How To Write Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Resume

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 1, 2022 | Published October 18, 2021

Updated September 1, 2022

Published October 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Related: How to Format a Resume for Success in 5 Easy Steps

In this video, we show you how to craft the perfect resume in five easy steps so recruiters can find you.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a computerized system that many businesses use to classify and categorize candidates. These systems sort through candidate resumes throughout the early stages of the job application journey by scanning them for key terms and phrases and formatting requirements. If you're applying for a job, it's important to understand what an ATS is in order to prepare a strong resume that can pass through this system. In this article, we explain what an applicant tracking system resume is and discuss how to write one.

Related: How To Apply to Jobs Online in 16 Actionable Steps

What is an ATS resume?

An ATS resume is one that this system can read and accept without dismissing it for not meeting certain guidelines. It's important to optimize and modify your resume to fit the requirements of an ATS. When you optimize your resume, you can concentrate on things like keywords from the job posting that can cause it to register with the tracking system's algorithm, resulting in a better outcome. As a result, it's helpful to convert your resume into an applicant tracking system resume.

How to write your ATS resume

Here are some steps you can follow to write a resume that can pass an ATS check at a company:

1. Employ keywords

Keywords differ according to the job position, the years of experience necessary, the organization, and other criteria. The easiest approach to determine potential resume keywords for a certain role is to scrutinize the job ad. Look for precise terms in the job description that indicate the ideal candidate's experiences or talents. If you feel you're qualified, include those precise words or phrases in your resume.

Another excellent method for discovering keywords is to research the organization. Examine their mission statement, beliefs, and corporate culture. Consider and add qualities in your resume that connect to the company's mission, beliefs, work environment, and community. If you are a member of a professional association for your sector or career, discuss potential resume keywords with other members.

Related: What Are Resume Keywords and Why Are They Important?

2. Include your keywords in context

Include your keywords across the rest of your resume. Most ATS platforms favour applications that do not include one keyword after another, such as in a skill section that is entirely composed of keywords. ATS software is more likely to approve resumes that include keywords throughout the body of the text. After you've chosen your keywords, expound on your talents or experiences that are linked to that term. Instead of simply listing those words on your resume, write bullet points related to specific work experiences that incorporate these keywords, such as:

  • Managed telephone, email, and other communication methods for the entire office

  • Proficient at photo editing with both web-and computer-based programs

  • Highly motivated to find employment in a dynamic and hard-working company

Related: How to Use a Job Description Keywords Finder for Your Resume

3. Select a file format the ATS can understand

Because PDFs are a widespread file type and help maintain resume layout, many people store and submit their resumes in PDF format. If you know or believe that ATS software may examine your resume before an employer does, save it in a text format instead. ATS systems sometimes struggle to read the text in PDF files because they scan the PDF as a single image rather than a textual document.

Save your resume as a .docx file in Microsoft Word. A .docx file is easily read by ATS and is more likely to keep your resume layout. You may also save your resume in a different text format, such as .doc, .rtf, or .txt. Only send your resume in PDF format if the web portal or job posting indicates it as an acceptable format.

Related: How To Write an ATS-Compliant Resume (With Tips and FAQs)

4. Keep your unique formatting to a minimum

A unique and professional layout can occasionally make your resume stand out among hiring managers. Unique formatting frequently confuses ATS software and may lead it to misunderstand or disregard critical information on your resume. On the same line as your name, use special characters such as an asterisk or a backslash. When submitting an application that an ATS can scan, reduce the following parts of your resume:

  • Graphs

  • Tables and charts

  • Boxes

  • Graphics, columns, and animations

  • Pictures

  • Fonts or components that are coloured

Related: Resume Format Guide (With Tips and Examples)

5. Make your resume easy to read for ATS and employers

Present your resume's material in a way that both ATS algorithms and human employers can comprehend. Select a common resume format, such as chronological or functional. Consider using a resume template to ensure that it includes your most relevant qualifications logically.

6. Reduce the amount of content in your header and footer

Limit the amount of text in your resume's header and footer. Many people add their contact information to the resume header or footer. While this is a wonderful method to structure resumes for human professionals to evaluate, certain ATS algorithms have difficulty understanding the content inside headers and footers. Instead, provide your contact information in the body of your resume.

7. Tailor your resume to each job posting

Personalize your resume for each job application. You may use the same basic template for all of your resumes, but attempt to tailor distinct copies for each job application. Companies frequently configure their ATS software to look for certain terms or phrases in their job postings, corporate values, or mission statements. Scan the job description and study the firm to uncover their unique keywords for each position. Include them on your resume to help guarantee that the ATS scans your application.

Related: Your Online Career Coach: Advanced Job Search Tips To Get the Job

8. Include specifics

Fill in the blanks on your resume with specifics. More complex ATS applications frequently look for information relating to the job you're looking for, such as the technology you've used or numerical data. Increase your chances of passing the ATS scan by including additional information on your resume. For example, suppose one of your bullet points from prior employment said, "Helped clients regularly." Check to see if you can add any more important and particular information to that statement. Here are a few suggestions:

  • I assisted an average of five clients each hour in resolving technological issues.

  • Assisted consumers in repairing, testing, or troubleshooting their bought gadgets.

  • I assisted consumers through phone, email, and live web chat.

9. Use simple sentences

In your resume, use short and straightforward wording. Human recruiters can remember your application if you use distinctive words in your resume. ATS cannot comprehend unusual phrasings such as idioms, metaphors, or puns. Instead, use simple words and phrases. Your resume targeting human employers, for example, might include section titles like find me here or where I've been. Change these headers to more typical ATS software terms like contact information and work experiences.

10. Make a list of acronyms

When you first use an acronym or abbreviation on your resume, write what it stands for. If you use the word again in your resume, just use the acronym. For example, if you're familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), write out search engine optimization the first time you mention this expertise on your resume. You only need to include the acronym if you mention SEO later in your resume.

11. Check to see whether your resume is scannable

Before submitting your application, check to see whether ATS can read your resume. Make a plain text document out of your resume and review it for any odd formatting. Look for headers that have migrated into the middle of a section, for example, or characters that the plain text format cannot read. Check the plain text version of your resume against the original to confirm that all the information is still present. If all the information in your plain text resume is there and correctly formatted, ATS software can read it.

12. Maintain current online information

Check that your online information corresponds to the content of your resume. For example, any information about your positions that you publish publicly on social media may correspond to the work experience shown on your resume. Advanced ATS programs may do internet research or verify facts about you and compare it to your resume.

13. Submit your resume as soon as possible

Send your job application as quickly as possible by email or through a company's website. Some ATS programs allow a limited number of applications before shutting down. Subscribing to email or text message job notifications may increase your chances of submitting your resume early.

Related: The Best Fonts for Your Resume

14. Include a cover letter

Include a cover letter with your job application. Most ATS systems do not scan cover letters. A cover letter can make your application more memorable to hiring managers and may help you avoid ATS software. Address your cover letter to a specific individual within the firm. Address the letter to the professional who created the job advertisement if you know who they are. If the job advertisement does not provide a contact person, conduct research and express your concerns.

Related: 7 Key Cover Letter Parts to Include in Your Letter

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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