Writing an ATS resume is a great way to get your resume past the bots and into a hiring manager’s hands.
If you’re applying to lots of jobs and getting few interview callbacks, it may be that your resume is getting filtered out by an applicant tracking system (ATS) — the software used by hiring managers and companies to scan and rank resumes.
Applicant tracking systems have a reputation for being “hard to beat.” They won’t be swayed by empty buzzwords and will discard your resume if you don’t show you meet the job requirements.
We’ll show you how to create a resume with the right templates, keywords and formatting to make it past an ATS and into human hands! Let your accomplishments take center stage with our tips and tricks to create an ATS-friendly resume.
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What is an applicant tracking system?
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are computer software programs companies and recruiting agencies use to filter resumes.
Large companies often receive hundreds of resumes for a single job, so it’s unrealistic for recruiters to read them individually. The ATS has come in handy for years to facilitate the recruiting process. With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) in recruiting, ATS will become increasingly common and more accessible for employers.
How do applicant tracking systems work?
ATS replaces human intervention and scans resumes for predetermined keywords and qualifications relevant to the role.
If a resume doesn’t satisfy the minimum requirements a company has set for their candidates, then the ATS flags this resume and discards it, meaning a recruiter won’t even see your resume.
That’s why you might not get interviews for the jobs you’re applying for. However, there are ways to bypass the applicant tracking system and create an ATS-compliant resume.
How to write an ATS resume
An ATS-friendly resume contains everything you’d include in a standard resume, which you can find in our ultimate resume-writing guide.
Your ATS resume should include the five standard resume sections, content and keywords tailored to your desired job, and an appropriate resume template.
The following tips will help ensure your resume is precise and ATS-ready:
Use an ATS-compliant resume template.
The fastest and easiest way to make your resume ATS-friendly is by using a template already primed with all the specifications to bypass the applicant tracking system.
ATS-friendly resume templates offer streamlined designs and one-column text, which are necessary for software readability. With these premium ATS resume templates, you also get access to our Resume Builder which includes personalized pre-written content for a resume that looks like it was made by a pro! Here are some of our best ATS resume templates:
Tailor your resume for each job application.
Creating an ATS-friendly resume lies in the content. Remember that the ATS is simply a tool that follows an employer’s guidelines, so you’re still writing a resume for a specific person and position.
Always create a new resume for each role, or at least tailor it for every job application with the skills and experiences the employer seeks.
Include keywords from the job description.
All applications include a description of the job to which you’re applying. Here, you’ll find specific skills and qualifications, known as resume keywords.
You should include these keywords word-for-word in your resume as they appear on the job ad.
First, look at the job description and highlight your skills or qualifications.
Job Ad Example:
Motus – New York, NY
As Software Engineer, you will lead a team of software developers in developing and maintaining new and existing software products across different platforms. You will be tasked with reviewing code, quality assurance of deliverables, and delegating tasks to the rest of the team.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field
- 5+ years of experience with software development
- Fluency in different languages, including Java and Go for backend and Typescript for frontend
- Demonstrated ability collaborating with various departments and professionals
- Strong coding skills
- Familiarity with data structures, storage systems, cloud infrastructure and other technical tools
Once you’ve highlighted keywords that describe your abilities and qualifications, include these in various sections of your resume, such as the resume summary or objective, the work experience or the skills section.
Remember that the ATS is a computer, so it will look for the exact words the recruiter programmed into the software, not synonyms or similar concepts.
Stick to traditional section headings.
Name your resume sections by their traditional titles:
- Resume summary, Professional Summary, Resume Objective
- Work History, Work Experience
- Skills, Professional Skills
Avoid uncommon title headings like:
- What I’ve accomplished, What I’m good at, What I’ve studied
- Introduction, Profile
- Most Proud Of
- Core Competencies
Applicant tracking systems are programmed to identify your section headings to understand the content. If you use uncommon titles, the ATS might not understand what information you’re supposed to showcase in each section.
Stick to simple formatting.
If you want to show off your design creativity, the ATS resume is not the place to do it. Avoid resumes with complex formatting and stick to a simple layout.
What not to include in an ATS resume:
- Text boxes
- Two- or three-column text
Use a standard font size (10-12) for your resume’s text and avoid elaborate fonts.
Some ATS-friendly fonts are:
- Times New Roman
Don’t use acronyms by themselves.
Many words are referred to by their acronyms in specific industries, such as SEO, SEM, RN, PM and CPR.
If you have difficulty figuring out what some of these acronyms mean, you can be sure the ATS will too. So, if using acronyms, make sure to also include the word alongside it.
Here’s what these acronyms mean and how you should be writing them on your ATS resume:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Registered nurse (RN)
- Project manager (PM)
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
Use a widely accepted file format.
When submitting a resume, most job applications will tell you their required file format. Always go the safe route: The best file formats for applicant tracking systems are pdf. and doc.
ATS can’t scan all those targeted keywords you’ve diligently added to your resume if they’re misspelled. Consider hiring an editing service or using an online spell-checker to ensure your resume is error-free.
One of the many benefits of our Resume Builder is its integrated spell-checker, which will save you from any pesky typos.
Our builder also offers you:
- 15+ ATS-friendly resume templates you can customize.
- AI-powered text suggestions you can copy-paste onto your resume sections.
- The option to update and improve your pre-existing resume.
Want to unlock even more builder-exclusive benefits? Start building your resume now!
The best resume format for ATS
One of the easiest things you can do to bypass an applicant tracking system is to choose the right resume format.
As you now know, most ATS favor the more traditional resume, and the same applies to resume formats.
The best resume format for an ATS-friendly resume is the chronological format.
Chronological resumes show all five resume sections with their traditional titles in the expected order (contact information at the top, professional summary first, then work experience followed by skills and education).
More ATS-compliant resume templates
Frequently asked questions
Why do so many companies use applicant tracking systems?
Many companies and recruiting agencies use applicant tracking systems to manage their influx of job applications better. Think about the number of job applications a job posting from a company like Walmart receives, easily hundreds. A recruiter can’t read all of those applications one by one, so they use ATS to filter out resumes that don’t make the cut.
How do recruiters use ATS to find candidates?
Recruiters use ATS to find the perfect candidates by establishing a minimum of requirements for qualified applicants. For example, a recruiter wants to find candidates with a specific set of 15 skills and qualifications because these skills guarantee that the applicant can perform the job.
If you possess, let’s say, 12 of those 15 skills, you’re a highly desirable candidate. If you only possess 9 out of 15, you might not have the expertise to thrive in the role. However, this shouldn’t discourage you. If an ATS rejects you, it saves you the time of interviewing for a job you’re not qualified for so you can focus on better fits.
What is your match rate and how can you increase it?
A match rate is a score applicant tracking systems give to all resumes, and they determine how well your qualifications match a job’s requirements. For instance, a recruiter might set an ATS to filter out resumes with a match rate lower than 75%.
If your resume scores a match rate of 74%, your resume won’t pass to the recruiter’s hands.
To increase your resume’s match rate, include keywords from the job description, use a resume template with simple formatting, and proofread every word.
How to check if your resume will pass the ATS?
You can’t check if your resume will pass the ATS because there are many different types of ATS software, and companies program their ATS with unique requirements according to each job. The only way to know if your resume passed the ATS is if you get called for an interview. If not, continue priming your resume with ATS-friendly features, or simply understand that that job was not the right fit for you.