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Most recruiters use ATS systems these days. But how do you make your resume ATS-friendly to get to the oh-so-desired interviewing stage? Which ATS resume template should you use to ensure it’s still a great read for the actual human recruiter? We have the answers.
This article will show you:
- What is an ATS resume and how you can create one.
- How to optimize your job application to turn it into an ATS-friendly resume.
- Examples of ATS resume templates you can use to save time.
- Top tips to make your resume pass ATS scanners in 2023.
Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.
Sample resume made with our builder—See more resume examples here.
Before making an ATS resume, you need to know the fundamentals of resume writing:
- How to Make a Resume for a Job
- Effective Resume Job Descriptions
- What Your Resume Must Include
- Best Resume Introduction
- Key Resume Sections
If you know the basics, continue reading to learn advanced tips on making an ATS-friendly resume:
What Is an ATS Resume?
An ATS resume is a document created in a way that lets the applicant tracking system parse the application with ease. The formatting is simple and easy to scan. ATS-friendly resumes include keywords that match the job ad and highlight relevant work experience and professional skills.
ATS checkers score candidates’ resumes according to certain preset criteria. They show the recruiter which candidates best fit the advertised position. A knockout question could be something like: “How many years of PM work experience do you have?” If the answer is set to five, the system will either automatically reject anything that’s below that number or lower your candidate's scoring.
Why Should You Create an ATS-Compliant Resume?
If your resume isn’t ATS-compliant, it'll never get through to the human recruiter. It'll only end up in the recruitment black hole for all eternity.
According to our research, 83% of customers using ATS software said they are likely to recommend it to other professionals.
That's right. Employers love ATS software—70% of large companies use it.
How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume?
Listen: The perfect ATS resume doesn’t exist. Why? Because you can never be sure how the recruiter set up the system. That being said, you can prepare an ATS-friendly resume to boost your chances!
Here’s how to make an ATS-friendly resume step by step:
1. Understand the Job Requirements
Treat the job description in the job posting as a benchmark for your application documents. You won’t know how the recruiter set up the ATS resume checker, but you can make informed guesses on the basis of the requirements specified in the ad.
2. Tailor Your ATS Resume
Tailoring your resume to the job offeris crucial. That’s the best you can do to get invited to an interview. If you send a generic resume that doesn’t have much to do with the job offer itself, your chances of succeeding are close to zero. The following points specify what you can do.
3. Use an ATS-Friendly Resume Template
Find a blank resume template that’s been optimized for ATS resume scanners. How to identify one? It should be easy on graphical elements. If it’s a PDF, you should be able to copy the text and paste it into a blank document.
4. Choose the Right Resume Format
There are three main resume formats: chronological resume, functional resume, and combination resume. The chronological resume is your safest bet of the three, as no ATS will have problems reading it.
5. Use ATS-Friendly Resume Fonts
The best resume fonts are the ones that are readable to humans and machines alike. Choose simple, professional-looking fonts for your resume.
6. Label Resume Sections with Headings
The resume section headings must be easy to navigate. First of all, a resume ATS checker will surely know where you described your experience on a resume if you label the section Experience rather than Things I Am Proud Of. Second of all, a recruiter will only spend 7 seconds scanning your resume, so don't confuse them about your resume education section by calling it What Made Me Into Who I Am.
7. Use ATS Resume Keywords
Using the right resume keywords is essential. Take a good look at the phrasing, and describe your experience using the job posting language. For example, if the employer is looking for a team player, describe yourself as one. If you keep describing your teamwork skills as being collaborative and miss out on the team player keyword entirely, the ATS resume test will also miss it.
8. Choose the Right Skills for the Position
Putting the right skills on your resume will surely show the ATS you deserve a high candidate score. Again, you can use synonyms (collaboration or teamwork) but try to include the original wording at least once to be sure. Plus, if your resume goes past the ATS scan, the recruiter will also get to see you’re perfectly qualified to get the job done.
9. Have the Recruiter in the Back of Your Mind
Once you focus on optimizing your resume for the ATS scan, it’s easy to forget you’re doing all this so that a human will have a chance to read it. Ensure your resume profile and all the other sections read well and impress the recruiter with the achievements on your resume.
If you follow the steps above, you’ll create a 100% ATS-compliant resume.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.
The Best ATS-Friendly Resume Templates
Let’s say it again: ATS resume checkers must be able to read your resume. If the content of your resume is ATS-friendly, but the template isn’t scannable, your resume will fail the ATS screening anyway.
What does it mean exactly? That picking an ATS-compatible resume template is as important as completing it.
