21st Century Resumes: Writing for People and Machines

From the desk of PSG Owner / President, Jane Sanders-Waugh


One benefit to working with Professional Staffing Group is how much we value human connection. Our staff reviews each registration that we receive, so you can rest assured that the resume you send us is seen by a real, live person.

As the world continues to move toward technology and automation, we encourage contemporary job seekers to keep up with contemporary expectations. One reality of the 21st Century job hunt is that most employers use Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, to digitally read, review, sort, and screen applicants’ resumes. These systems allow hiring managers at many organizations to personally review only the “top” percentage of resumes – that is to say, the ones that most closely match the keywords the ATS has been programmed to find.

Jim Giammatteo at NoMistakes.org notes, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the best person for the job. If you don’t fit according to the ATS, you’re not getting called for the interview.”

This begs the question: How can you tailor your resume to get an interview for the job you want?

Although it may be tempting to read through a job description and list every requirement, Giammateo adds, “Just like Google penalizes blogs for keyword stuffing, the new, more intelligent ATS penalize resumes written that way.”

James Hu at Jobscan.co also understands the importance of tailoring a resume for an ATS. JobScan has found “that job seekers who use applicant tracking system keywords within their resumes can triple their chances of getting an interview.” His advice starts with sitting down and making a list of keywords that apply to the job or the industry to which you are applying. “This is good advice if you’re writing for an actual human being,” Hu says, noting that many busy recruiters aren’t reading every word of every resume, either.

He goes on to advise choosing words that match the ones in a job description – all the way down to the language and punctuation. Resume writers should not copy and paste job description into their resume. But, since some ATS cannot distinguish between similar phrases (like front-end vs. frontend vs. front end), tailoring the keywords to accurately reflect the ones in the description and writing out the full text of acronyms followed by their abbreviations (as in “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”) may help a qualified candidate get all the way through.

Of course, the ethical applicant would never include skills and experience that they did not have in their resume. And, because the ultimate goal of tailoring a resume to ATS keywords is to get a real person to read it, writing a resume in natural, readable language is definitely still a plus!

So, while total automation continues to loom on the horizon, pay attention to potential solutions for getting your resume – the thing that will make the first impression on your potential new boss – past the machine to the person.

At Professional Staffing Group, our recruiters are experts at critical resume review.

Part of our ProApproach Process involves working closely with candidates to revise resumes and make the best first impression on potential new employers. If you’re looking for new career opportunities, register with us today!


Jane Sanders-Waugh, Owner / President


With over 20 years of experience in the recruiting and staffing industry, Jane has enjoyed bringing people together to collaborate, explore interests and create opportunity. Her heart is in helping people—whether a client, candidate, employee, friend or stranger. It is all about personal and professional growth.

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