How to Develop an ATS friendly Resume

In the current job market, the organizations which are utilizing an applicant tracking system are most probably be able to attract, identify and hire the top talent within no time. Whereas the companies who are not leveraging the new recruitment technologies and tools are prone to face failures in achieving their recruiting goals.

Having recruiting software in place for your hiring process digitalizes and centralizes all of your recruiting data in a single platform. It also performs an initial screening of the received applications to point out the best potential candidates. These are only a few to mention from many things an ATS can do for you. Applicant tracking systems can be very useful for improving the complete recruiting process as well as alleviating some of the most critical problems concerning the hiring and talent acquisition activities.

Why are companies preferring robots to make HR decisions?

What it’s all about is speed. Sifting through hundreds of thousands of resumes for sorting the candidates can be a time-consuming and tiresome activity. But an applicant tracking system speeds up this procedure by detecting the applicants whose resumes comprise key skill sets and experiences that tally with the qualifications the employers are looking for.

As disclosed in a report, nearly 75% of the applicants are unable to get their resumes through the ATS screening. It might appear to be a cruel thing, but this screening procedure performs the task of cutting down a bulky applicant pool into just a few of the candidates that the human hiring managers can evaluate more closely.

How to create an ATS-friendly resume?

Here are a few tips for the applicants who want to make sure that their resumes are compliant for an applicant tracking system as well as ATS-optimized:

  • Choose the right file type for your resume: Different from the general belief, a PDF is not the most compatible file type for an applicant tracking system. Even though PDF files are considered to be the best ones at securing the design and format of the resumes, yet it is not well-suited for all applicant tracking software. If you are requested to upload your resume file to an ATS and “PDF” is registered among the file types, you can for sure utilize a PDF copy of your resume. Nonetheless, if the system has not listed any specific category of files compatible to use, to be on the safe side you must stick to Word Document in .doc or .docx. You can also use plain-text files as they are an extremely compatible format with an ATS, yet you will have limited formatting options with them. As the top resumes are developed with two audiences’ perspective—the robots who pre-screen your application and the real human beings in HR who analyze your resume, after it makes through the applicant tracking system—therefore, the best-recommended file type to use for your resume is Word Document which offers you more formatting options with great appeal to the recruiters or hiring managers.
  • Avoid placing important details in the header or footer: It is a fact that not all of the applicant tracking software has the ability to accurately read and parse information placed in the header and footer section of a Word Document. In reality, according to a recent study, it is confirmed an ATS was incapable of identifying a section of the applicants’ contact information 25% of the time. You can easily avoid such a mistake by putting your crucial contact details (for example your name, contact number, or email address) outside the header and footer of the resume.
  • Use keywords to optimize your resume: To make sure that your resume is ATS-compatible, one of the best ways is to optimize it with keywords. Contrasting to some “catchphrases” like “proactive” or “ambitious”, use such keywords or rich marketing terms that can represent your soft and hard skills as well as the proficiency you have gained over the years and make you a qualified candidate for your desired job. If you are uncertain regarding the keywords you should be using in your CV, what you need to do is to compile three to five job descriptions representing the category of job position you are looking for. At that time, use a word-cloud generator (Wordle, WordArt or Tagxedo) by copying and pasting the job description and find out the terms which are recurrently utilized overall in your chosen positions. If you have the qualifications or skills, then include these keywords in your resume. When it’s regarding developing an ATS-optimized resume, you must take into consideration the overall frequency and placement of these keywords into your resume. Some of the applicant tracking systems analyze the credibility of your skills depending on the quantity of how many times a term has appeared in the resume (ideally use the term for two to three times all through your resume), while some other ATS systems allocate a calculated amount of experience for a specific skill depending on its placement throughout the resume. To create a resume that is really ATS-compatible, you need to optimize your resume keeping both systems in mind.
  • Do not use images, charts and other graphics: Although images and graphics may have an attractive appearance for the human eye, resumes with inserted images appear as an obscured combination, or they get entirely misplaced from your application, after passing through an applicant tracking system. For example, if you use an image or chart to represent your main skills, the recruiting software will not be able to read it. In case, you have used a cool graphic to label your name on your resume, this part of information will be invisible to an applicant tracking system.
  • Keep it simple with bullet points: When utilized properly, bullet points can be a great technique to highlight the achievements and qualifications on your resume. On the other hand, if you select an intricate character for your bullets, your key marketing points may get scrambled. Therefore, keep from utilizing elaborate symbols when developing a bulleted list on your CV. Use the simple and plain options, for instance, a solid circle, open circle, or a square, to make certain that your bullet points improve your resume, instead of making it unsuitable for an applicant tracking system.
  • Have a simple resume layout and hierarchy: When it comes to the layout of your resume the simplest is the best. Using a complicated design or a unique format for your resume not only confuse most of the applicant tracking systems but also aggravate the recruiters who are habitual of quickly scanning the resumes for particular information that they assume to find in certain fields within the documents.


Last but not least, one of the most important things to consider for your job strategy is to have a LinkedIn profile using similar keywords as in your resume. Where it will be useful for you to make the most of your job search, it will also showcase your consistency and persuade the recruiters to give attention to your details.

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