How to Conquer Automated Resume Screening Software

Just where does a resume or CV go once it gets submitted into the void of a company’s HR department? Does it disappear into space? Perhaps it get’s sent to a weird job hunter purgatory before being judged? If you thought it was just fed into some giant corporate “machine”,  you wouldn’t actually be far from the truth.

With today’s increased regulations on data, many public corporations have very rigid processes for employment screening. These processes, often automated through software, have many job seekers in a tug of war when writing a resume. Job seekers know that in order to stand out from the crowd they need to make accomplishments unique, valuable and strategic and their approach personal and genuine. But at the same time, because of the initial automated resume screening process, many boil their experience down to broad descriptions and pack them full of the most common industry jargon. Which approach is best?

It used to be that similar descriptions existed across competing companies but in an effort to reign in corporate culture and attract fresh thinking recruiting departments across all industries are pushing out job listings for never-been-seen-before departments, roles and titles.

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO at FlexJobs in Boulder, Colorado agrees that “21st century titles … often either have a new take on more traditional job titles, or simply use titles that didn’t exist 10 years ago and thus end up sounding more off-beat.” Functions and roles are blurred into hybrid descriptions that contain fewer tasks and more outcomes. With constantly emerging new technology job titles are also forced to evolve in complexity.

The good news? If hiring managers are getting more creative, applicants can and should do the same. Outcome based job descriptions give applicants the ability to let their unique brand of genius come through and still meet (and beat) the screening process.

Overview of Resume Screening Process

The stages of corporate recruitment vary but in general, the first resume check point is based on a high category and keyword qualifications match against the specific job listing. You have heard this all before but we must reinforce it here – more than ever, your online resume needs to be tailored for the job you want, regardless of who sees it first, a robot or a human.

Category matching:

Companies are looking for specialists, not industry generalists, so identifying a category match is a critical first step. One way to do this is by creating a separate section in the top 1/3 of your resume that captures the relevant category expertise. Often times this is done with a succinct and highly targeted career objective section. This will both trigger the positive, continuation reflex of the screening or pique the interest of the human reading your resume, both favorable outcomes.

Examples of generic category expertise: Management, Operations, Communications, Marketing

Examples of specific, relevant category expertise: Client Relationship Management, Revenue Growth, Risk Management, Negotiation, CRM Program Development

Resume keyword matching:

After you’ve pinned the category expertise, your job is to prove it through brief examples of your experience. Make sure your examples demonstrate the category expertise you’ve highlighted and focus on priority keywords within the job description. Keyword matching not only demonstrates that you understand the job requirements but it also shows that you “speak their language”.

Remember, though, that not all keywords are created equal. Just as you would think of Google or Bing search results, keywords are weighted in terms of relevance. Exact matches will likely rank higher. Audit the job description and build a list of priority and secondary words to include.

Priority resume keywords: words used in the company’s listed job title, used in the description headlines, used more than twice, called out as success criteria

Secondary resume keywords: mention of competitor companies or brand name experience, keyword phrases (phrases surrounding priority keywords), notable industry qualifications (training, associations)


These are the easy to address, pass or fail requirements such as: minimum education, years experience, technical proficiency, geography (depending on relocation parameters), and language. Make a list of these requirements and check that you’ve addressed them in your resume.

Once you have all this done and double-checked you can submit your resume. If you have followed all of the above steps correctly you should pass both the software screening as well as the human screening to eventually land an interview.

About Rudeth S

I'm currently a Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist for a leading Fortune 500 company, a mother of 3 and herbal tea lover!

13 thoughts on “How to Conquer Automated Resume Screening Software”

  1. Ah! Finally, somebody explains this mythical ATS business that seems to always be weeding my application out. Thanks for the intel, now I know how to prepare for battle!

  2. Applicant Tracking Systems are dumb. Why can’t companies just hire more human resources professionals to look at applications seriously? I don’t trust machines, AI is not good enough in my opinion.

    1. I reply to every job rejection I get and ask them if they rejected me because of software or something else. They are usually happy to share. So far it seems to be a human-made decision that my qualifications don’t align with what they’re looking for. Nobody has yet pointed the finger directly at ATS. Maybe they’re just being nice to me though..

  3. Thank you for laying this out. I’ve wanted to write my resume myself for a long time but lacked the confidence. Now instead of copying my friends I can just do it myself!

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