Technology is changing the way we do everything, and that includes applying for jobs. This is why you need to have an ATS-friendly resume if you want to stay competitive in today’s job market.

ATS stands for application tracking system. This is a computer software program that saves employers time and money. It does this by automating the tracking, assessment, and selection of job applicants. 

Most people don’t think about it, but where do you suppose your resume goes when you submit it? Most of the time, it goes directly into an ATS database. The ATS then scans your resume for specific keywords and assesses your qualifications for the role.

Based on this information, the ATS ranks candidates and produces a shortlist of the most qualified applicants.

Why do you need an ATS-friendly resume?

Because up to 75% of submitted resumes never make it into the hands of an actual recruiter! A lot of these failed resumes aren’t formatted correctly or don’t include the proper keywords.

This article is going to show you how to create an ATS resume that 1) can be easily read by the ATS, and 2) will attract the attention of hiring managers who are searching for suitable job candidates. 

Plus, we’ve included 20 free ATS-friendly resume templates to make the process even easier.

To find out how ATS-friendly your resume already is, run it through a tool like Jobscan’s resume scanner. The scanner uses the latest AI technology to score your resume. If your resume gets a low score, you’ll be told exactly how to fix it.

How to create an ATS-compliant resume in 6 steps

Creating an ATS-compliant resume is not that difficult. We’ve broken down the process into six simple steps. The first three steps deal with keywords, while the last three steps talk about ATS resume formatting. 

All six steps are equally important, so don’t skip any! 

Step #1 – Find the job title and put it in your resume headline

Your resume headline appears at the top of your resume, just under your name and contact information. The purpose of the headline is to call attention to your value as a job candidate.

Your headline should be brief, attention-grabbing, and relevant to the job you are applying to. Examples include: 

  • “Results-Oriented Business Analyst with 7 Years of Experience”
  • “Finance Manager with 10 Years of Experience in the Banking Industry” 
  • “Human Resources Professional with 5 Years of Experience in Recruitment and Employee Relations”

When creating your resume headline, be sure to put the relevant job title in it. You can find this at the very top of the job description. Here’s an example:

The job title is “Marketing Automation Specialist.” If you’re applying to this job, you should put this exact title in your resume headline. Something like:

“Marketing Automation Specialist with 8 Years of Experience.”

This way, when a recruiter searches through the ATS for that job title, your resume will be one of those that shows up. 

As simple as this step is, it does mean that you need to tailor every resume headline to the job you’re applying to.

Read the full article: How to Write a Resume Headline that Stands Out

Step #2 – Find relevant skills and add them to your resume

Hiring managers don’t just type in job titles when they search for candidates. They also type in specific keywords relating to skills. Again, you can find these keywords by reading through the job description. 

As you read, note the skills that appear most often (keywords can be single words or phrases). Then add these keyword skills to your resume, if appropriate. 

For example, the keyword “marketing” appears many times in the job description below. Clearly, this keyword should be used in your resume since hiring managers are likely to search for it. 

Job description with hard skills keywords highlighted in yellow.

Given how often this keyword appears in the job description, it’s safe to say that if your resume does not include the word “marketing”, it probably won’t be found by a hiring manager.

The key thing to remember is that you want to use the same language in your resume that the hiring manager used when writing the job description. 

“Use the same language in your resume that the hiring manager used when writing the job description.” 

Don’t overstuff your resume with keywords. Make sure to use them as naturally as possible.  

If a hiring manager sees too many keywords, it can look like you’re trying to game the system. In addition, keyword stuffing can make your resume hard to read and understand. 

You can automate this entire process by using a tool like Jobscan’s resume scanner. It runs over thirty checks on your resume to make sure it’s optimized for what recruiters look for.

Step #3 – Use keywords properly so the ATS can read them

Many ATS can’t differentiate between similar skills. So you need to use keywords exactly as they appear in the job description.

For example, a job description might ask for “leadership experience.” Try to include the exact keyword phrase “leadership experience” on your resume. Don’t simply list your leadership roles. 

Also be sure to include both long-form versions of keywords and acronym versions.

For example, if you have experience with customer relationship management software, you should include both “customer relationship management” and “CRM.” By including both versions of important keywords, you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting your resume noticed.

Finally, make sure you tailor each resume to the position you’re applying for. This takes a little time and effort, but it can increase your chances of getting called back for an interview. Using a tool like Jobscan’s resume scanner can greatly speed up this process.

Step #4 – Choose an ATS-friendly resume format

It’s important to include relevant keywords in your resume. But it’s also important to format your resume so an ATS can read it.

Many outstanding job candidates submit resumes that the ATS can’t read. This leads to rejection.

Fortunately, the most ATS-friendly resume format is also the most commonly used. This is the chronological format. This format lists your work experience in reverse-chronological order. In other words, your last job should appear first

In your work experience section, include the following information for each job: 

  • Company name and location
  • Job title
  • Start and end dates 
  • Achievements and responsibilities 

Our research has found that this sequence is the most ATS friendly. 

