So you’ve spent hours crafting what you think is the perfect ATS resume, but you’re still not getting interviews. What gives? You’re probably making this one big mistake…

By: Daniel Lorenzo | Content Marketing Manager for Let’s Eat, Grandma


Good for you, job seeker! You did your research and know that your resume has to be prepared for ATS systems. 

You know that times have changed, and that you have to write an ATS resume filled with relevant keywords and robot-friendly formatting. You’re way ahead of the game.

So, you spent hours poring over job descriptions and picked out common keywords. You cleared out clunky formatting and wrote a different ATS-ready resume for each job you applied to. Seriously, I can’t emphasize this enough – great job.

But here we are, and you still haven’t gotten an interview. 

Why?

Don’t get down on yourself! Passing the ATS resume test is difficult, especially in today’s competitive job market.

But it doesn’t have to be. We don’t want you to struggle anymore than you have to. Here’s the #1 reason your ATS resume isn’t getting you interviews, and how to fix it:

The #1 Reason Your ATS Resume Isn’t Getting You Interviews

You’re trying too hard.

Seriously. 

You’re bending over backwards trying to fill your resume with keywords because you’re afraid that it won’t pass the ATS resume test. And you’re likely ending up with an overwrought, awkward-looking resume with a bunch of keywords and no substance.

Listen. We know you’ve heard all of the hype about these resume scanners, and we know it’s scary.

But cramming your resume with keywords at the expense of good writing doesn’t do you any favors. You can’t let your fear of getting lost in an ATS system get in the way of an effective resume.

The Keyword Stuffing Epidemic

Here at Let’s Eat, Grandma, our staff sees up to a hundred resumes nearly every day. We see a lot like this, and it always makes us sad:

We call this keyword stuffing, or writing for the robot.

Are those keywords from the job description? You bet.

Does that skill section look like anything a human would actually want to read? Heck no.

This person clearly did their research and was desperate to write a resume that passed the ATS resume test.

They had the right idea, but they went overboard. In trying so hard to get their resume read by a robot, they wrote one that can barely be read by a human. 

2 Reasons “Writing for the Robot” Doesn’t Work for an ATS Resume

There are a couple of reasons why writing for the robot doesn’t help you land an interview.

#1: It Has Diminishing Returns

Imagine you just bought a new Corvette. It was a big investment, and you want to protect it! So, you take out millions of dollars of insurance and never drive it.

Doesn’t make much sense right? By trying to be safe, you’ve wasted money on more protection than you need, and don’t even get the benefit of your purchase (having fun driving the car).

Keyword stuffing works the same way: it’s basically a massive, unnecessary insurance policy. By haphazardly throwing keywords in, you’re going overboard to make sure you get noticed and wasting time and effort crafting a resume that won’t even properly showcase your skills.

Having 80 mentions of synonyms of “Project Management” won’t make your resume more likely to show up in an ATS than having 5 will. 

What will help is having those keywords in the right places. Aim for quality over quantity – make sure things like your resume file name, location, and position title are optimized.

And don’t even THINK about trying a “hack” like white text.

#2: It Neglects the Human Element

A keyword-stuffed resume that has 90% of the words from the job description very well might pass through an ATS’ algorithm and make you a top search result. After all, robots don’t care about design or phrasing, right?

This is what your resume will look like to a recruiter if you try to stuff too many keywords in.

Wrong. By keyword stuffing, you’ve forgotten the other 50% of the hiring equation: the recruiter and hiring manager who will actually read your resume once it passes through the ATS (you know, like a real person would).

Yes, it’s important to make sure that your resume will appear in ATS search results. But ultimately, the hiring manager is the one who actually makes a decision to hire you or not. And an ugly, buzzword-ridden, tough-to-read resume will not impress them.

Even when your ATS resume passes through, it will still be competing with others. Well-written phrasing and attractive design will give it the edge it needs, and keyword stuffing will not.

What Can I Do Instead?

Still with me? Good. My hope is that I’ve given you a dose of reality, but haven’t crushed your spirit. Don’t give up! If you tend to keyword stuff, here’s what you can do:

Pick Out Just a Few Keywords and Integrate Them Naturally

Pick out 7-8 common keywords from each job description you’re applying to.

-Then, integrate them naturally throughout the resume in your summary, bullets, and skills sections, rather than just a giant block of text.

(Read this blog to learn the most important types of keywords to look for and where to integrate them.)

Get a Free Career Score

A good way to make sure your resume impresses a human is to have it be reviewed by one! 

Upload your resume on our homepage for a Free Career Score. It will be assigned a score by a real human who will rate it not just on keywords, but on its content, phrasing, and design.

You’ll receive valuable feedback on how well your resume is written for both ATS systems and hiring managers. 

Be Confident

Finally, just freaking believe in yourself.

Keyword stuffing is a product of fear. We sacrifice well-written resumes for giant blocks of keywords because job searching is stressful and scary, and we want to know we’re doing everything we can.

However, if you take confidence in your skills and accomplishments (just as you would in an interview), they’ll shine through in your writing. You won’t need any “keyword hacks.” Optimize your resume for an ATS, but remember that it’s your qualifications that will really land you the job.

Now enjoy this dumb cheesy graphic I made, and get out there and write a great resume.

A cheesy, tongue-in-cheek inspirational graphic, with a sunset background behind flowy text reading "The Real ATS is in your heart."

Be sure to check out the rest of the articles on this blog – and our Career Warrior Podcast – for more help with your resume, cover letter, and anything else job-search related.