Applicant Tracking Systems: All You Need to Know

Make Your Resume ATS Compatible [Simplified]

Searching for a job

Job searching is changing every day – and you need to stay up to date. If not, you might just be flinging your resume into the digital recycle bin. Job applications can be competitive and the Applicant Tracking System can be a serious obstacle when you are applying for a job position.

Applicant Tracking System

What does this mean? It means that before your resume even has human eyes upon it, it will go through an elimination process. The ATS system is meant to scan, process, and organize a large number of resumes to find the most relevant and qualified – and making sure none fall through the cracks. It will rank your qualifications and job descriptions.

Processing job applications have changed on a large scale. Roughly 99% of fortune 500 companies have adopted ATS software into their recruiting process while a growing number of small and mid-sized businesses are following suit. If you have applied online through a form or portal, most likely, your resume has already gone through an ATS.

Pro Tips on Creating an ATS Resume

 Learn when you need this type of resume. Sometimes, ATS cannot be avoided but, try to avoid this software and, if possible, try to send your resume directly to the recruiter, hiring staff or personal connection. An easy phone call might get you a direct “in”. If this is the case, make your application look its best with a great resume design.

If ATS submission is your only option, learn the best ways to beat the system. Thankfully, it is not difficult to land your resume at the top, impressing the hiring manager along the way.

Top Applicant Tracking System Tips

1) Using a Resume Template
If you cannot make one yourself, start with an ATS-compatible resume template. Just make sure the templates are ATS friendly. Where do you find such specific templates? The Art of Resume ATS-Compatible Section will make designing your functional resume easy and fast.

Be sure to check the file type needed for submission

2) Check Your File Types
Read and carefully follow the suggested file format. Often, systems cannot read common ones like a .jpg or .pages file format. Generally, .docx and .pdf are the winners. While .pdf format is the best at keeping your resume intact overall (and not altered by an outsider), .docx format is more accurately parsed by an ATS.

PRO TIP: You can always use Google Docs or Apple Pages, just download, or save it as a Word file or PDF.
3) How Make Keywords Matter

Use keywords and phrases in context – meaning incorporating into the body of your resume and not listed. Hint: look at the hard skills that show up in the job posting and match as many as you can to your skillset. Hard skills mean any abilities that you have acquired through learning. This includes specific software, technical skills, methodologies, languages, licences, even the job title itself.
4) Customize Each Resume for Each Job Application
This is a common mistake. Each resume needs to be customized for each job description. Incorporating targeted keywords and relevant phrases will be scanned for by an ATS. A generic resume will come up short.

Making just one mistake can get your resume thrown out

5) Make No Mistake
An ATS will not recognize any misspelled words. If it passes the test, a mistake will surely not pass the human review.

If the ATS doesn't notice, the hiring manager will notice if you try to cheat the system

6) No Cheating

Pasting white words with keywords will be immediately discovered and will show up in the same color for the recipient. “Stuffing” your resume with keywords will only irritate the hiring staff or recruiter once they get a hold of your resume.

 7) Resume Designs to AVOID

  • Tables
  • Text boxes
  • Logos
  • Images
  • Profile pictures
  • Columns
  • Headers and footers
  • Hyperlinks
  • Fancy fonts (or at least uncommon ones)
  • Uncommon section titles – keep it simple, use EDUCATION, WORK EXPERIENCE, TECHNICAL SKILLS, etc. Unusual titles will confuse the system.


ATS Friendly Resume Templates


 8) ATS Resume Do’s

  • Bold your fonts
  • Italics
  • Underline
  • Font colors (colors should not be used for understanding your resume)
  • Basic bullets (circle or square will do) 


Fancy fonts are a NO but Bold a common font is a YES

More Pro ATS Tips

  • No special characters or accented words
  • Your name should not include any punctuations like -- () / - ,
  • Using columns will confuse ATS, as the software reads from left to right.
  • Avoid text boxes, columns, and tables
  • Use a simple standard font: Arial, Avenir, Tahoma, Georgia, Times, Calibri, or Verdana are good options.
  • Include months when listing the dates of your employment (ex. 06/2002 – 07/2003)
  • Make sure you use proper capitalization and punctuation which can affect how the information is gathered and assigned by the ATS system.
  • Fully spell out abbreviations and acronyms (ex. CPA – Certified Public Accountant)
  • Use the exact job title on your resume application
  • Keep your resume in reverse chronological order
  • While ATS will not recognize the size of your resume, if it is selected, it will be read by a person – keep it to one or two pages in length
  • Do not list your credentials next to your name but underneath instead
  • Do not include skills that you do not have to trick the ATS as you will need to substantiate everything in an interview and/or on the job
  • Because your resume will eventually be seen by an interviewer, keep it looking attractive. Need help with the design? Use The Art of Resume template designs
It's easy, get noticed with an ATS-friendly resume

Yes, it feels like the system might be hard to beat but if you follow these formatting tips, you will find it all about simplification. Land yourself an interview today, it’s easy!


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