How Do I Make An ATS-Friendly Resume?


Computers will read and rate your resume before humans do. You can learn how to excel at this digital hiring game here.

What Is an ATS?

ATS is an acronym meaning applicant tracking system. Such a system is “software that manages the recruiting and hiring process, including job postings and job applications. It organizes information about job seekers and makes it searchable.” It also “tracks candidates through the hiring process” to help with scheduling, notifications, and automated emails.

But the job of the ATS doesn’t stop there. Its primary function of concern is that of culling, ranking, and recommending applicants. In other words, the ATS will use computer algorithms to decide whether your resume fits the needs of a specific job.

If you pass, it may recommend you to the hiring manager. If you don’t, you will likely be removed from consideration for the job.

Why Do Employers Use ATS?

Employers use ATS because they make their jobs easier. Imagine working for a large, popular company like Apple or Google. Lots of applicants dream of working for these companies. A single job posting may receive hundreds if not thousands of responses.

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As hiring manager, it is your job to sort through thousands of resumes to decide on one candidate to hire. How long would that take? How would you compare credentials to decide on the best candidate?

And remember, you’ve got other responsibilities eating away at your time as well.

The solution? Let a computer program winnow thousands of resumes down to a few dozen top candidates. That is an easier workload to tackle.

ATS usage has also been cited as a way to remove human bias from the early stages of the hiring process.

How To Make Your Resume ATS-Friendly

So, a computer will be the first to read your resume – that fact is unavoidable. But is there anything you can do to improve your chances of getting hired? Yes! Consider the following ATS-friendly resume tips.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

ATS eat keywords for breakfast. In fact, their resume ranking procedure is based almost entirely on keywords. The ATS will scan your resume and compare it to the company’s job description, looking for matching phrases and keywords.

If it finds enough of the right keywords, your resume will be selected to move on to the next stage in the hiring process.

Where can you find resume keywords? Try the following locations.

1. The Job Description

The original job listing is perhaps the best place to look for potential keywords.

It will, after all, list the necessary duties, tasks, and skills; special tools or computer software that will be used on the job; education requirements; and desired years of experience in the field.

Make sure that you use the exact terms from the job posting wherever possible in your resume.

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2. Similar Successful Resumes

You can often view resume examples online. Look for successful resumes that were submitted to similar companies for the same or similar positions. Note the keywords used.

3. Industry-specific Terms

You know your field, your abilities, and your specialties. Use industry-related terms that are relevant to the job opening.

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Use a Familiar Format

The best resume format for ATS scanning is the reverse-chronological resume format. Since your most recent (and presumably most relevant) work and education experiences are listed first, they are found more quickly by the ATS.

This will help you to score better. In fact, the chronological resume format is the only ATS-compliant format. Other formats may serve as “red flags” that result in resume rejection.

Use A Resume Builder

Take the guesswork out of formatting by using a resume builder such as Resume Giants. Thanks to the professionally designed, ATS-optimized resume templates, the results will be legible to the ATS and visually appealing to your eventual human viewers. Then, download your completed resume in PDF format for online submission.

Include A Cover Letter

Sometimes, in light of all the application questions that must be answered, we forget to design and upload a cover letter. But your cover letter is a key opportunity to include even more resume keywords! Often, the cover letter is scanned and accessed by the same ATS software. 

Tailor Your Resume

You’ve put in the hard work to build an ATS-friendly resume. Now you are finished, right? Not quite. A final important step is tailoring your resume to each position you apply for.

Why is this important? After all, you are applying to similar positions. The fact is, even jobs with identical position titles will have slightly different requirements. You will need to examine each posting for resume keywords and adjust your resume and cover letter accordingly.

The good news is, you don’t have to start from scratch. Return to your saved resume document, may a few key edits, and download it once again in PDF format.

Pro tip: rename each PDF file you download to include your full name and indicate the exact job it was used for. Keep all the files handy in a single folder for the duration of your job search.

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