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Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software applications that scan resumes and other job recruitment documents for relevant keywords such as skills, job titles, and educational background. To pass the ATS scan, your resume has to be formatted properly, and include the right words.
If you want to get to the interviewing stage—
You have to make your resume ATS friendly: use an ATS compliant template, add the right keywords, and make it a great read for the actual human recruiter.
This article will show you:
- What an ATS friendly resume is.
- How to make a resume ATS compliant.
- Examples of ATS-friendly resume templates.
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What Is an ATS Compliant Resume?
An ATS-compliant 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 also contain keywords that match the job ad, and highlight relevant work experience and professional skills.
An ATS is a tool for recruiters, so why should you bother?
If your resume doesn't play well with applicant tracking systems, it'll never get through to the human recruiter. It'll only end up in the recruitment black hole for all eternity.
As we learned behind-the-scenes from Courtney Moran, Senior Research Analyst at G2:
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 this software.
But how does ATS work?
The ATS scores candidates’ resumes according to certain preset criteria and shows the recruiter which candidates are the best fit for 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 scoring.
ATS Resume Template
Let’s say it again—
The ATS must be able to parse your resume. If the content of your resume is ATS-friendly, but the template isn’t parsable, your resume will fail the ATS scan anyway.
What does it mean exactly?
That picking an ATS-compliant resume template is as important as completing it.
Here are examples of what your ATS-friendly resume could look like:
ATS Resume Template—Newcast
ATS Resume Template—Diamond
ATS Resume Template—Enfold
ATS Resume Template—Vibes
ATS Resume Template—Muse
The ATS resume formats above are only a few examples out of 18 other 100% ATS-compliant templates you can find in our resume builder.
The best part—
You can switch between the 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 Resume Template—Example
Why is this ATS resume template effective?
It follows the reverse-chronological resume layout. As such, it’s easy to scan for the ATS and the recruiter.
The fonts are simple and readable, with different weight and styling to guide the recruiter’s eye.
Each section is easy to identify. 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.
At this point, it’s important to notice that the selection of resume sections mustn’t be random.
The main difference between an ATS friendly resume and a generic one is that the former is always targeted at a specific 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.
All of them have been specifically chosen, to make the resume fully ATS compliant.
More than that:
All these sections, as well as the job description, have been spun around the ATS resume keywords found in the job offer.
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.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
How to Beat the System and Make the Perfect ATS Resume?
The perfect ATS resume doesn’t exist.
Because you can never be sure how the recruiter set up the system.
You may be a perfect fit. But if one of the most important criteria is your willingness to relocate and you’d rather not, you won’t get the job.
That being said—
You can prepare an ATS optimized resume to boost your chances.
Here’s how to make an ATS-friendly resume step by step:
- Reply to a specific job offer.
In fact, you should treat the job description as a benchmark for your application documents. No, you won’t know how the recruiter set up the system, but you can make informed guesses on the basis of what they specified in the ad.
- Tailor your resume
Tailoring your resume to the job offer is 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.
- Pick an ATS compliant resume template.
Find a blank resume template that’s been optimized for the ATS resume test. 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.
- Choose the best resume format.
There are three main resume formats: chronological resume, functional resume, and combination resume. Of the three, the chronological resume is your safest bet as no ATS will have problems parsing it.
- Use ATS-readable fonts.
The best resume fonts are the ones that are readable to humans and machines alike. Choose simple, professional-looking fonts for your resume.
- Label your resume sections in an understandable way.
The resume section headings must be easy to navigate. First of all, the ATS 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 6 seconds scanning your resume, so don't confuse them about your resume education section by calling it What Made Me Into Who I Am.
- Use the ATS resume keywords.
Using the right resume keywords is essential. An ATS resume must follow the pattern set out in the job offer. So take a good look at the phrasing, and describe your experience imitating the language of the job posting. 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 the team-player keyword entirely, chances are the ATS resume test will miss it too.
- 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, just 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.
- Have the recruiter in the back of your mind when optimizing your resume for the ATS.
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. Make sure your resume profile and all the other sections read well and impress the recruiter with the achievements you put on your resume.
- Have the ATS in the back of your mind when writing your resume for the recruiter.
Yes, your resume must read well, but it also has to pass the resume ATS test. So, remember to include the right keywords, phrasing, and focus on the areas delineated in the job ad. Let the job offer serve you as a benchmark for your resume. And avoid including extra elements such as tables or footers—ATSs don’t like them.
Pro Tip: You can use an online ATS resume checker that will compare your resume against the job offer to see how much your resume overlaps with the requirements of the job ad.
If you follow the steps above your resume will be 100% ATS-compliant.
If you’re not sure your resume has all the necessary elements, read our guide on what to put on a resume to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
Looking for the best resume layout? Look no more! Head straight to our article: Resume Layout: 20+ Templates, Examples & Complete Design Guide
Here’s all you need to remember about making the ATS resume:
- The ATS (Applicant Tracking System) helps the 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? We’d love to hear from you. Give us a shout out in the comments below.
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.