How to Keyword Optimize Your Sales Resume for ATS

Technology has often been thought to simplify our lives. While this may be true, some instances are just the opposite, like job searching. To be precise, technology has made the job “searching” part easier for anyone seeking to make a career change. You just go online, get into a company’s website or portal and communicate with designated personnel and give out relevant information.

Technology has, however, complicated matters for you after submitting your resume online. Getting your already submitted resume to be read, is the contradictory part of technology making our lives simple. In contrast to the past, employers and recruiters are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to select potential recruits for job openings. ATS is merely a computer screening system which assists in the management of the overwhelming volume of resumes sent to an organization for an advertised job opening.

To put it simply, an ATS “reads” your resume and measures your qualifications against the job requirements of the position. Since the high paying sales development positions are ultra-competitive, HR professionals have incorporated ATS services to help thin down the number by selecting the best-qualified candidates for interviews.

Keyword Optimization

Having an ATS seems incredible as it streamlines the screening process. However, a point to note is that your sales resume has to be optimized. Resume optimization is necessary when working with automated screening services. An Applicant Tracking System software that filters and screens resume analyzes the document and approves it by identifying keywords to extract relevant information related to job description. HR personnel will then quickly make a hiring decision.

What does all this imply? Considering the exceptions where you take advantage of existing network and recommendations to get a job, no human eyes will see your sales resume unless you’ve passed the screening and meet a set of minimum standards. Usually, minimum standards involve background information, training and education qualifications, and other qualifications noted by the employer.

Here are the crucial steps for optimizing your sales resume with the keywords it needs:

  1. Tailor your resume to the job description

Despite the level of professionalism in your resume, or how many times CV writing consultants have edited and proof-read your resume, an ATS just doesn’t care. It will only be interested in specific keywords, and this is dictated by the job description. You need to review the duties and responsibilities of a sales representative very carefully, highlight the requirements and then incorporate the keywords into your online resume.

A point to note is, don’t use words to fool the ATS, just incorporate words that apply to your case, i.e., relevant qualification, duties, and responsibilities, to avoid pitfalls once you get to an interview.

  1. Customization your resume

Words like “professional,” “accomplished,” and “highly-skilled,” helped one get a job back when humans read your resume, but they are useless to an ATS. Be concise by illustrating to an ATS that you meet the minimum standards which are merely keywords.

Don’t just say you are a proficient sales developer. Specify in your resume that you are an “expert consultative, product marketing and medical sales representative.”

  1. First-page priority

Keywords on a resume’s first page will be highly ranked than the second page. Include the most important keywords on the first page of your resume.

  1. Context is key

When highlighting your achievements, use keywords. An ATS will highlight the keywords after the screening, and the reader will just need the context. You can also list these keywords in bullet points as part of your summary, but remember to include them in depth in the body of your resume.

  1. Observe your tenses

Take note of the tenses you use when writing your Sales Development representative resume. As per the job description, if it includes supervising/supervision role, use the same exact word in your resume.

  1. Don’t use images, graphics, emoticons or special characters

These will just serve to confuse the ATS system.

  1. Use simple formatting for your resume

Quite often when we are preparing our resume, we understand that format is necessary. Formatting elements like headers, footers, tables, borders, templates, boxes, etc. are essential to confer easy readability by the human eye, no one like boring blocks of texts. However, it is all unnecessary to the ATS. You may want to consider sending two versions of your resume when requested with unique labels for each.

One should include the formatting elements to capture the human eye while the other should be tailored for the ATS and labeled as “ATS-formatted.”

  1. Proofread and Spell check your resume

An ATS doesn’t recognize misspelled words, therefore, before submitting your sales resume, ensure it has sound grammar, and all words are spelled correctly.

  1. Consistency counts

Consistency is vital in passing the ATS. Use the same format and design as you represent like elements in your sales representative resume, i.e., dates, job title, company name, section headings, etc.

  1. Remember the job description details

The section headings in your resume should complement those of the job description. Most job descriptions use traditional and straightforward section heads, i.e., “Professional Experience,” which is a better header than “Chronology” as the ATS is programmed to understand it that way.

Additionally, create separate sections for each header rather than combining them. E.g., instead of Education and Other Credentials, use “Education,” “Awards,” and “Memberships.”

  1. File format matters

Unless you are told to, don’t send your resume in PDF file format. An ATS cannot accurately read PDF. Instead, send it as a simple formatted Word document, or even better, a plain ASCII .txt document.

Important things to consider before sending your resume

It is necessary to note that many organizations use Applicant tracking systems (ATS) to manage responses to recruitment applications. The ATS is always used in the first stage of application evaluation, filtering stage. This stage can screen out over 75% of resumes and approve only a fraction of the original number of applicants. Therefore, it is crucial that you ensure your resume is not filtered out at this early stage.

  • Read the sales job descriptions carefully

Since ATS systems work principally through keyword recognition, try to align your important sections to the most commonly understood job industry terms. Once you read the job description and specifications, you will then easily get the hang of the keyword phrases to use.

  • Align job titles to industry standard terms

Your most important keyword phrases should focus on the job titles. For a pharmaceutical sales representative job, keyword phrases like medical sales, consultative sales, negotiation, and closing, lead generation B2B/B2C are ideal. This form of homogenization is likely to be understood by the ATS software which will pass your resume to the next level.

  • Use frequently used fonts

Most ATS systems prefer clean, plain rich text formats. The limits of the ATS technology means only some fonts can be used, avoid fancy fonts which will be overlooked by the ATS. Write your text using frequently used fonts like Times New Roman, Calibri and Ariel fonts.

  • Avoid keyword stuffing your resume

An ATS employs similar SEO best practice with website content. SEO best practices suggest keywords shouldn’t pass a certain threshold of the number of words in the document. Keyword stuffing will only lead to your resume being flagged as suspicious. Moreover, it will not look good as it’s presented to the human eye. Write your resume naturally and focus your keywords mainly on the professional profile, key skills, and job titles.

  • Your resume will still be read by a human once the screening process is over

A point to note is that ATS systems are only used in the screening process at the very start. Once your resume passes the screening process, it is then handed over to the human screening stage. Therefore, it is best that you follow the usual guidelines of resume writing.

It is from here that you’ll be called for an interview. Make your resume professional, concise and denotes important achievements relating to the job description.


Not only must your sales representative resume meet the recruiter’s preferences but also should be prepared in line with best resume writing practices. Also, ensure your resume optimization is ATS worthy, i.e., it scores the highest and doesn’t go overboard with keyword stuffing. Your resume will evidently be promoted to the human eye and pass the selection process where you’ll wait for that golden opportunity for an interview.

Happy job hunting!

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