Read the full article: Why Recruiters HATE the Functional Resume Format

Step #5 – Make your resume easy to scan

Follow these ATS resume formatting tips to make it easier for both humans and machines to read your resume:

  • Use simple, clear language to make it easy for both ATS and humans to easily comprehend your data. 
  • Use a commonly-used font like Garamond, Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica to appear professional. 
  • For font size, use a 11-12 pt. for regular text, and 14-16 pt. for section titles.
  • Margins should be about 1 inch on all sides of your resume to avoid overcrowding. 
  • Dates should be formatted in one of two ways: MM/YYYY or “March 2022”. Do not use the year only.
  • Feel free to use bold, italics, underlining, and of course, bullets (but stick to the standard bullet circle or square)
  • Use a Word document or PDF so the ATS can easily scan it.
  • Always proofread your resume carefully – a single error can result in rejection.

Read the full article: The Best Fonts for Your Resume

Read the full article: Resume Sections: What You Need and Where You Need Them

Step #6 – Things to AVOID when formatting your resume

When your resume is entered into an ATS database, most of its formatting is stripped out. This makes it easier for the ATS to analyze and parse the plain text. 

Because of this, you should avoid these common ATS resume formatting mistakes:

  • Do NOT use tables and columns. While these may help organize your information and look visually appealing, the ATS might garble your data. 
  • Do NOT use headers and footers. These can make it difficult for the ATS to parse your information correctly.
  • Do NOT use special graphics, images, or symbols. Again, the ATS might get confused; keep it simple. 
  • When it comes to section headings, don’t get too creative or fancy. Use traditional headings like “Work Experience” or “Education”, which won’t confuse the ATS.

That’s it! Follow these six steps and you’ll have an ATS–friendly resume that has a good chance of making it out of the ATS database and into the hands of a hiring manager. 

And to make absolutely sure that your resume is mistake-free, try a tool like Jobscan’s resume fixer.  

This easy-to-use tool provides a comprehensive audit of your resume. It analyzes it for formatting, grammar, spelling, and other critical factors that can impact your job search success.

Read the full article: Don’t Make These ATS Formatting Mistakes

Try one of our ATS-friendly resume templates

If you don’t want to spend time formatting your resume to make sure it is ATS-friendly, you can use one of our free resume templates. 

Through testing and research, we’ve discovered which ATS resume formats work the best. Based on that knowledge, we have created 20 resume templates that are ATS compatible. All you have to do is customize them with your own information.

Use Jobscan’s free ATS-friendly resume templates and start building your resume that gets noticed by recruiters!

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

The internet has made it much easier to apply for jobs. All you need to do is sign up to one of the numerous job boards (like Indeed). Then upload your resume, and click submit, again and again and again. 

This is super convenient for job applicants. But employers are now flooded with hundreds and even thousands of resumes for every job opening. That’s why they’ve turned to application tracking systems (ATS) to help them collect, store, and organize applicant data.

Hiring managers use their ATS to find job candidates like this:

First they search through the ATS database by typing in keywords that are related to the job position. These keywords are usually job titles or skills. 

For example, let’s say a hiring manager is looking for a candidate with customer service experience. They might type in “customer service” or “customer service representative.” The ATS will then pull up all of the candidates who have those keywords in their profile. 

From there, the hiring manager can narrow down their search and choose the best candidate for the job.

The vast majority of companies use ATS software these days. This means you must format your resume correctly and include the right keywords,

Our team at Jobscan has reverse-engineered dozens of applicant tracking systems, such as Taleo and Greenhouse. And we’ve put all our expertise into our resume scanner. That’s why job seekers who use our scanner get up to three times as many job interviews.

When to write a curriculum vitae (CV)

Sometimes you don’t need an ATS-friendly resume. If you work in the academic, medical, or scientific fields, you’ll probably need to create a curriculum vitae (CV).

CVs highlight your education in more detail as well as your credentials, research experience, and certifications. Because of that, CVs tend to run much longer than resumes do.

To learn more about CVs, check out our article How to Write a CV for a Successful Job Search.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an ATS-friendly resume?

An ATS-friendly resume is formatted in a way that makes it easy for an ATS to read and understand it. It also includes keywords and phrases that are relevant to the specific job opening. If you write your resume with ATS software in mind, it will have a much better chance of making it into the hands of a hiring manager.

Which resume format is ATS-friendly?

The most common and most ATS-compatible format is the chronological resume. This type of resume lists your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your most recent position listed first. 

Are PDF resumes ATS friendly?

Yes, in the vast majority of cases a PDF resume will work fine. Some older ATS might not accept PDFs, but this is rare these days. Always check the job listing. If it says to submit a Word resume, then do that. Otherwise, a PDF resume works just as well. 

Access the 20 ATS-friendly resume templates here

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