How to make the perfect ATS resume
Remember, an ATS is just a computer filing system. It needs to be able to scan and understand the text on your resume in order to correctly parse the information and sort it properly.
An ATS will never auto-reject a resume, but an ATS optimized resume does make it easier for a recruiter to find you among the sea of applicants. Even more importantly, an ATS-friendly resume naturally follows expert-recommended resume writing standards as well. That means that when the recruiter personally views your resume, it will include the relevant information they’re looking for and will be formatted in a way that makes it easier to read
Follow these tips for making the perfect ATS resume:
1. Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for
Focus on quality over quantity. Each job you apply for is unique, even if they all have the same title. Every company has different needs for that role. The job description will make it clear which hard skills, soft skills, experience, and education the company is looking for. So tailor your resume to show them that you are the perfect candidate.
2. Match your resume keywords to skills found in the job description
Recruiters might use an ATS’ search function to find applicants with specific skills. How do you know what skills they will search for? By examining the job listing. Use a resume scanner to automatically pick out the hard and soft skills the recruiter might search for, and then include those on your resume.
Even if the recruiter doesn’t search applications for those skills, they’ll definitely be looking for mentions of them on each resume they review.
3. Use long-form and acronym versions of keywords
Some ATS will only return resumes with the exact keywords the recruiters would search for. For example, if you included “Search Engine Optimization” in your resume but the recruiter searched for “SEO,” your profile may not appear in the results. Try to include both the acronym and the unabbreviated form of the term.
4. Use Chronological or Hybrid resume format
Recruiters do not like the functional resume format. Unless you’re making a career change, a functional resume is going to work against you. (And even then, we recommend you steer clear of the format for a career change resume.)
The best format for the ATS is traditional reverse chronological. You can also use chronological and hybrid resume formats as these are familiar to most recruiters.
5. Don’t use tables, columns, or graphics
Tables, columns, and graphics cause parsing errors in the ATS. Remember how a recruiter might use an ATS’ search function to find resumes with certain keywords? Well, if the ATS can parse the text in your resume, then it won’t find those keywords in your resume and you won’t show up in those searches.
6. Use an easy-to-read, traditional font
For readability, use a traditional serif or sans serif font. Untraditional or “fancy” fonts can cause parsing errors, which means the full text of your resume won’t be searchable.
7. Use standard resume section headings
Section headers like “Where I’ve Been” in place of “Work Experience” will confuse applicant tracking systems, causing them to organize information incorrectly.
8. Save your file as a .docx if possible
A docx file is most compatible with ATS.
What is the best resume format for ATS?
There are three standard resume formats to choose from in your job search. They shape your first impression and determine the way recruiters and hiring managers view your fit as an applicant. Your resume formatting can also determine how well your resume is parsed within an applicant tracking system (ATS) and how likely you are to be noticed as a result.
Regardless of the format you use, the most important thing is to use standard section headings like Experience, Skills, and Education. That will make it easier for the ATS to categorize the text.
How to tailor your ATS-friendly resume to a job
Tailoring your resume proves to recruiters that you’re an experienced professional. Most importantly, it shows them that you’re the perfect fit for this role.
Follow these three steps for tailoring your resume to a job description:
1. Examine the specific job description of the position
Go line by line through the job description and ask yourself these questions:
- “Does my resume experience section clearly state that I can do what’s required of this role?”
- “Am I using the same language found in the job description or job posting?”
You might find several different or missing skills and keywords in your generic resume.
2. Match skills and keywords from the job description
Mirroring the language, keywords, and buzzwords found within the job description is the easiest way to demonstrate you’re a better match than the competition.
The best way to show you’re the best fit for the position is to take words from the job posting and strategically put them in your job descriptions and other resume sections. A resume scanner will automatically pull out these keywords in seconds and speed up this process.
3. Write your job title clearly
Recruiters might search for people who have done the job they’re hiring, so list your job titles clearly and match the titles to the one in the job posting when possible. If you haven’t held the job before, list it under your name at the top or as part of your summary section.
What is Applicant Tracking Software (ATS)?
An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software used to assist with human resources, recruitment, and hiring. While each system offers a different package of features, applicant tracking systems are primarily used to help hiring companies organize and navigate large numbers of applicants.
For example, an ATS stores job candidate information like resumes, cover letters, references, and other recruitment and hiring data that HR teams can easily access and organize. It will also track job candidates and their application status throughout the hiring pipeline. Ultimately, an ATS automates time-consuming administrative tasks such as manually screening applicants, reading resumes, scheduling interviews, and sending notifications and emails to job candidates and employees.
Can you add graphics to your resume?
When it comes to making an ATS-friendly resume, the rule is: The simpler, the better. ATS are improving at scanning different formatting features, but not all of them are good at this. Adding graphics and images could cause parsing errors, which means the text on your resume won’t be fully searchable or accurately categorized by an ATS. We recommend that job seekers err on the side of caution. Avoid graphics, images, and photos.
Are Google Docs or Microsoft resume templates ATS-friendly?
They can be. We talked about some formatting features to avoid on your resume – tables, columns, and non-traditional fonts. Those features can trip up an ATS, even if they’re on a Word document or Google Docs file. However, as long as you follow the guidelines on this page, or use one of these ATS resume templates, you’ll be fine.