Summary: Do you know that an applicant tracking system rejects over 70% of resumes before they even reach the table of a hiring manager? Here are a few tips and examples to create an ATS-friendly resume and ensure you don't become one of those job seekers and you secure your job.

Finding a new job was never easy. But it has become even more difficult these days as applicant tracking systems have come into practice. While this ATS software makes the hiring process easy by ensuring that only the resumes of relevant and qualified applicants reach the hiring managers’ desk, they have made it difficult for job applicants even to make it through the first step of the recruitment process. 

Your resume needs to be catchy and ATS-friendly to survive the cut-throat competition and make it through the ATS scan. This blog will share a few ATS resume optimization tips and ATS-compliant resume templates to help you write an ATS-friendly resume. But first, let’s understand:

What is an ATS-compliant resume & why is it essential?

An ATS-friendly resume is designed to be read and parsed correctly by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Such resumes have a simple and clean format, information present in simple facts rather than complex graphics and tables, and proper keywords relevant to the job application you’re applying for.

Creating an ATS-optimized resume is important because many recruiters use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen and sort resumes before a human hiring manager sees them. If the content of your resume is not formatted correctly or does not include appropriate keywords, it may not be recognized by the applicant tracking system and may not be considered for the job during the ATS resume selection. Many job seekers get rejected because of the same reason.

When you write an ATS-optimized resume, you increase your chances of getting past the initial screening process and having your resume seen by a hiring manager. It can also help you to be more visible in the job market as it will help you to match the company’s requirements for the job opening you are applying for.

In short, it is essential to write an ATS-friendly resume for applicants because it helps them ensure that it is seen by the right people and increases their chances of getting more job interviews.

Wondering how to write ATS optimized resumes? You can start with the following four steps:

1. Optimize your resume headline

To make your resume ATS-friendly, you must start by optimizing its headline. It is because applicant tracking systems use resume content keywords to scan and sort resumes. If the headline does not include the keywords added in the job description, it may fail to parse the resume correctly and may even reject the resume even if it’s qualified. 

A well-written headline can also help your resume stand out and make a solid first impression when a hiring manager reviews it. Hence, the headline must include keywords specific to the job you are applying for.

You must also tailor the resume to the job title you’re applying for. It is essential because when you optimize your resume to a specific position, it is more relevant to the employer, and there are greater chances that the ATS software will select it for further review. A tailored resume headline can also help you highlight your relevant skills or grab recruiters’ attention as it is more specific and relevant to the position they’re looking to fill.

Here are a few tips if you don’t know where to start with optimizing your resume headline:

  • Keep the resume headline short and to the point: It should clearly state your main selling points in a few words.

  • Use resume keywords related to the position you are applying for. It can increase your chances of selection if a recruiter uses ATS software to scan resumes.

  • Keep your headline resume headline specific to the job title you are applying for. It will show recruiters that you have the skills and qualifications they are looking for.

  • Use a unique headline that stands out from other resumes. You can achieve it by including a professional summary of your critical skills, qualifications, or achievements.

  • Use your headline to highlight one or two of your most impressive accomplishments, such as a major project you led or a significant increase in revenue you generated.

  • Use action verbs to start your headline, as it helps to convey your skills and experiences.

  • Don’t exaggerate your skills or qualifications. Use accurate and honest information in your headline.

Here are a few examples of good resume headlines:

Experienced Project Manager with a proven track record of delivering successful projects on time and on budget.

Sales Professional with over 10 years of experience in developing and implementing sales strategies that drive revenue growth.

Software Developer with a strong background in developing and maintaining web and mobile applications using various programming languages.

“A Digital Marketing Manager with rich experience in creating and executing effective marketing campaigns that increase brand awareness and drive sales.”

“Human Resources Professional with a strong background in employee relations, recruitment and talent management.”

“Financial Analyst with a strong background in financial modeling, forecasting and data analysis with a CFA certification.”

“Customer Service Representative with over 5 years of experience in providing exceptional customer service and resolving customer complaints.”

“Data Scientist with a strong background in machine learning and statistical analysis with a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science.”

2. Optimize your resume for keywords provided in the job description

Keyword optimization is essential as it ensures that the applicant tracking systems properly index your resume and hiring managers can easily find it. Also, optimizing it for resume keywords relevant to your job or industry increases your chances of getting selected through the applicant tracking system. Hence, optimizing your resume for relevant keywords would be best.

Here are a few easy ways to find relevant keywords for optimizing resumes:

  • Job Description: Carefully read the job description and identify the specific skills, qualifications, and experience required for the role. Use these keywords listed in the job ad in your resume.

