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Make sure your resume is ATS compliant.

Many of the teachers that we speak to have absolutely never heard of something called ATS, (and that's ok because I am going to tell you all about it right now!).

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking Software/ System and it is used by some schools (not all) to manage their recruiting and HR processes.

If you think that you will just email off your resume in response to the job ad, and the HR person or hiring manager at the school will review it as soon as they see the email in the inbox you are mistaken.

A LOT of the larger schools and those with QA and HR processes in are using an ATS before the HR person or hiring manager even looks at your resume. It provides recruiting tools and other functions. These systems sort thousands of resumes.

If you think that schools don't get that many applications, you are mistaken. I know of a school in South East Asia that advertised a teaching role and received over 3000 applications. For a SINGLE job ad.

Schools use an ATS because it helps them stay organised and up to date with compliance. It saves time by automatically finding and highlighting the top candidates for a role. Many times when a job is advertised, hundreds (or more) of the applications received will be unqualified. Teachers who don't have a specific job search strategy end up "spamming" job ads and just applying for anything they think they have a chance at.

The ATS collects and stores resumes in a database for the school to access. Your resume may be stored for years after you applied for the original job. If the school has another job vacancy the HR department will most probably look through the database first to see if they have any potential candidates on file. They might take a quick glance at your resume - on average this glance takes about 6 seconds (this is why it is important that your top skills and qualifications are easily identified).

Some ATS systems compare your resume to the job description and give it a score. The HR person only then reviews the resumes that score highly. The more keywords you have in your resume that match the job ad, the higher you will rank.

When you upload your resume into an ATS the system drags all the relevant information and puts it into another format. Your original file (Word, pdf etc) may NEVER be looked at. If you are using headers, tables, fancy fonts, and more, these things are not compatible with the ATS and therefore will not be picked up by the system. Which means that this information will appear as BLANK in the ATS.

So what does this mean for you?

IF your resume does not pass the ATS test, you will NOT get an interview.

Unfortunately when a school uses an ATS it is likely that some candidates will slip through the cracks.

The good news is that I can help you with some tips that will ensure that your resume is ATS compliant and give you the best chance of getting an interview!

So how do you make sure that your resume is ATS compliant?


  • Make sure you tailor your resume to the job description and use the keywords that they use in the job ad (they need to match!)

  • use keywords in context in your experience section

  • put your contact info in the main body of the doc (not the header or footer)

  • don't use headers or footers

  • if a job asks for experience with a specific program e.g. Managebac, remember to put this in your skills list

  • use a chronological format (dates in order for your jobs)

  • don't use tables or columns

  • use a standard font, any kind - bold, italics, shading is fine

  • if you have credentials e.g. M.Ed it is ok to put them after your name as long you put a comma in before and don't use a full stop - JOHN SMITH, MEd

  • use standard resume section headings (EXPERIENCE, SKILLS etc)

  • Charts, graphs, pictures will be ignored (so don't worry about your photo that you SHOULD have at the top of your resume - standard in international teaching)

  • Use more spaces between sections than you do between jobs (make it easy for the system to understand the difference)

  • don't combine sections together

  • do not make the first page of your resume your cover letter - it should be separate

  • if you have had lots of jobs, combine them wherever possible

  • if you have had more than one position at a school, list the school name each time with each role

  • Submit your resume as Word doc or PDF


Note that NOT ALL schools use an ATS. For smaller schools and schools that are not that well known or don't have a lot of processes in place for quality assurance they may not use an ATS system.

BUT... this does not mean that you should discount this information as irrelevant to you - many of the larger schools and those that receive a high volume of applications will have an ATS system in place. It is becoming more and more common with schools and you don't want to miss out on an interview because you had no idea what an ATS was, and how it affects your chances of getting an interview!

Wishing job hunters all the best. If you think this is a bit overwhelming for you, then you can book a time under GET STARTED for us to update your resume and make sure that it is ATS compliant.

Connect with me on LinkedIn for more tips and to stay in touch https://www.linkedin.com/in/cheraine-escott/

Stay healthy, stay safe x


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