Creating an ATS-Friendly Resume: Templates & Formats

Kellie Hanna, CPRW
By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: May 24, 2024

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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, it is crucial to have an ATS-compliant resume for every job you apply to.

Discover how to write an ATS-friendly resume using the correct keywords and formatting. Try our ATS resume checker to quickly and easily ensure your resume will get past the bots and into the hands of a hiring manager.

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What is ATS?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software that scans resumes for keywords that indicate candidates who are well-suited for a job. 

ATS tools also track applicant information, allowing companies to manage data throughout the hiring process. 

For recruiters and hiring managers, ATS has become the key differentiator for determining which job candidates to pursue.

Why ATS is used in recruitment

Here’s how companies use resume applicant tracking systems to find candidates who closely match their job descriptions. 

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-compliant 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.

How to check if a resume is ATS-friendly

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. 

The job match rate is based on how relevant a resume is to the job description stored in the ATS software.

For most ATS tools, if a resume scores 80% or above, it will pass screening and be forwarded 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 — chronological, combination or functional.
  • Format your resume correctly and avoid using charts, tables or graphics.
  • Use a professional resume template to ensure your resume is organized flawlessly.
  • Save your resume in an ATS-friendly file format. Some ATS can’t read PDF files, so unless otherwise instructed, opt for a .doc, .docx or .txt file.

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How to make a resume ATS-friendly

For an ATS-friendly resume that will impress a hiring manager enough to schedule an interview, you must create a targeted resume for every job you apply to.

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 for ensuring that it is ATS-compliant. Start by reviewing the job description and highlighting relevant keywords. 

Resume keywords take many forms, such as skills, technical expertise, industry terms, certifications, 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.

JOB DESCRIPTION:

ROLE:

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.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Create your 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 SKILLS:

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

Step 2Match your qualifications to the job requirements

After you’ve captured all the possible keywords from the job description, match them to your qualifications. 

These include relevant hard skills and soft skills, education credentials, volunteer experience, industry expertise and hands-on work experience that you have.

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

Precision is key to getting past an applicant tracking system. 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:

Professional summary or objective: Create an ATS-friendly resume summary or objective statement by including keywords pertaining to two or three job-relevant skills, a professional achievement, training and the number of years you’ve been in your field.
Work history: When describing your employment history for an ATS resume, detail the tools, programs, expertise and technical and soft skills you used to achieve goals for the companies you worked for 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 add keywords in an applicant tracking system resume. Add your job-matching skills to this section and format them with bullet points.
Optional sections: Optional sections are a great way to highlight job qualifications that are not included in other areas of your resume. For example, if you add an optional volunteer experience section to your ATS resume, place matching job keywords that did not fit into your work history section there. Create a section for licenses and certifications and add them to a bulleted list if your job requires them.

Use action verbs whenever possible to describe your qualifications and emphasize accomplishments to give your ATS resume a boost.

To make an existing resume ATS-friendly, locate synonyms for the resume ATS keywords you’ve highlighted and replace them with your keyword matches.

Using a variety of keywords throughout your resume ensures you’re covering all the job requirements. 

However, 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-friendly 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 resume font.

ATS-friendly resume templates

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 reaches 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

Office Manager Resume Template

Centered

Software Engineer Resume Template

Bold

Graphic Designer Resume Template

Artistic

Marketing Manager Resume Template

Structured

Retail Sales Associate Resume Template

Pacific

Cashier Resume Template

Professional

Free ATS resume templates

Free Resume Template Distinguished

Distinguished

Free Resume Template Charismatic

Charismatic

Free Resume Template Insightful

Insightful

Free Resume Template Whitespace

Whitespace

Free ATS resume checker tool

MyPerfectResume’s ATS resume checker scans your resume for compatibility with applicant tracking systems. 

 

The tool analyzes your resume and provides a personalized report on its formatting, word choice, comprehensiveness and other factors that can affect ATS compatibility. 

This report can help you improve your resume and increase your chances of being 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!

Key takeaways

  1. The most important element of an ATS resume is relevant keywords that match the job description.
  2. Use a variety of keywords throughout your resume.
  3. Tailor your resume to every job you apply to.
  4. Use an ATS resume template to ensure your resume is formatted correctly.
  5. Action verbs can give your ATS resume a boost.
  6. Save your resume as a .doc, .docx or .txt unless otherwise specified in the job description.

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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.

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