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What is ATS Compatibility?

What is ATS Compatibility?

Applicant Tracking System Compatibility, or ATS Compatibility simply means that the ATS can read the content of your resume. If it cannot, then your contact information will not be available to the employer.

No contact information = no phone call. Further, the ATS will likely delete your resume to clean up the error submission.

Even if you purchased the best keyword matching tool available and loaded your resume full of the exact keywords listed on the job description, they still cannot call you because they do not have access to your contact information.

A Real Example

Below is a real resume from a person who applied to one of my job openings today, the day I am writing this post. I changed the name to “Tim Plet” as a bad pun because the resume writer this person hired clearly used a resume template (Tim Plet, tem-plate, get it? Sorry, I’ll stick to resumes and recruiting). I also changed their contact information, company names, and employment dates to mask their identity. I left their formatting the same, however, and uploaded it into my ATS. First you will see the MS Word resume, followed by what I, the recruiter, saw in my ATS.

Bad Resume Example of ATS Compatibility
Here is How Poor ATS Compatibility Appears to Recruiters

ABOVE: Nothing is hidden for this blog post, the screenshot above is what the actual resume looks like to the recruiter inside the ATS. The broken image icons are what display to the recruiter because the ATS cannot read the content of this resume. The lack of data makes the resume useless, therefore it will be automatically or manually deleted.

Somehow it was able to parse out his job title and company, but nothing else is visible at all. I wonder how many more applications this person has sent out using this resume! Thankfully I was writing this piece today to find an example, so I did call him.

Saving Money on ATS Compatibility?

There are many “Professional” Resume Writers who use templates like the one above and then boast about their ATS compatible resumes! They talk about their clever sections like the left column where keywords can be added from job postings. To their credit, it is easy to customize that column to score well on the countless keyword matching tools available.

There’s only one problem with it, NO ONE WILL EVER SEE THOSE KEYWORDS!

The writers using these templates often charge far less than more experienced writers ($250 to $300 per resume whereas the industry norms are 2 to 3 times that amount), but a higher price does not make one writer better than another, experience and true ATS access does.

In 2020 three people paid $850, $1,200, and $800 respectively to other writers before hiring me to rewrite them. At least 5 others chose to continue using their ATS incompatible resumes to “save money”. I wonder if they also save money while fishing by not buying bait? Hmm. One popular writer I know of charges over $2,850 to write resumes using templates that are not ATS compatible!

Paying someone to write your resume who doesn’t have professional hiring experience to understand how Applicant Tracking Systems work from the employers’ perspective, nor the tools necessary to test for compatibility is like hiring your accountant to fix your race car because he watches a lot of races on TV! Yes, he will charge less than an actual race car mechanic, but I doubt you will win many races.

The bottom line is that when a single document can impact the interviews you get and the salary you earn, then it needs to be done right. There are lots of good times to bargain shop, especially when you are searching for a job, but choosing a professional resume writer is not one of them. Find someone with hiring experience, and direct access to at least one Applicant Tracking System.

Searching for a writer? Ask them:

  • What is an ATS?
  • How can you make sure my resume will be legible to them?
  • Which ATS do you currently have access to?
  • How many different ATS do you have hands on experience using?

If they start talking about keywords, run! If they mention keyword matching tools, run faster!

Although I do offer professional resume writing services, I only write three per week because of my recruiting schedule. My cart system always shows how many openings I still have available each week if that is of interest (just click “Place Order” to see the number).

However, if you are confident in your ability to use Microsoft Word and want to write your resume yourself, check out my resume writing course in this program, PHASE 1: Effective Resumes. It will give you detailed instructions to write every section of your resume.

Want to BE a resume writer?

If you are an aspiring professional resume writer, this course is comprehensive enough to show you how to write an ATS compatible resume, how to write for impact, and how to structure a resume to keep recruiters on your clients’ resumes for longer than the average 15 seconds. Learning as much as you can about ATS compatibility is critical for a career in resume writing. It would be worth your time and investment to take this course. Please reach out to me directly if you have questions.