Optimizing Resumes for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Applicant Tracking System Resume

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are the computer systems used by organizations to manage the flood of applications they receive. The ATS will read your resume, and then rank and score your qualifications vs. the job descriptions. There are many ATS that companies use, but they all have the same formatting standards to ensure your resume will be seen. 

Only those applicants who receive high scores will get a call for an interview. If you follow these formatting tips you will greatly increase the likelihood that your professional resume will rise to the top of the list.

Top 5 Resume Tips For Applicant Tracking Systems:

  1. Do not use templates! Use a standard Word document.
  2. Use simple resume formatting. Do not use headers (including for contact information), footers, templates, tables, borders, lines, symbols (bullet points are fine) or shading.
  3. Customize each resume for the specific position being sought using language from the job description. “One-size-fits-all” does not work with applicant tracking systems. Incorporate relevant, targeted keywords and phrases for the position being sought. 
  4. Use keywords and phrases in context and incorporate them into descriptive achievement-oriented bullet points; do not just include them as a list of skills or competencies.
  5. Edit carefully! The ATS will not recognize misspelled words. If your resume survives the ATS screening, it will next be reviewed by human beings so it must be error-free.

Make sure your optimized resume also:

  • Does not include any special characters or accented words
  • Includes no punctuation in your name, such as ( ) , / –
  • Is in a single column format (no tables, multiple columns, or text boxes)
  • Uses simply formatted text of a reasonable size (11 point font or above)
  • Includes standard fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Calibri, and Verdana are safe choices)
  • Does not contain complex formatting (condensed or expanded text) — that is, don’t use extra spaces between letters, because the ATS can’t “read” it
  • Contains proper capitalization and punctuation. Both of these can affect how information is parsed and assigned within the ATS database
  • Uses the full, spelled-out version terms in addition to abbreviations and acronyms [i.e., Certified Public Accountant (CPA)]

Most companies today use some form of an applicant tracking system, so it is important to understand how to optimize resumes for them.

Following these tips will help ensure that your resume pulls up correctly on the employers side and will actually be seen by a person.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. When Maria is not working, she enjoys reading and spending quality time with her family.

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