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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, 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.
It’s estimated that over 75% of the recruiters use some ATS. Other sources say that up to 98% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Applicant Tracking Systems. About 94% of those who incorporated some sort of ATS into their recruitment process say it has improved the hiring process.
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 ATS software.
Realize that a typical corporate opening attracts about 250 resumes on average. This last figure makes it obvious why recruiters are eager to process resumes with a little help from ATSs.
But how does an 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.
The scoring differs from one ATS system to another.
Taleo, one of the most popular ATS software solutions today, does the so-called keyword scoring. In other words, your resume needs to have a certain number of relevant keywords for the system to let your resume through.
Taleo also allows to set up certain knockout questions. These questions determine whether or not you meet the criteria set by the company.
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.
Other applicant tracking systems work in a similar fashion:
They let the recruiters assign different weight to questions, sort the candidates on the basis of their answers, set up disqualifying questions, etc.
In fact, recruiters can easily customize their ATS resume scanning options.
Make sure your resume doesn’t miss a thing. Head straight to our guide: What to Put on a Resume (20+ Good Things You Should Include to Win)
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 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.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your resume here.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
ATS Resume Template
One of the essential stages of making an ATS-compliant resume takes place before you start writing anything.
When you choose the best resume template.
We’ve said it before, 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.
It’s crucial to make your resume look professional and pass the ATS test.
Here’s an example of what your ATS-friendly resume could look like:
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.
Here are some more examples of ATS-compliant resume templates you can find in our builder:
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.
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.