What to include in a resume? Which resume sections to keep off? This complete guide outlines exactly which things to put on your resume to make it shine.
It’s the 21st century—recruiters don’t have time to read all the resumes that candidates send. They only scan the ones that best fit the job description. How do they know which ones these are? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) help them.
If you want your application to end up in front of the recruiter’s eyes, you must know how to write an ATS friendly resume. And that’s what you’re about to learn.
In this article, you’ll see:
- What Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is and how to pass the ATS test.
- How to write an ATS resume and what to pay attention to.
- Examples of the best ATS resume templates.
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1. What Is ATS Anyway?
In short, ATS is an umbrella term that refers to recruitment management systems of all kinds. In other words, it’s software that helps recruiters organize and streamline the entire hiring process—from drafting the job offer to scheduling interviews, and anything in-between.
One of the most important functions of such software is creating a pipeline of qualified candidates. How? By comparing the candidate’s resume contents with the requirements delineated in the job offer. If the candidate is a match i.e. their document contains the right resume keywords, they’ll be pushed further in the recruitment process. Simple as this.
Obviously, every ATS will work in a slightly different manner and will offer the recruiter various customization and filtering options. But, at the end of the day, the goal is always the same—preselect candidates that best match the recruitment criteria.
Expert Hint: According to a recent study, a whopping 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software. This is representative of a more general trend among more and more companies automating and streamlining their recruitment processes.
2. How to Write an ATS Friendly Resume
Now that you know how ATSs work, let’s have a look at how you can make a job-winning ATS-compliant resume.
Use an ATS-friendly resume template
There are several things you should keep in mind when choosing an ATS-compliant resume template. First, see if it’s readable to a machine. How? Copy and paste the content of the resume into a simple text file. If the text is readable and more or less follows its original structure, the template should be ATS-friendly. If you can’t select or copy the text at all, no ATS will be able to parse it either—that’s why your safest bet is to send your resume as a Word or PDF file.
Expert Hint: The so-called infographic resumes are certainly good-looking. But unfortunately, most of them will fail any ATS check—that’s because they are often sent as image files.
Reply to a Specific Job Offer
Remember that ATSs will be comparing the content of your resume to the original job posting. To qualify as a match, an ATS-compliant resume must contain the right number of words and phrases from the offer. If you don’t know how to get this right, read our guide on how to make a targeted resume.
Put Your Contact Details in the Header
The key to passing an ATS resume test is structuring your document in a way that’s easy to navigate for both software bots and human readers. That’s why your resume header shouldn’t be a place for your favorite motivational quote, it’s where you should put your contact details.
Expert Hint: If the job ad says you should add your home address, do it to stay on the safe side—the ATS may require such info. If you’re not sure how detailed your address has to be, have a look at our dedicated guide on how to put your address on a resume.
Choose the Best Resume Format
There are three main resume formats:
Out of those three, the chronological resume style has the most ATS-friendly structure as it’s clearly divided into easily navigable resume sections.
Expert Hint: Don’t get too creative with naming the sections on your resume—clarity trumps creativity in the context of an ATS compliant resume. So let your experience section be labeled Experience, rather than This Is What I’m Proud Of.
Put Your Relevant Experience
When drafting your resume job descriptions, see to it that your most recent job comes up top and it’s followed by the ones you held previously. Plus, make sure you include all the dates and give proper visibility to your resume job titles (e.g. by putting them in bold).
Also, present your experience in terms of achievements on a resume. Don’t just list your responsibilities. Why? Remember that ATS isn’t the only obstacle on your way to your dream job. There are other candidates you have to beat and the recruiter you need to impress. For maximum impact, use the relevant resume power words.
Expert Hint: Eye-tracking studies show that recruiters spend about 7 seconds skimming your resume. One of the things they look for immediately are your job titles. That’s exactly why they should be easy to find. This also applies to resume ATS checks, if the scanning bot can’t find your job titles, you’ll lose some precious points.
Highlight Your Professional Skills
Make sure the skills you put on a resume are in line with what’s outlined in the job offer. Sprinkle them throughout the entire document, rather than just put them on a list. During the ATS resume scanning, the system will extract the skills from your resume to see how much they fit the job description.
Include Your Relevant Education
The education section on your resume should reflect the employer’s expectations. If the job offer states that you should include information on your relevant coursework on a resume, do put this by all means—the ATS they use may need this. If there are no guidelines as to what to include, it’s usually enough to list the school’s name, graduation date, and degree earned.
Boost Your Chances by Including Extra Sections
Don’t forget to include additional sections on your ATS resume to boost your chances. If the employer is looking for a specific skill set, the job offer may also ask you to include information on:
- Awards and Honors
- Extra-Curricular Activities
- Hobbies and Interests
- Volunteer Experience
Expert Hint: Embellishments aren’t your friends when making an ATS-compliant resume. Keep the number of graphical elements to the absolute minimum, and see to it that the resume fonts you go for are easy to read.
Run a Free ATS Resume Scan
The Internet is full of free goodies. And if you’re determined enough, you can find almost anything. If you want to be sure that your resume is 100% ATS-compliant, you can use an ATS resume checker for free online.
The ResumeLab builder is more than looks. Get specific content to boost your chances of getting the job. Add job descriptions, bullet points, and skills. Easy. Improve your resume in our resume builder now.
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3. ATS-Friendly Resume Templates
Have a look at a selection of our ATS resume templates. Each of them has been designed by a team of certified professional resume writers (CPRW), HR experts, and graphic designers. They’ve been specifically created to be both ATS-optimized and reader-friendly.
This ATS friendly resume template gives you a lot of space for the experience section. It also includes a visual scale for grading your skills.
This ATS-friendly template has an infographic-like timeline that gives the document a nice flow and directs the reader’s eye from top to bottom.
This simple ATS resume follows a single-column layout. Each section heading includes a resume icon for easy navigation.
This ATS-optimized resume template has a two-column resume layout and bar graphs that represent your level of proficiency.
This ATS-optimized resume template uses subtle lines to separate resume sections from each other. The ribbons next to each section’s title make it super easy to navigate through.
This ATS resume template incorporates resume icons that help the reader quickly locate each section.
This ATS-compliant resume template gives you a lot of room for your professional accomplishments. It also has a graphical element with your initials.
This ATS resume template makes great use of subtle graphical elements next to each section heading, and large accent bars at the top and bottom of each column. Also, you get a visual scale for the skills section.
This ATS resume template has a sidebar that’s been specifically designed to make all the dates stand out.
This resume for ATS has a prominent header for your contact details, social media handles, or address.
Expert Hint: Not all Free Resume Builders are ATS friendly. To make sure your creative resume reaches a human reader, send it directly to the recruiter's inbox.
This ATS-friendly resume template represents simplicity at its best. It’s an entirely distraction-free ATS resume format.
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- An ATS-compliant resume is one that will safely get you through the initial automated scanning stage of the recruitment process.
- One of the most important things to keep in mind when making an ATS-optimized resume is to target it at a particular job offer.
- It’s also crucial to use relevant resume keywords. If you don’t, the ATS resume checker will deem you unqualified even if your experience and skills are perfectly in line with the employer’s expectations.
- Last but not least, you must use an ATS-friendly resume template that will be parsable for the scanner (here you can find a list of free resume templates for MS Word and a list of free resume templates for Google Docs.
How did you like our article on the ATS resume? Do you have any helpful tips you’d like to share? Let’s talk about it in the comments below, and, as always, thanks for reading!