How to Write an ATS-Friendly Resume

Ho Lin by Ho Lin, Content Strategy Manager Last Updated: October 31, 2022Rated 4.5/5 Stars

In today’s competitive hiring climate, many companies use resume-screening tools to weed out applicants that may not be an excellent match for a job. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are software programs that scan a resume in search of content that demonstrates the candidate is ideally suited for the role. If you want to learn how to beat ATS, it’s crucial to have the correct information on your resume and a resume template that can efficiently organize your content.

Two people reviewing resumes

Applicant tracking systems use an algorithm that searches for keywords found in your resume. The keywords can refer to any type of qualification, such as:

  • Skills, i.e., graphic design, data analysis, Python
  • Education, i.e., BA in Communications, PhD, GED or equivalent
  • Prior work experience, i.e., marketing, sales, customer service
  • Or former employers, i.e., Microsoft, Apple, Uber

The ATS filters which resumes go on to the next round of the hiring process. They track applicant information, giving companies an easy way to manage data and create more order throughout the hiring process.

One 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, writing ATS-friendly resumes is critical so your application materials will be seen by human eyes.

Read on to discover how to use keywords in a resume and write and optimize ATS resume templates to ensure your application will get past the bots and into the right hands every time you apply for a job. If you finish the article and still feel unsure about making your resume ATS-proof, let our professional Resume Builder help you get the work done.

Write an ATS-friendly resume in four steps

The goal for job applicants is to create an ATS resume that will impress a hiring manager. If you want to learn how to beat applicant tracking systems your resume should contain keywords and a straightforward design. Never lie about your experience to get past the bots.

When your resume gets into the hands of the hiring manager, you want them to be impressed by your skills and experience, not put off by your overzealous application of keywords.

Follow these four steps to learn how to write an ATS-friendly resume:

STEP 1 Read through job listings for keywords.

For every job you apply to, you need to create a customized resume with keywords that reflect that job’s requirements. You should also know the range of keywords used for the types of positions you’re applying to. For example, that may mean knowledge of certain computer programs or a specific degree or certification. It could also mean listing general skills and experiences like time management or customer service.

Reading a few other job listings with keywords in mind will give you a better sense of the keywords for your industry, experience level and position.

For example, let’s take this hypothetical job description for a software engineer. The highlighted words and phrases are potential keywords you could include in your resume:

Job Description:

Roles

ROLE:

Own the technical execution of three cutting-edge web products. Champion the use of best practices – agile, versioning, tool usage. Collaborate with the development team to plan, coordinate, and deliver according to a high-level product roadmap.

Responsiblites

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • 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
Required Skill

REQUIRED SKILLS:

  • Should possess expertise in WordPress & HOOKS concepts.
  • Decent exposure in WordPress Hierarchy structure
  • Have experience building user interfaces for websites and web applications.
  • Well versed with HTML, MYSQL, Javascript, Jquery.

STEP 2 Update your resume using keywords

Read through your resume and search for synonyms or abbreviations. Replace those with keywords wherever possible. Don’t go overboard, but ensuring that the words in your resume match those in the job listing will help you get past the applicant tracking system. Focus on the action verbs, technical skills or software requirements and other role-specific requirements used in the description.

  • Extra tipIf you’re not sure exactly which keyword the ATS might be searching for, consider using a slash to incorporate both potential words, such as: proofread/edit, Search Engine Optimization/SEO, experience with Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets, etc. You shouldn’t do this too frequently, but if these terms fit in context, it can provide a bit of keyword insurance.

STEP 3 Customize your resume for each employer

Because ATS have become so widespread, it’s critical to write a resume that can get past the screening phase and straight to the hiring manager. How to beat the ATS system to get through the employer? Create a custom resume for every job you apply to, focusing on keywords mentioned in each job application and using a format that is easy to read by a robot.

Keywords can appear in all sections of your resume since they can be skills, experience, education, certifications and any other type of qualification. Here’s how to write an ATS resume with relevant keywords in multiple sections.

Professional Statement: Whether you opt to open your resume with a summary statement or an objective statement, you can include different keywords in the resume summary by mentioning two or three job-relevant skills, your academic degree or even a certification or license.

Work History: When writing your work history descriptions, you can detail the tools, programs, skills you used or the departments and areas of expertise with which you collaborated; all these can be keywords found in a job description.

Skills: This is the most straightforward section to include skills since you can verify skills as keywords directly from the job description and list them in bullet points.

The time and effort you put into creating a custom resume loaded with appropriate keywords from the job listing will pay off in the long run.

STEP 4 Pick an easy-to-read ATS resume template

Fancy fonts and design elements might confuse the ATS, resulting in your resume sorting into the wrong pile. Create a streamlined, ATS resume that works by:

  • Focusing on your experience and skills.
  • Avoiding overly complicated charts, graphs or symbols.
  • Using the expected section headings, like Professional Summary, Skills and Work Experience, to help the system process your information correctly.

Starting with an ATS resume template is helpful.

Premium ATS Resume Templates

Centered

Bold

Artistic

Structured

Pacific

Professional

Free ATS-friendly resume Templates

Free Resume Template Distinguished
Download this template

Distinguished

Free Resume Template Charismatic
Download this template

Charismatic

Free Resume Template Insightful
Download this template

Insightful

Free Resume Template Whitespace
Download this template

Whitespace

Key Points

To summarize, what you need to keep in mind when writing a resume that performs well on applicant tracking systems is:

  • The most important element of an ATS-friendly resume are relevant keywords
  • Study your desired role’s job description to pull out keywords (skills, certifications, qualifications) that accurately match your abilities
  • Wrap everything up in an uncomplicated resume template
  • Avoid eccentric fonts, graphs, tables and flashy design elements
  • And remember that there is a person beyond the ATS, so make sure your grammar and syntax are correct.

Additional resources

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