In today’s competitive hiring climate, many companies use resume-screening tools called applicant tracking systems (ATS) to weed out applicants who may not be an excellent match for a job.
A recent study found that 90% of Fortune 500 companies use resume screening software during their hiring processes. Because these automated resume screening systems are so prevalent, having an ATS-compliant resume for every job you apply to is crucial.
If you want to learn how to beat ATS, read on to discover how to write a resume using the correct keywords and ATS resume formatting. If you want to quickly and easily ensure your resume will get past the bots and into the hands of a hiring manager, try our ATS Resume Check tool.
In this article we will answer the following questions:
- What is an ATS resume?
- How do recruiters use ATS to choose potential job candidates?
- How to beat ATS.
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What is ATS?
A resume ATS is a software program that scans resumes for keywords that signify candidates are suited for a job. They track applicant information, allowing companies to manage data and create more order throughout the hiring process. For recruiters and hiring managers, ATS has become the key differentiator for determining which job candidates to pursue.
How do recruiters use ATS to find the right candidate?
Here’s how companies use resume applicant tracking systems to find job candidates that match their job description closely.
Recruiters enter a job description, including required skills and work experience, into their company’s ATS. The system then creates a profile of the best candidate based on specific keywords from the job description and searches for ATS resumes that use those keywords.
Keywords can refer to any type of qualification, including:
The software then sends ATS-compliant resumes to the recruiter or hiring manager who sorts through the selection for the best ATS resume.
Understanding match rate and how to optimize it for an ATS resume
When an applicant tracking system scans a resume, it compares it to a specific job description and then scores it in what is called a job match rate. Job match rate is based on how relevant a resume is to the job description stored in the ATS software.
For most ATS, if a resume scores 80% or above, it will make its way to a hiring manager or recruiter.
Follow these four tips to optimize your ATS resume job match score:
- Use one of the three standard resume formats.
- Format your resume correctly.
- Use a professional resume template to ensure your resume is organized flawlessly.
- Save your resume in an ATS-friendly file format. Most ATS can’t read .PDF files, so unless otherwise instructed, opt for a .doc, .docx, or .txt file.
Create an ATS-compliant resume in three steps
For a truly ATS-friendly resume that will impress a hiring manager enough to ask you for an interview, you must create a targeted resume for every job you apply to, but it doesn’t have to take forever.
Follow the steps below, or have our professional Resume Builder do the work for you. You’ll have a professional ATS resume in no time.
Step 1Review the job description
Preparation is essential when writing a resume, especially if you want an ATS-compliant resume. Start by reviewing the job description and highlighting relevant keywords. Resume keywords take many forms, such as skills, technical expertise, industry terms, certifications and licenses and specialized knowledge.
For example, take this hypothetical description for a software engineer job. The highlighted words and phrases are potential keywords you could include in your ATS resume:
Own the technical execution of three cutting-edge web products. Champion the use of best practices – agile, versioning and tool usage. Collaborate with the development team to plan, coordinate and deliver according to a high-level product roadmap.
- Create own themes based on requirements from HTML scratch.
- Understand development best practices and be able to work out and create solutions based on uninformed and sometimes unclear briefs.
- Perform continual maintenance checks to ensure optimal site performance.
- Perform browser compatibility assessments.
- Should possess expertise in WordPress & HOOKS concepts.
- Decent exposure in WordPress Hierarchy structure.
- Have experience building user interfaces for websites and web applications.
Step 2Match your qualifications to the job requirements
After you’ve captured all the possible keywords from the job description for your applicant tracking systems resume, match them to your qualifications. These include relevant hard skills and soft skills, education, volunteer experience, industry expertise and hands-on work experience.
Be honest about your qualifications; exaggerating your background and abilities for the sake of adding keywords is not how to beat applicant tracking systems. An effective ATS resume is more than just keywords. Potential employers will see through a keyword-loaded resume that does not reflect your true ability to perform the functions of a specific job.
Step 3 Write a resume optimized for ATS
To get past an applicant tracking system, precision is key. Use keywords verbatim wherever possible. For example, if a job description says, “ATS proficiency,” write that, not “Applicant tracking system proficiency.”
Sprinkle relevant keywords throughout every section of your resume, like so:
To make an existing resume ATS-friendly, locate synonyms for the resume ATS keywords you’ve highlighted and replace them with your keyword matches.
Ensure you’re covering all the job requirements by using a variety of keywords throughout your resume, but don’t go overboard; overdoing it can backfire on an ATS resume. For additional guidance, check out what to put on a resume for a job application.
ATS resume formatting tips
To make it past ATS, resumes must be formatted correctly.
To format an ATS resume:
- Avoid graphics.
- Make 1-inch margins on all sides.
- Use single spacing between text.
- Create clear, standard headings for each section.
- Use an appropriate font.
Pick an easy-to-read ATS resume template
Now that you know how to write an ATS resume, building it in an ATS-friendly resume template is essential to ensure your job application gets into the hands of hiring managers. We have over 40 premium and free resume templates for every job and industry.
Here’s why our resume templates are ideal for building an ATS-friendly resume::
- Have been created by resume experts.
- Ensure you use correct ATS resume formatting.
- Feature clean and easy-to-read designs.
- Are easy to customize.
- Come in all three standard resume formats.
