dates on resume

The ATS Doesn’t Care How You Write Dates on Your Resume

I saw a blog post last week about writing dates on resumes. 

It suggested that if job seekers don’t use a specific format, applicant tracking systems shoot their resumes to the Black Hole of Death.

That is not the case.

Parsing Software Reads Your Resume

First, to pick nits, the ATS doesn’t read your resume.

Rather, applicant tracking systems include resume parsing software.

The software “reads” your resume to populate a database of user-defined requirements.

Beyond that, organizations use many different parsers. Their technological sophistication and accuracy range from “meh” to “almost as good as a human reader.”

Thus, a small real estate management company might use an inexpensive, not-so-good parser.

And a Wall Street investment bank might have a parser that’s almost as good at parsing language as you would be.

Some companies write their parsers. Other companies buy parsers and integrate them with their ATS.

You can even find free parsing software if you google around a bit.

The ATS Isn’t a Monolith

Bloggers often write about “the ATS” as a monolith with an inalienable set of truths and rules.

As you can see from the above, that’s far from true.

Companies can choose from many parsing options. Moreover, they define the data they want their parsers to find.

Thus, they tell their systems how to look at your resume.

Applicants Don’t All Write Dates on Resumes the Same Way

Beyond the parser variables described above, job seekers write their resumes differently.

The people who develop parsing software know this, so they write code to find different presentations of the same information.

You hope the employers you’re applying to have accurate resume parsing software.

However, you don’t know how their parser works, so you don’t have a way to compensate within your resume if they don’t.

That’s why you should network your resume into the hands of the hiring manager.

How a Good Resume Parser Handles Dates on Resumes

Now, let’s examine what parsers do with dates.

Applicants write their employment and graduation dates in various ways. They might use months and years or just years. Some people leave dates off of their education.

Good developers study reams of resumes to understand how people write dates. Then, they code their parser to recognize all of them.

As you now understand, in all likelihood, the ATS doesn’t care how you write dates on your resume. It wants you to list the dates, but it should have your back on various ways for you to do so.

Chill on the ATS Paranoia

While it’s good to be aware of resume parsing techniques, using common sense is also important

Don’t believe everything you read about the evil ATS.

Ask yourself if the parser would likely compensate for what you’re worried about — such as dates. If yes, then relax and move on with your job search.

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Image Courtesy of Toa Heftiba
Updated March 2024

© 2015 – 2024, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 8

  1. Over a period of time, I genuinely had to ask myself if I was presenting my information in such strange context that it wasn’t registering as anything positive. I’m pretty sure that the Overview at top isn’t registering– I used SEO type bing, bing, bing! for several skills that needed to be recognized, like MS Office, negotiating, project managing, expense reports, and my strength, high written communications ability.

    I still hate the scanning vs. knowing you can talk to a human about ‘extras’ that may not register *except* as information, not realllly count for you if its the real key and interviewer sees light same way you need them to..

  2. Hi Glenn,

    That’s a helpful comment! In researching this post, I learned that many resume parsers give more weight to keywords found in the text of the resume and less weight to keywords found in lists.


  3. Loved the article. The use of ATS have definitely changed the landscape of the job market. With so many companies now relying on the technology, I was super curious if anyone maybe had any predictions as to what this might look like, maybe 5, 10 years from now?

  4. Bernadette,

    I’m glad you found the post helpful. Thank you for your comment.


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