4 Tips for Creating an ATS-Friendly Resume

by Rich DeMatteo on November 16, 2017 · 0 comments

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are ubiquitous in the recruitment industry of today. Some sources say that up to 98% of recruiters, HR professionals, and sourcers rely on ATSs to automate some parts of their recruitment process, both to increase speed and to cut the costs.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that applicant tracking systems are that popular. They can be extremely useful for recruiters. They can lighten the workload, weed out the undesirable candidates, and provide valuable and actionable insights. That’s one of the reasons why the ATS market is expected to grow at an annual rate of around 8.6% through 2021.

But applicant tracking systems also come with their own set of drawbacks. While those drawbacks can affect the recruiters using the systems, they can also cause many problems to jobseekers who are writing resumes. So, if you’re looking for a job and searching for resume examples to ensure that your resume hits the mark, remember that you also need to navigate those drawbacks in order to create an ATS-friendly resume.

Prepare Before You Begin

To create an ATS-friendly resume, prepare by creating separate lists for your education, previous employment, skills, and valuable experience. While your education and work experience are categories that are pretty much set in stone, allow yourself to be creative with your skills and experiences. Write a bit more than you think you might need, study the job ad and note how it words the role’s critical skills and experience, and think about the criteria through the lens of your experience. This can prove invaluable when putting together your resume because you will want to echo the wording of the job post — especially the all-important keywords.

Determine the Keywords

If you’re not familiar with the concept of keywords in resumes, they are the words an ATS will search for when scanning your resume. If your resume contains the keywords that are set in the ATS, you will have better chances to be marked as a qualified candidate and end up in front of a recruiter.

To get a sense of the keywords you need to include, take a good look at the terms used to describe key requirements in the job post. Once you determine those terms, you need to go back to your skills and experience lists and see which of the terms match the skills and experiences on your lists. You should then include those skills into your resume in a way that appears natural. And if you think that you can game an ATS by making three-quarters of the words in your resume keywords, you’re wrong. Keyword stuffing is not a recommended practice.

Pick Your Words Carefully

Keywords you find in the job post are not the only words you need to worry about. Applicant tracking systems can be programmed to search for industry-specific jargon in your resume as a way of determining how familiar you are with the industry or the company you want to work for. When you have a choice between regular words and industry jargon, don’t be afraid to go with the latter.

You should also be very careful when naming the sections of your resume. ATSs can be programmed to expect the regular headers such as “skills” and “employment history,” and if you choose to be creative with how you name the sections of your resume, you might actually cause the ATS to completely skip them. That’s not an outcome you’d want, and to avoid it you should stick with the regular section names. Save your creativity for the interview with a real person who might appreciate it.

Be Conservative with Design and Formative

You probably guessed that applicant tracking systems are not intuitive, at least in the way humans are. Even though they are powered by artificial intelligence, applicant tracking systems are very easily confused by some things that we might find mundane.

Some applicant tracking systems can have problems reading fancy fonts, which is why you should stick with the classics like Times New Roman, Arial, or Verdana. Many also have problems with scanning pictures, which is why you shouldn’t include any graphics or photos in your resume. There’s also a chance that the ATS will be confused by unusual spacing or underlining, so you might want to avoid them as well.

The file format you’ll be using to send your resume can also matter. A lot of the applicant tracking systems cannot translate information from a PDF. Once again, going with the default might serve you better, so opt for .doc instead.

Applicant tracking systems are a reality of the recruitment process that’s impossible to ignore. That’s why you need to make sure that your resumes are written, designed, and formatted in a way that won’t make the ATSs reject them. Your goal is for a recruiter to see the resume, and that won’t happen if it doesn’t pass the ATS. Write your resume for machines and humans alike.



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