What's an ATS-Friendly Resume? And How to Write One

What's an ATS-Friendly Resume? And How to Write One

Learn more

Arrow

Next page

Arrow

What is an applicant tracking system?

An applicant tracking system — or ATS, for short — is a type of resume scanning software used by recruiters and employers during the hiring process to collect, sort, scan, and rank the job applications they receive for their open positions. The applicant tracking system was initially created for large companies that 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

What is an applicant tracking system?

are accustomed to dealing with several thousand inbound job applications on a weekly basis. Today, approximately 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on ATS software to help streamline their recruitment process. However, what began as a recruitment solution for large employers has turned into a commonplace tool for 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

What is an applicant tracking system?

companies of all shapes and sizes.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How do applicant tracking systems (ATS) work?

Applicant tracking systems act as electronic gatekeepers for employers and hiring managers.  The ATS system parses a resume's content into categories and then scans it for specific and relevant keywords to determine if the job application should be passed along to the recruiter. Its job is to essentially weed out 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How do applicant tracking systems (ATS) work?

unqualified applicants so the recruiter can devote his or her time to evaluating the candidates who are more likely to be a match for the position. In other words, the ATS is apt to toss the least-qualified candidates, rather than identify the applicants who are the best fit. Unfortunately, that means if a resume template is not written 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How do applicant tracking systems (ATS) work?

and formatted with the applicant tracking system in mind, a qualified candidate can be easily passed over.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Select the right file type for your resume Contrary to popular belief, a PDF is not the most ATS-friendly file type.  While PDF files are the best at preserving the design and format of your resume template, it is not compatible with all ATS software. If you're asked to upload your resume to an applicant tracking system 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

and “PDF” is listed among the file formats you can use, by all means, send a PDF version of your resume.  However, if the system does not specify which file types are compatible, play it safe and stick to a Word document in .doc or .docx. Plain-text files are also incredibly ATS-friendly for resumes, but they limit your formatting options.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Don't put important details in the header or footer Not all applicant tracking systems are able to properly read and parse information stored in the header and footer sections of a Word document.  In fact, our study confirmed the ATS was unable to identify a portion of the job seeker's contact information 25 percent of the time. Avoid this same 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

fate by placing important contact details (such as your name, phone number, or email address) outside the header or footer of your resume.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Optimize your resume with keywords One of the best ways to ensure your resume is compatible with an ATS is to optimize your resume with the right keywords (a.k.a. keyword optimization).  Unlike a “buzzword,” which is typically considered to be a fluffy marketing term such as “proactive” or “self-starter,” keywords represent the 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

soft skills and hard skills you possess and the expertise you've acquired over the years that qualify you for your target job. If you're unsure which resume keywords should be used, start by collecting three to five job descriptions that represent the type of position you're pursuing. Then, copy and paste the job description into a free word 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

and phrase frequency tool like Online-Utility.org's Text Analyzer, to identify the terms that are regularly used throughout your desired positions. If you possess these skills or qualifications from the job posting, incorporate these terms into your resume.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Avoid images, charts, and other graphics While these may look nice to the human eye, resumes with embedded images become a garbled mess, or get completely omitted from your application, after it passes through the applicant tracking system.  For instance, if you insert an image or chart to showcase 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

your key skills, the ATS resume scanner will be unable to read it. If you use a cool graphic to brand your name on your resume, this piece of information will be lost on the applicant tracking system (ATS).

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Stick to simple bullet points When used appropriately, bullet points are a great method for highlighting accomplishments and qualifications on a resume.  However, if you choose an elaborate symbol for your bullets, your important selling points could get scrambled. Avoid using intricate characters when creating a bulleted list on your ATS compliant resume 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

template. Stick to the simplest options, such as a solid circle, open circle, or square, to ensure your bullet points enhance your resume, rather than make it incompatible with an ATS.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Use a clean resume design with a clear hierarchy When it comes to your ATS friendly resume template design, less is more.  Not only do complex resume designs or unusual formats confuse most applicant tracking systems, but they also annoy recruiters who are accustomed to quickly scanning a resume for 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

specific information they expect to find in particular areas within the document.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to create an ATS-friendly resume format

If you want your resume to successfully pass the ATS, stick to a standard resume format, such as a hybrid resume.  This resume format uses a professional summary section at the top of the document to outline your key skills and qualifications and combines it with a chronological “Work History” section that explains 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to create an ATS-friendly resume format

how you've leveraged these qualities to produce results for your employers. Most applicant tracking systems do a better job at reading and interpreting a hybrid format because they rely on chronological data to parse your resume. As a result, it's in your best interest to avoid a functional resume format at all costs — where the focus is placed on 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to create an ATS-friendly resume format

your abilities, rather than a chronological work history.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to run an ATS-resume test for compliance

Convert your resume to a plain-text file Copy the content from your ATS friendly resume, paste it into a plain-text document, and review the results.  If the plain-text version is missing details from your original resume, has characters saved incorrectly, or looks disorganized (i.e. the heading for your “Education” section 

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to run an ATS-resume test for compliance

appears in the middle of your work experience), then assume your resume will require editing before it will be ATS compliant.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to run an ATS-resume test for compliance

Request a free ATS scan for your resume Here at TopResume, we offer career advice and a free ATS resume scan as part of our free resume review.  When you request a free resume review from TopResume, you'll receive feedback on your resume's content, as well as its ATS compatibility.

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to run an ATS-resume test for compliance

The first half of the review offers an objective look at what your resume is doing well and where it is falling short, from both an information and design perspective.  The second half of the free resume review shows you exactly what information an ATS will pull from your resume, what information it will be unable to identify and r

White Scribbled Underline

Next page

Arrow

How to run an ATS-resume test for compliance

etrieve (such as your name, contact information, most recent job title, and most recent employer), and for what top skills and keywords your resume currently ranks. If the ATS is unable to identify this important information or thinks you're a fit for a job when you're not, then your resume will need to be further optimized before it passes the ATS-compatibility test.

White Scribbled Underline

More

Read

10 New Job Fields for Women in 2022

10 Steps to a Resume That Will Get You Hired

10 Important Career Tips for Women

See More