Is your resume ATS friendly? Before you attempt to answer that question, let’s first clarify the term ATS. ATS, or Applicant Tracking Systems, are software programs. They’re used by hiring managers and recruiters to collect, sort, and rank job applicants’ resumes. You might be thinking: that’s great, but why should I be concerned about ATS resume tips?
A recent study by JobScan revealed that roughly 98% of Fortune 500 companies, roughly 60% of large companies, and 30% of small companies use ATS software to filter resumes. That’s a pretty sobering statistic.
If you resume isn’t formatted specifically for ATS, your chances of landing an interview are slim at best. Applicant tracking systems act like gatekeepers whose main job is to filter out unqualified candidates. This is so hiring managers can focus on applicants who are a better match for the position.
What does this mean? In order to get your resume plucked from the thousands in the “ATS black hole,” read and follow the eight ATS resume tips below:
ATS Resume Tip #1: Choose a compatible file type
Most ATS-friendly resume templates will be in a Word document format, which is the document type I recommend using. Doc and docx files are not only ATS compatible, but they are also appealing to the human eye.
While PDF files are best for preserving the format of your resume, not all ATS software is able to read PDFs. You might also be tempted to use a plain text format, which is definitely ATS compatible. However, plain text files are not pretty to look at. If your resume makes it into the hands of a recruiter or hiring manager, you want your document visually appealing.
ATS Resume Tip #2: Avoid fancy resume templates
There are many pretty looking resume templates out there with fancy borders, columns, boxes, and photos. Unfortunately, while these templates are nice to look at style-wise, ATS software cannot easily decipher them. As a result, much of your resume content will become unreadable. If you select an ATS-friendly resume template you can be assured your resume will stand out and make it into the hands of a hiring manager.
ATS Resume Tip #3: Include a work history
Chronological resume templates are the most ATS-friendly templates because they highlight an applicant’s work experience. This is important because the algorithms in ATS rely on chronological data (i.e. dates) to sort resumes.
If you choose to use a purely functional resume which typically does not include a work history, you risk receiving a lower ATS score and not getting called for an interview. But maybe you’re a career changer or you have an employment gap. In this case I recommend using a combination resume format, which emphasizes transferable skills (i.e. communication, leadership) but also includes a work experience section.
Do you have questions about how to write and format your resume? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume which walks you through how to build your document, step-by-step.
ATS Resume Tip #4: Select a basic font
Select a basic font like Times, Ariel, Helvetica, Garamond, or Georgia and again, resist the urge to go crazy with unique fonts and graphics.
ATS Resume Tip #5: Tailor your resume
Employers tell you exactly what they want to see on your resume, and you can find this information in the job description. Print out the announcement of the job you want and underline or highlight all of the keywords listed. ATS software uses algorithms to rank resumes based on keyword searches so including these terms is crucial.
ATS Resume Tip #6: Use keywords correctly
Include both the acronym and long-form version of keywords and terms. (for example, include both MS in Accounting and Master of Science in Accounting) Also, make sure to strategically sprinkle keywords throughout your resume, while also avoiding overdoing it and stuffing keywords everywhere. (which will just irritate recruiters)
Inserting keywords into your summary or professional profile is a good idea, but I also recommend including them in your work history. For example, let’s say you have ten years of experience listed for a particular position. And within that position you list “Adobe Photoshop.” An ATS will then associate 10 years with that particular skill set and your resume will get a higher ranking.
ATS Resume Tip #7: Avoid headers and footers
It can be tempting to put your contact information within the header to save space on your resume. However, not all ATS software can read information written in the header or footer of a Word document, so it’s best not to take any chances.
ATS Resume Tip #8: Get your ATS resume score for FREE
JobScan is a tool that instantly gives job seekers an analysis of how well their resume is tailored for a specific job. I have personally used JobScan with clients to help their resumes stand out and have found it to be incredibly helpful.
The JobScan technology will score your resume for a number of factors, including:
- ATS compatibility (including an overview of missing keywords and skills)
- Recruiter feedback (i.e. items critical to hiring managers)
JobScan also gives you job recommendations from reputable sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter based on the keywords and skills you list on your resume.
Sign up now for free to use JobScan’s technology to optimize your resume for ATS.
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