How to make an ATS Resume

Rejection is part of the job search. Not every resume and job application is going to result in an interview or job offer. However, there are proven ways to increase your interview chances. Creating a strong ATS resume is one way to shift the odds more in your favor.

Still getting up to speed? Read: What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Optimizing your resume for ATS keeps your application from getting buried in the system. The key to an optimal ATS resume is understanding what the systems (and the recruiters who use them) like and dislike.

ATS resume keyword optimization

The most important aspect to creating an ATS resume that won’t slip through the cracks is keyword optimization.

ATS analyze the content of your resume to allow recruiters to search for keywords. Some ATS even automatically rate your resume based on how well your content matches the job description. These are two ways that recruiters can cherry pick candidates without looking through every single resume.

Become a top search result in ATS

Accurately predicting which words the recruiter will type into the search bar is one of the best ways to get noticed in an ATS. Recruiters are likely to search for:

  • Job titles, like software engineer, administrative assistant, or distribution coordinator
  • Hard skills, like marketing, customer service, editing, or Microsoft Excel

The best indicator of which words they’ll search is the job description. Ensure that the job title on the listing is on your resume if at all possible. Then notice which hard skills — learned skills based on experience and training — appear early or multiple times in the job description.

ATS resume example
Prioritize skills that are used multiple times in the job description. If you were applying for this job, your ATS resume should be riddled with the word “marketing.”

◊ Jobscan Tip: Career coaches used to print out the job description then use a highlighter to isolate the most important skills, kind of like the example above. Jobscan automates this process by instantly returning a curated list of skills after analyzing your resume and job description.

ATS resume skills
Scan your resume for hard skills and soft skills..

More ATS resume keywords and skills:

Match the job description

Including the right search terms is only half the keyword battle. Some ATS automatically compare the entirety of your resume content to the job description. Recruiters can then sort applicants based on how well they “match” the job description. If your resume doesn’t have a high match rate, the recruiter might never look at it.

ATS resume: Taleo's applicant rankings, or Req Rank.
The ATS Taleo can compare your resume to the job description and assign a match rate, known as “Req Rank.”

To increase your ranking in these ATS, match any and all applicable titles, skills, and other keywords found in the job description. They key word is “applicable.” Recruiters and hiring managers will find out if you’re lying about which skills you actually possess.

◊ Jobscan Tip: When you test your ATS resume with Jobscan, you can see how well your resume “matches” the job description along with a complete listing of missing keywords. The higher the match rate, the better your chances.

ATS resume: Low Jobscan Match Rate
Test your ATS resume


More ATS keyword filters:

ATS resume formatting

The way you design your resume can also have an effect on how ATS interact with it. Many top ATS strip out as much formatting as possible in order to analyze and parse the plain text. This helps with the searches and rankings mentioned above, but also allows some ATS to import your resume content into a uniform candidate profile.

How accurately your ATS resume is analyzed and parsed will depend on some of your formatting choices. In short, keep formatting simple.

◊ Jobscan Tip: Your resume can still look sharp and professional while remaining ATS compliant. Check out these free ATS-friendly resume templates customized for each stage of your career.

Use standard headings

When an ATS like iCIMS tries to import your information into a digital applicant profile, it’s programmed to look for specific headings and formatting structures. Use straight-forward headings to clearly label your work experience. For example:

  • Work History
  • Work Experience
  • Experience
  • Professional History
  • Professional Experience

Getting creative and veering away from these norms could cause a parsing problem for your ATS resume. The same goes for your education section and other common resume sections.

Avoid tables, columns, headers, and footers

Using tables and columns are a great way to help organize your resume and get the most use out of your space, especially if you’re trying to fit everyone on a single page. Headers and footers also help save space, and provide a seemingly logical place to keep your name and contact information.

Unfortunately, when an ATS strips out the formatting of your resume, these features might cause errors that can result in critical information getting garbled. An ATS text parser might end up reading table content out of order, while header information can get lost or hidden in certain file formats.

◊ Jobscan Tip:  It’s more than just resume keywords. Jobscan now helps you create the perfect ATS resume with premium checks for the formatting issues above in addition to checks for work experience formatting, fonts, margins, and more.

ATS resume formatting checks with Jobscan
Test your ATS Resume

Tailoring your resume with the right keywords and creating a simple, parseable format are the most important steps to beating beating ATS. An optimized ATS resume keeps your application in play longer and increases your interview chances.

Facebook Comments

Have new Jobscan articles delivered right to your inbox

* indicates required