  • Industry-specific terms: Research industry-specific terms and include them in your resumes if they apply to your skills and experience.

  • Job Title Research: Research different job listings, job titles, their synonyms, and variations to use in your resumes.

  • Online Tools: Use online keyword research tools, such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner and SEMrush, to find popular and relevant keywords for a specific industry or job role.

It would be best to keep the following things in mind while incorporating keywords into your resume to ensure you do it properly:  

  • Tailor the keywords to the job listing and the company you’re applying for. It would show that you have done enough research and are a good fit for the role.

  • Use action verbs to describe your experience and achievements, such as “managed,” “created,” “implemented,” etc.

  • Be mindful of acronyms, as they may not be familiar to everyone. Be sure to spell out the full term at least once and then use the abbreviation consistently after that.

  • Optimize your resume with relevant keywords, but don’t stuff it with too many, as it can negatively affect readability and make it appear less professional.

  • Use keywords in your summary or objective statement to highlight your relevant skills, qualifications, and experience.

3. Choose ATS friendly resume format

Making your resume stand out with fancy graphics and innovative formatting may sound exciting. Even some resume builder sites offer catch templates. However, specific formatting and design choices can ruin your chances of getting through the ATS scan. It is because fancy resumes are difficult for an ATS to read. 

Most applicant tracking systems convert a resume into a text-only file. The fancy formatting would be lost when the ATS software converts it, and no one would ever look at the excellent design and fancy graphics. So, why waste your time and effort on something that wouldn’t lead to any result?

Another reason you should avoid fancy formatting on resumes is that the ATS software fails to properly process them when they convert the resume to a text-only format. Here’s an example of a resume of a fictional candidate Victoria Harris. This resume contains all the keywords listed in the job posting and hence is an ideal candidate, but it uses forbidden design elements:


Here’s what it looks like when an ATS processes it:


Do you see how columns are smashed together, and most information appears as an indecipherable jumble? For example, the ATS combines the start date of Victoria’s current job with her graduation date, making her recent job experience appear as one month instead of over a year. 

Similarly, the bullet points are destroyed, and the fourth point appears as Salesforce Analytics Cloud and Salesforce Sales Cloud Salesforce Salesforce, which seems like keyword stuffing even when it was not the candidate’s intention. Did you realize how a wrong formatting and design choice ruined the ATS selection chances of an otherwise qualified candidate?

Here are a few common formatting mistakes you should avoid to create a simple, clean, and easy-to-read resume:

Avoid using tables, text boxes, and logos in your resume, as the ATS may not scan them properly.

Never include photos and graphics in your resume, as most ATS don’t scan these elements.

Instead of creative labels like The Impact I Made, stick to conventional headings like Education, Work Experience, and technical skills.

Avoid hyperlinking important words as some ATS only display the URL and drop the words you linked from. Instead, you can paste the URL or link from common words like website or portfolio.

Stick to universal fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, or Cambria, as ATS has trouble parsing less common fonts. 

4. Tailor Your Resume to the Job You’re Applying For

Here’s why you should tailor your resume to the specific job and company you’re applying to:

  • Customizing your resume based on the job and the company shows that you have taken the time to research the company and understand the role’s requirements. It puts you in a positive limelight.  

  • You can showcase how your skills and experience align with the job and the company’s values and mission. It can make your resume stand out among other applicants and increase your chances of getting job interviews. 

  • Customizing your resume allows you to emphasize the most relevant aspects of your experience and skills to the position. As a result, your resume turns out to be more effective than other candidates.

You can start with the following resources to conduct enough research about the company and the job you’re applying for:

  • Company’s website: Look at the company’s “About Us” page, mission statement, and recent news to get a better understanding of the company’s values and goals.

  • Industry Research: Research the industry to learn about the company’s competitors, market trends, and industry challenges.

  • Job posting: Carefully review the job description and requirements to understand the specific skills and experience the company is looking for.

  • Company’s social media: Follow the company’s social media accounts to get a sense of its culture and see what they are currently working on.

  • Current or former employees: Reach out to people you know who work or have worked at the company to get an insider’s perspective on the company culture, working conditions, and what it’s like to work there.

  • Company reviews: Look for company reviews on Glassdoor or other employee review sites to understand what current and former employees think of the company.

Once you’ve gathered the data, you can use it to show your resume how your skills and experience align with the company’s long-term goals.

