, there is no need to include your home address anymore. 



Quinncia University

Quinn School of Business

Bachelors of Science in Accounting 


Quinncia University, Quinn School of Business

Bachelor of Science, Accounting (or)

Bachelor of Science

Major: Accounting

Quantifying Experiences


Designed a social media campaign to promote summer specials


Designed and launched a social media campaign resulting in a 30% increase in engagement

Performed X to do Y resulting in Z.


  • For the word management, use the abbreviation mgmt
  • Abbreviate months using the first three letters of the month’s name. For example, Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., and so on. Be consistent. 
  • You can also abbreviate degrees in your education section. Use M.B.A. for a Master of Business Administration, Ph.D. for your Doctor of Philosophy, and other common degree abbreviations like M.D., B.A., etc.

Common Mistakes 

Graphic Resumes

  • ATS systems cannot effectively parse these resumes. Save these designs for later stages in the interview process. 


  • ATS systems also can’t read photos. Professional headshots may instantly reject the application if an error occurs. Some companies may even decide to reject applications with photos to keep their hiring process bias-free


  • Columns pose problems for ATS. Ensure that you use punctuation, like bullet points or another delimiter, to separate columns, 

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