Here are examples of what your ATS-friendly resume template could look like:
This ATS resume template combines a minimalist look with the style of an infographic resume. It features a timeline that connects various dates and resume entries.
This is one of our most popular ATS resume templates. It's a two-column resume with a full-color sidebar on the right. You can personalize it by adjusting colors and fonts to your liking.
Another two-column ATS-friendly template, but this time with plenty of white space. This minimalist resume template is great for IT professionals.
Do you prefer unique resume templates? Then this one is a great fit for you. It combines a contemporary vibe with all the elements of an ATS resume template.
The ATS resume formats above are only a few examples out of 18 100% ATS-compliant resume templates you can find in our resume builder. The best part? You can switch between the ATS-optimized resume templates with a single click to find the one you like best.
But, uhm, having an ATS-compliant template is one thing. Having an effective resume template is another. With ours, you have it all.
And the below example explains what I mean by that:
ATS-Friendly Resume Template—Example
Why is this ATS resume template effective?
- It follows the reverse-chronological resume layout. As such, scanning for the ATS and the recruiter is easy.
- The resume fonts are simple and readable, with different weights and styling to guide the recruiter’s eye.
- Each section is easy to identify, thanks to standard resume headers.
- The resume profile comes up top, followed by the experience and education sections.
- The resume’s certifications section comes last and offers additional insight into the candidate’s qualifications.
- All the sections in the right-hand column (skills, languages on a resume, and hobbies on a resume) have been specifically chosen to make the resume ATS-friendly.
- All descriptions include resume keywords found in the job offer.
The main difference between an ATS-friendly resume and a generic resume? An ATS resume is always targeted at a specific job opening. If the job description clearly states that certain skills or qualifications are sought after, and you happen to have those, they should end up in an appropriate section of your resume. Just like you see in the example above.
Here’s all you need to remember about making the ATS resume:
- The ATS (Applicant Tracking System) helps recruiters manage recruitment processes by identifying qualified candidates.
- The ATS scans resumes and scores them according to the criteria pre-set by the recruiter.
- Even though you can never know what criteria a recruiter chose, you can treat a job offer as a benchmark for your resume.
- A good ATS resume should always be tailored to the position you’re seeking and use an ATS-friendly resume template.
Do you have any questions about creating an ATS-compliant resume? Or maybe you’d like to share your tips on passing the ATS resume test? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a shout-out in the comments below.
About Zety’s Editorial Process
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions about ATS Resume
What is Applicant Tracking Software (ATS)?
The ATS is a software application that helps companies with the recruitment and hiring process. What’s important for you to know is that once you apply for a job, the software scans your application documents for keywords. It’ll look for relevant information on skills, work experience, and education, defined by the requirements (and even nice-to-haves) in the job description. If you’re successful, your resume will land on your recruiter’s desk.
What is the best resume format for ATS?
The best resume format for ATS is the reverse chronological format, without a doubt. The software can read it easily as it focuses on the most important bit—your work experience. It’s where the most resume keywords lay.
How do I make an ATS-friendly resume?
- Avoid creating a generic resume. Reply to a specific job with your application.
- Pick an ATS-friendly resume template that goes easy on the graphics and uses a legible font.
- Go for the reverse chronological resume format.
- Tailor your resume to the job description. Use achievements statements with keywords, both long-form and acronyms, that respond to the requirements.
- Create standard resume section headings.
- Get rid of headers and footers.
- Don’t use tables or any complex formatting.
- Save your resume file in .docx or PDF depending on what the recruiter asks for.
Are Google Docs or Microsoft resume templates ATS-friendly?
Not all Google Docs resume templates and Microsoft Word resume templates are ATS compliant, especially if you save them as an image. But you can very easily verify if your template is parsable by copying and pasting the contents into the Notepad app. If you see gibberish, it means the resume template hasn’t been designed with the ATS in mind.
What is an ATS-compliant resume?
An ATS-compliant resume can be easily scanned and analyzed by an Applicant Tracking System. This means that it’s formatted properly and includes correct keywords tailored to a particular job offer.
Are PDF resumes ATS-friendly?
Yes, most Applicant Tracking Systems have no problem scanning and analyzing PDF resumes. However, if a job offer asks you to send your job application in the form of a DOC or a different file, follow these instructions.
What is a good ATS resume score?
A good resume score should be 80% or higher, as it ensures that your resume will end up in the hands of a human recruiter.
Can I run my resume through ATS for free?
You can use Zety’s free resume checker after creating your resume with our builder.
Our team of resume writers has crafted 18 specialized resume templates tailored to suit your requirements. Alternatively, you can upload your existing resume for formatting only and polish it to perfection with our resume scanner.