3 Steps to Redeeming Robo-Rejected Résumés

Tired of spending countless hours on your résumé, only to receive an impersonal rejection email with “We regret to inform you…?”

I know this problem well. Spending hours if not days or weeks typing a seemingly flawless résumé and gaining noting but a bad back and carpal tunnel syndrome is far from ideal.

Believe it or not, this automated résumé-rejection is not entirely your fault.

Robots have taken over the job search – and they’re out to crush you before your resume reaches a human eye.

If you’re ready to land a perfect new job, it’s crucial to know these three words: Applicant Tracking Software, or ATS.

ATS was created to screen applicants so only the most qualified are sent to hiring managers – yet this ends up leaving qualified candidates trapped in a portal with no way out.

This happens because most résumés aren’t formatted to speak ATS language.

It may seem like there is no way out of this trap – but I’ve got good news: These three tips will help you earn the robots’ trust and get your résumé into the hands of your dream hiring manager.


1.     Keywords Make Robots Happy

In fact, they feed off of them - and only full robots move résumés forward. Don’t leave them hangry!

 Every job description is loaded with keywords and it’s up to you to include them. So the resume keywords? Scan for nouns. If you remember from gradeschool, nouns are people, places and things. When it comes to job descriptions - they’re what matters.

One mistake most job-seekers make is leaving off the name of the company and name of the position they’re applying for in their résumé. Those are two important things that will count toward your ATS score - so include them in your Objective/Summary statement. It not only shows the robots you read the job description, but you care enough to put in that extra effort others don’t.

2.     Font and Text are Code – and Code is ATS Language

Remember what ATS stands for? It’s Applicant Tracking Software – and today’s software is extremely advanced. Even your keywords are searched for via code by ATS robots.

These technological advancements have led the way to some really eye-catching, graphic résumés – and even they can pass ATS when done correctly. If you’ve ever received advice to “Use Times New Roman, 12-Point Font” it’s outdated. Since font is read by ATS as simple code, résumé writers have more freedom to create personalized, branded résumés that won’t lose formatting points like when they were sent through fax machines in the stone ages.

While the Times New format may be preferred by professors reading academic papers, résumés are less formal. They’re simply meant to show how you fit the job-description’s needs in a quick, six-second read.

Think of your resume as a recipe. No one wants to scroll through paragraphs to get to the main ingredients and instructions – and neither does ATS or your dream hiring manager. Eye-catching details, modern font and even graphics can be included to make your first impression pitch.

Bonus Tip: Avoid Text Boxes

While graphic résumés are the new normal, ATS systems have difficulty with text boxes. That’s why gorgeous résumé formats on Canva don’t always work. If you include boxes, be sure to put them as an image (PNG is best) in front of text. That way ATS will pick up the text behind the image, and you won’t lose formatting points.

3.     Cover Letters No Longer Cover

Putting your cover letter 1st as it was originally intended will lower your score.

Before software, cover letters were a formality used for mailing job applications to explain the enclosures. This is also true for fax machines. While cover letters are still an important element in today’s hiring decisions, including it before your resume in your PDF/Word document will lower your ATS score.

ATS algorithms have been programmed to read résumés and prefer a standard résumé format. Since cover letters are in entirely different formats than résumés, including one first will confuse the software. Confused software = a lower score, and likely robo-rejection.

 If the job application portal does not include a separate drop box for your cover letter, still include it in the résumé document. Just be sure it is last. If it’s on the last page, it simply won’t be counted by the ATS scoring system. If it’s first, the software will think it’s a weird, non-qualifying résumé.


These three tips will get you past the robot-round. But there is so much to learn about acing the job-hunt. To help job-seekers go even further in the robot-round and more I created Chirp Clarity’s premier course, Career Composition.  It’s launching this Thanksgiving Weekend for a limited-time discount rate of $47/month! It’ll be jam-packed with:

  • Advanced ATS Practices

  •   Microsoft Word Tutorials

  •   Graphic Design for Résumés that not only ace the ATS, but appeal to the human, hiring eye

  •   Cover Letter Templates

  •   Interview Tips

  •   Clarifying Activities

  •   Networking Must-Haves

  •   And So Much More!

If you want to be on the waiting-list, subscribe below to join our flock of flawless job-seekers. You’ll be first to know when you can join and you’ll also get weekly updates about job-seeking, clarity finding and other chirps of wisdom and inspiration.

Chirping always,


Résumé, Job HuntErin Howard