Premium ATS Resume Templates
Free ATS resume Templates
Scan your resume for errors with our free ATS resume checker
MyPerfectResume’s ATS resume checker scans your resume for compatibility with applicant tracking systems (ATS). The tool analyzes your resume and provides a personalized report on your resume’s formatting, word choice, comprehensiveness and other factors that can affect ATS compatibility.
You can use the report to make improvements to your resume and increase your chances of getting noticed by recruiters. Our ATS resume checker is just one way our Resume Builder helps job seekers create ATS-friendly resumes.
Here’s how our ATS resume checker works:
- Upload your resume to our ATS resume scanner and go to the dashboard to view your resume score.
- Review your personalized report and select “Improve Resume” to implement the recommended fixes.
- Download your ATS-optimized resume in your desired file format and send!
ATS-friendly resume key takeaways
Don’t forget these important points if you want your job application to beat a resume applicant tracking system:
- The most important element of an ATS resume is relevant keywords that match the job description.
- Use a variety of keywords throughout your resume.
- Tailor your resume to every job you apply to.
- Use an ATS resume template to ensure your resume is formatted correctly.
- Action verbs can give your ATS resume a boost.
- Save your resume as a .doc, .docx or .txt unless otherwise specified in the job description.
ATS Resume FAQ
What is an ATS Friendly Resume
An ATS-friendly resume is a resume that is optimized for applicant tracking systems (ATS). An ATS-friendly resume is designed to make it easier for the applicant tracking system to scan and parse the document so that it can accurately extract and store information about the job candidate.
To create an ATS-friendly resume, it’s important to use relevant keywords and phrases throughout the resume that align with the job description. This can help the ATS to recognize the candidate’s skills and qualifications, and match them with the job requirements.
Overall, an ATS-friendly resume is important because it can help job candidates get past the initial screening process and stand out to potential employers. By following the right formatting guidelines and using relevant keywords, job candidates can create a resume that is optimized for ATS and maximizes their chances of getting hired.
Why is it important to optimize my resume for ATS?
It is important to optimize your resume for ATS because most companies today use this technology to manage their hiring process. The ATS software is designed to identify relevant keywords, skills and experiences related to the job you are applying for.
If your resume does not contain these keywords and does not match the job description, it may not make it past the software and into the hands of the hiring manager or recruiter, even if you are qualified for the job.
Optimizing your resume for ATS is essential to increase your chances of getting noticed and getting an interview. It involves using appropriate formatting, using relevant keywords and matching your qualifications with the job requirements.
How do I check if my resume is ATS-friendly?
We recommend using MyPerfect Resume’s free ATS resume checker to scan your resume for common errors that might decrease your chances of passing ATS. You’ll get a personalized resume score and actionable feedback on improvements to implement.
In addition to using our ATS resume checker, here are a few steps you can follow to check if your resume is ATS-friendly:
- Use the right file format: The most ATS-friendly file formats are Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) and plain text (.txt). PDF, JPEG or other file formats may not be compatible with older ATS.
- Use appropriate formatting: The ATS prefers simple and clean formatting with standard fonts and bullet points. Avoid using tables, charts, images and other graphical elements that may not be compatible with the ATS.
- Use relevant keywords: Read the job description carefully and use relevant keywords throughout your resume. This will help the ATS recognize your skills and qualifications and match them with the job requirements.
- Optimize your job titles: Use standard job titles that match the job description instead of creative or unique titles that the ATS may not recognize.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your resume is optimized for ATS and increase your chances of getting noticed by recruiters.
How can I determine which keywords to use in my resume?
To determine which keywords to use in an ATS resume, read the job description closely and match the requirements to your professional summary or objective statement, work experience, skill set, professional achievements and education and training.
Use keywords that are specific to your industry, position and field. Look for industry-specific terms and technical jargon that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Additionally, use action verbs to describe your experiences and achievements. This not only makes your resume more engaging but also helps you include relevant keywords. For example, instead of writing “responsible for managing a team,” write “led a team of 10 employees.”
What are some common mistakes to avoid when creating an ATS resume?
Here are some common mistakes to avoid when creating an ATS resume:
- Using non-standard fonts and formats: Stick to standard fonts like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri, and avoid using fancy or non-standard fonts. Also, avoid using tables, graphs and other complex formats that may not be recognized by the ATS.
- Not using relevant keywords: Make sure to include relevant keywords that match the job description. Use industry-specific terms, technical jargon and action verbs to showcase your skills and experiences.
- Not customizing your resume: Don’t use the same resume for every job application. Customize your resume for each job application by highlighting the skills and experiences that match the job description.
- Using irrelevant information: Don’t include irrelevant information like personal hobbies, interests, or unrelated work experiences. Keep your resume focused on the job requirements and relevant qualifications.
- Not proofreading your resume: Always proofread your resume for spelling and grammar errors. ATS may reject your resume if it contains too many errors.
- Not saving your resume in the right format: Save your resume in a format that is compatible with ATS, such as .docx or .txt. Avoid using PDFs or other non-standard formats that may not be recognized by older ATS.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can increase your chances of getting noticed by recruiters and getting an interview.
How we reviewed this article
Since 2013, we have helped more than 15 million job seekers. We want to make your career journey accessible and manageable through our services and Career Center’s how-to guides and tips. In our commitment to bring you a transparent process, we present our Editorial Process.
- Hu, James. “Over 98% of Fortune 500 Companies Use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)“
- Florida Atlantic University. Jobscan and ATS Resources
- Cheeky Scientist. How To Use Keywords To Get Your Industry Resumes Past Applicant Tracking System Software