How your resume can survive the cut


Don’t miss out, remain Visible in the job application process.

At a recent CDAA conference for Career Practitioners I gathered the latest information and want to share it with you. While I knew about electronic screening, I now have the latest on what NOT to include in your resume.

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking Systems when resumes are screened electronically. Your application can be screened and eliminated before a human eye even looks at it. Employers and hiring managers are turning more than ever to resume screening software and it is due partly to the overwhelming number of job applications they get but also to make the process more scientific with no human bias.

So how does the software analyse your resume and what can you do about it?


  • Use a word document not a PDF as this can stop system scanning the document.
  • Put your name on the first line of the page, phone number on next and email on next. In other words only one item on a line. Include address and postcode.
  • Use keywords throughout the document. The software is looking for keywords so make sure you use them reflecting what the job description tells you is required.
  • Choose a sans-serif font such as Arial or Calibri and use font of 11 to 14, no smaller.
  • Keep your lines to 75 characters or less.
  • Have all text to the left margin and keep the formatting simple. You can use capitals for headings as these survive plain text.
  • Instead of bullets use simple asterisk, dashes or plus signs.


  • Putting contact information in the header or footer of the resume since the filtering software can be programmed to ignore headers and footers so your resume might not get past this first step.
  • Graphics, logos, shading, tables, underlining and borders as this information will either be ignored or the resume will be rejected. Even a line across the entire page from margin to margin could be rejected.

Make sure you send an e-resume in the first place, not a hard copy for them to scan.

If you decide to send two hard copies of your resume—one for scanning and one that visually looks the best—you could attach a note to the scanning resume that says: ‘Resume version intended for scanning purposes’.

These principles above apply to applications to recruiters and large companies. Often smaller businesses are still reviewing resumes the traditional way but it is best to stay in tune with developments. Some websites will review your resume to see how it fares electronically so google will help. This website adds some more insight.


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