Resume Scanners: What, Why and How


Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), commonly known as Resume Scanners, allow employers to easily screen and filter job candidates.

 These systems are becoming popular among employers, especially large companies, because of the volume of applications often received for job postings. These scanners allow employers to screen, filter, and track applicants, saving the company time and money on recruiting.

However, the resumes that do get past these scanners are getting read by real people.  This means candidates still need to create easy to read resumes which use clean layouts, and which effectively promote their experiences and skills.


Scanners are typically used on resumes/applications submitted via company websites or as email attachments. They scan resumes, breaking down and categorizing applicant work history, skills, and education into bite-sized searchable components. They use the dates from each job to determine how many years of experience – have with a given skill set.

Scanners store this information in a database which employers can use to search for potential candidates. Employers can search for candidates based on keywords, job titles/descriptions, and education/certificates. The search results return a ranked list of candidates, who are scored based on the relevancy of their resume compared to the searched terms.

Traditionally, resume scanners could only read plain text resumes, but now most can read many different document types. There are a variety of Resume Scanners out there, but many will reject resumes if they use any of the items listed in the ‘AVOID’ section below. You may never even know if your resume was rejected.



·         Use keywords from the job posting (create a skills section if needed)

·         Headers/Footers


·         Use a chronological resume: ATS have the easiest time understanding and digesting chronological resumes, where employment dates can be tied to workplace skills


·         Graphics

·         Unusual fonts

·         Non-typical bullets


·         Repeat overlapping skills for each job (ATS add all the years of skill experience together)


·         Borders

·         Tables


·         Use nouns instead of verbs where possible (manager vs. managed)


·         PDFs

·         Update or re-submit a resume, as the more recent resumes get moved up.


–        Functional format

–  The resume scanner cannot pair the years worked with the skills

·         Use variations of titles/skills/programs, such as full names and acronyms:

o   i.e. Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

·         Using paragraphs to describe skills/experiences.

o   Use instead use a bulleted list of skills or experiences

Find out more by attending our FREE “Mastering the Art Of Applying for Jobs Online” workshop. Register for the next session now!

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