Most popular applicant tracking systems, as ranked by OnGig

Does underlining text mess up a resume when applying through an applicant tracking system?

Posted January 23, 2019 by
There are thousands of ATS, but only a small percentage dominate the market. Some of the most popular ATS such as Oracle’s Taleo are widely used by many of the largest organizations and have changed little over the years. Others are sold by start-ups and tend to be far more modern in their approach. And, of course, some fall somewhere in the middle. My point here is that we must not generalize. What works well for one ATS is a disaster for another. In fact, because employers often customize their ATS, what works well for one employer may be a disaster for another even though they’re using the same ATS company.
It is true that the formatting in a PDF is typically passed onto the recruiter if the ATS allows the candidate to upload a PDF (some don’t) and if that ATS passes that PDF to the recruiter (some only use the PDF to extract or parse the data) and if the recruiter chooses to look at the PDF (some don’t). The reality is that candidates can spend a ton of time formatting their PDF only for it to never be seen by the recruiter or hiring manager because the ATS may simply parse the resume in an attempt to complete required and optional fields such as first name, last name, email, street address, city, state, zip, most recent work experience, etc.

Some ATS parsing is better than others, but you typically see claims that they are 85 to 95 percent accurate, which does not mean that 85 to 95 percent of resumes are accurately parsed. Instead, that means that for each resume, 85 to 95 percent of the fields are accurately parsed. How many fields does a typical resume have? Easily dozens as your start date, end date, job title, employer name, city of employment, state of employment, compensation, and job description would each be separate fields so that’s eight fields right there for just one job. If you list five jobs and those are the only required fields, that’s 40 fields. If you have a few schools plus an objective statement plus your name, address, etc. you’re going to at or near 100 fields pretty easily. Now, remember the 85 to 95 percent accuracy? If you’ve got 100 fields in your resume and the ATS is 85 percent accurate, the version of the resume that the recruiter sees could easily have 15 errors in it.
So, what’s the solution? At College Recruiter, we recommend that candidates upload the PDF version of their resume so that it is available to the recruiter should they be able and choose to access it AND a plain text version of their resume, as those are more easily read by the ATS, largely because plain text resumes are all one instead of two, three, or even four columns and the lack of formatting such as bold, italics, and underscore force the candidate to use spacing to better highlight their qualifications than fonts.
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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers | Tagged Tagged ,