An ATS-friendly resume is designed specifically to beat any ATS and increase your chance of grabbing a recruiter’s attention. Therefore, learning how to write an ATS-friendly resume is vital for the success of your job search. Using the strategies and tips below, you will learn how to make an ATS-friendly resume, gain a competitive edge, and land more interviews.
Table of Contents:
- What is an Applicant Tracking System?
- What is an ATS resume?
- How to write an ATS-friendly resume
- 1. Use acceptable file formats
- 2. Tailor your resume to the job description
- 3. Use full acronyms and titles
- 4. Include relevant keywords
- 5. Use simple designs and layouts
- Mistakes to avoid when creating an ATS-friendly resume
- ATS-friendly resume templates
What is an Applicant Tracking System?
The applicant tracking system is software that scans resume content and searches for keywords using an advanced algorithm. The focus keywords highlight the applicant’s skills, work experience, education, and former employers. By identifying these keywords, the ATS can sort through large amounts of resumes and pick out the ones that should progress in the hiring process. Essentially, applicant tracking systems record applicant information, helping companies streamline the hiring process by managing and sorting through the data.
What is an ATS resume?
An ATS-friendly resume works to help you pass through the processes of the applicant tracking system. From including the right set of keywords to using a readable format, making your resume ATS-friendly will boost your chances of catching the hiring manager’s attention and landing interviews. When you skip the step of optimizing your resume for the ATS, you are risking the employer never seeing your resume never being seen by an employer.
Now, let’s look at some of the key things to keep in mind when creating an ATS-friendly resume.
How to write an ATS-friendly resume
1. Use acceptable file formats
While there are many ATSs available, only some of them accept PDF files. So, although PDFs are perfect for preserving the design of your resume, you might want to avoid the format to get past the ATS. If you’re not sure what format to choose, check the list of acceptable file formats. If PDF is not included, provide your resume as a .doc or .docx file.
2. Tailor your resume to the job description
The ATS is set to focus on industry-specific buzzwords and terminology to pick out the most qualified candidates. So, when writing your ATS-friendly resume, go through the job listing and try to find these. Abbreviations, acronyms, industry jargon – all of these can help you get past the ATS. Then, sprinkle these in throughout your resume. However, make sure that your resume still flows, and the terminology fits the context of your resume.
3. Use full acronyms and titles
While not all ATS software does this, some only search the text for written-out acronyms. This depends on the settings of each software, but it’s best to optimize your resume for this scenario. So, include both the abbreviation and the complete phrase for any longer terms. For example, you could write, “Experienced with Content Management Systems (CMS).”
4. Include relevant keywords
The employer will typically set specific keywords that the ATS will look for in resumes. Those that don’t include these keywords won’t get past the software and automatically land in the “no” pile. To avoid the same happening to your resume, find relevant keywords and include them in the content of your resume. For instance, look at the job description in the job listing. What are some specific terms that the text uses repeatedly? The more a word stands out to you, the more critical it is to include it in your resume.
5. Use simple designs and layouts
You might feel tempted to demonstrate your skill levels by using charts of symbols. But for the sake of making it past the ATS, don’t. Most applicant tracking software can’t read charts, images, or other graphics. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing your ATS resume template, as well as when you’re customizing it. The only way the ATS will accept the information in your charts is to mention it elsewhere in the text of your resume.
Mistakes to avoid when creating an ATS-friendly resume
Don’t include fancy graphics and formatting
Design-forward and overly creative resumes are harder to read for both the ATS and the hiring manager. Additionally, the tracking software converts all documents to a text-only file to scan for keywords. So, chances are your fancy formatting will get lost along the way. Or worse, the ATS won’t extract all of the text from the document and leave out important information. To avoid this, stay away from using tables, images, graphics, and text boxes in your resume. Also, stick to universal fonts that don’t require downloading, like Arial, Helvetica, and similar.
Don’t try to trick the ATS
You might find advice on how to “cheat the system” and get past the ATS online. However, this is likely to do more harm than good. As said above, the ATS converts the resume to a text-only document, in which all of the text is the same color. Thus, any tricks, including pasting the keywords or the job description in white, will be quickly revealed. Then, of course, the recruiter is most likely to move on to the next candidate. Doing this not only shows you probably lack the qualifications but also that you’re willing to cheat your way through situations.
Don’t overstuff your resume with keywords
Including ATS resume keywords in every sentence might get your resume through the ATS, but it will make your text hard to read and understand. Again, remember that the ATS is only the first step in the hiring process. Once your resume is in human hands, it needs to be easy to scan and read. So, to avoid making your resume incomprehensible, only use keywords where they naturally belong. On top of that, if using an ATS resume generator, double-check that the placement of keywords makes sense.
ATS-friendly resume templates
Remember: Creating an ATS-friendly resume is helpful even if the company you're applying to doesn't use the software. Using the strategies above, you can easily create a resume that will impress both the software and the hiring managers.