Like it or not, in today’s job market a software program will read your résumé before a human ever sees it.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software system that employers use to handle a variety of recruitment needs, including the uploading and screening of résumés. And if you’ve ever applied for a job through an online system, you have likely submitted your résumé and information through an ATS.

So how do you get your résumé past the screening process and read by a human? Start by tailoring it to each specific job you apply for, says Tim Mayer, director of talent acquisition at Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. in Minneapolis. Do not send in a one-size-fits-all résumé for each job and expect to pass the ATS customized criteria for that job.

How do you do this? Start by spending some time reviewing the job description for key words and themes and include them prominently in your résumé. But don’t just create a bulleted list of key accomplishments, such as an area of expertise, and key word-stuff your résumé. Instead, list key words, backed up with proof of accomplishment and concrete examples of successes.

– Guaranteed!”

First, here’s what not to write. These nonspecific achievements prove nothing:

• Managed numerous projects to success.

• Provided sales and customer service to house accounts.

• Wrote reports and correspondence for busy executives.

Now, here’s what to write. These specific achievements prove your skills:

• As project manager, managed 100 percent of 27 projects to successful completion in 2014, finishing an average of 10 days early on budgets ranging up to $256,850.

• Top sales achiever: Increased sales $456,000 in one year by managing and penetrating 34 house accounts.

• Process implementation: Saved $52,000 after writing three employee manuals that standardized operations.

The ability to tailor and match your résumé to the specifics listed in the job description is especially important for job seekers changing careers, or transferring skills to a new industry.

“A résumé for a print advertising salesperson, no matter how great the performance history, is not likely to impress a recruiter or hiring manager in the medical device, biotechnology, software and many other industries,” says Rick Deare (, president of Bloomington-based Deare Search Partners and someone who literally receives hundreds of résumés daily.

And even if you aren’t in IT, you need to include a “Technology Skills” section highlighting all programs you have used, focusing on the past five to 10 years and, more specifically, on the skills requested in the job description.

If the job description asks for a cover letter, include it. If it includes a request for salary requirements, add it.

And finally, if you know someone at the company and can get a referral, do so. Many ATS systems have the ability to flag an application that is submitted with a referral and send it right to the next step — where it will be viewed by a human.


Matt Krumrie is a professional résumé writer based in Minneapolis.