How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume

By Laura DeCarlo

As technology has grown, so has the ability to read — and understand — text-based resumes. Enter ATS (also called applicant tracking system). These sophisticated systems do more than just look for keywords in your resume to determine your qualifications. While the keywords are still relevant, ATS looks for the connection of when, where, and how you used that skill. It also has the ability to view fully formatted resumes.

Listing your keywords in a section is not enough. Instead, you need to provide “proof” of using those skills in the body of your resume.

Robin Schlinger of Robin’s Resumes, considered a pioneer resume writer in understanding and translating the needs of ATS-friendly resumes, shares the following tips:

  • If you are not a match for the job, don’t try to trick the system. Apply only for jobs for which you are qualified.

  • Be sure to include all relevant information for the target position.

  • Include relevant keywords and phrases found in the job description in your experience description and throughout the resume.

  • Emphasize any technology listed in the job description.

  • Spell out acronyms the first time you use them, and put the acronym in parentheses after full words.

  • Modify your resume for each job to match what the employer is seeking.

  • Keep formatting simple. Fancy characters, graphics, and tables can hurt your resume.

  • Ensure your resume is readable by humans and computers.

  • Use your word-processing software (preferably Word) to create your resume.

Although you should never use more length than is necessary, ATS resumes can run longer than a standard one- to two-page resume.

In regard to naming your resume sections, Schlinger also recommends using standard recognizable resume section headers. This is not the time to be creative! Specific headers you can consider including are:

  • Contact Information

  • Summary

  • Professional Experience: Be sure to use formal titles for each position held, including duties and accomplishments with keywords and phrases from the announcement. Repeat keywords and phrases from position to position to score higher and show more experience.

  • Education: Type the full name and abbreviation for the degree, major, school name, and school location. Optional information you may want to include are the degree date and GPA. Definitely enter any honors.

  • Training

  • Certifications

  • Skills: Some ATS factor in skills, so be sure to include related skills.

Schlinger adds, “When you don’t have a particular keyword in your background, include the following in your summary”:

Capable of learning/performing the following functions: <list the keywords and phrases you do not have in your background.>

Should you show a “cc” for “copy sent” on your resume? If you’re emailing a hiring manager (such as the accounting manager), copy the human resources department manager; that saves the hiring manager from having to forward your resume to human resources and is more likely to result in your landing in the company’s resume database to be considered for any number of jobs.