However, here are a few simple yet critical things you must keep in mind to ensure you leverage your research to customize your resume correctly:

Use the phrases and keywords the hiring managers have used in the resume and that you have found during a job search. It increases your chances through ATS scans and helps recruiters see how your skills match the job requirements.

Include your most relevant experience at the top of your resume to ensure that recruiters immediately know you’re a suitable candidate.

Don’t just talk about what you did in your previous job position. Showcase how you added value. 

Start each bullet point with an action verb such as “managed,” “created,” or “designed” to make your resume more dynamic and engaging.

Tailor your resume summary or objective statement to the specific job and company. Summarize your qualifications and explain how your skills align with the company’s goals and the requirements for the position.

Include specific skills required for the job and that you possess, such as tools, software, languages, and certifications.

Conduct an ATS resume test. It would ensure that you've selected an ATS-compliant template and your chances of selection are maximum.

3 Best ATS-Friendly Resume Format

The tips we shared above might have given you enough idea about optimizing your resume to make it ATS-compliant. But what does an ATS-friendly resume look like? Here are a few ATS-friendly resume templates:

ATS Resume Template Example 1


This is an ATS-compliant resume template because:

  • It follows the reverse chronological order, making it easy for the ATS and recruiters to scan it.

  • Fonts are simple and readable. Hence, neither the ATS nor the hiring person would face difficulty going through it.

  • Each section has been clearly defined in bullet points and follows a clear follow, with the resume profile on top, followed by the experience and education sections. Finally, the resume certifications section offers a deeper insight into the candidate’s qualifications.

  • Then, all the skills are listed on the right, explicitly chosen to make the resume ATS-compliant.

  • Overall, this is an example of an ATS-friendly resume template but also a catchy one for recruiters. 

ATS Resume Template Example 2


Like the previous example, this is an ATS-friendly resume template because:

  • It also follows a reverse chronological order, listing the most recent work experience on the top, followed by previous work experience and education.

  • All the sections are traditionally labeled. No fancy terms that may confuse the ATS and the recruiters. 

  • The candidate has added concise and to-the-point information about their work responsibilities. Also, the focus is not on duties but on the impact they brought in their previous job. Such resumes are easy to scan.

  • Achievements are quantified, making it easy for the ATS to decide whether to select the candidate.

  • The resume contains all the keywords that hiring managers can list in the job description, increasing the chances of selection through the ATS.

The only problem visible in such kind of ATS resume formats is that it has icons for points in the hobbies section, which the ATS may not process correctly. But it wouldn’t make much difference as these points are irrelevant. 

ATS Resume Template Example 3


This ATS resume template is ATS-friendly because:

  • All the sections are traditionally and clearly labeled, making it easy for ATS and recruiters to scan them.

  • All the keywords and desired skills are listed on top, allowing ATS and hiring managers to decide whether they should select or reject the candidate in the least possible time.

  • Each section contains relevant and to-the-point information. The focus is more on the impact than responsibilities.

  • Information has been quantified for the maximum impact. 

  • The font is simple. It would not trip the ATS or confuse the recruiter. 

  • This is a reverse chronological resume showing the most relevant experience first, followed by previous work experiences and educational background.

You can use these resume templates as a base to optimize your resume according to the ATS and maximize your chances of selection in your dream job.

Key takeaways

With over 70% rejection rate, getting through ATS selection appears daunting, but with some planning, it’s not much difficult either. All you need is to do a little research, plan each move, and personalize your resume to appeal to both the ATS and recruiters.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to cheat the ATS because even if you do that, you may not make it through the later stages. It just means thinking deeply about the recruiters’ requirements and conveying how you can fit into their organization’s vision. 

Hopefully, the resume ATS optimization tips and ATS-friendly resume templates we shared above gave you enough ideas about making an ATS-friendly resume. Now, you can use this knowledge to optimize your resume for ATS.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an applicant tracking system, and why should I optimize my resume for it?

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a recruitment software many companies use to manage resumes and job applications. It is designed to help recruiters quickly and efficiently scan thousands of resumes to identify the most qualified candidates.

When you submit your resume to a company that uses an ATS, the system will scan your resume for keywords and qualifications relevant to the job you are applying for. Now, If your resume does not contain the necessary keywords or is not formatted in a way that the ATS can read, it may be overlooked or rejected. Hence, making your resume ATS-friendly would be best.

2. Are PDF resumes ATS-friendly?

PDF resume file type can be ATS-friendly, depending on how the PDF files are created and formatted. Some ATS systems have difficulty reading and parsing data from PDFs, especially if the PDF is not searchable or if it contains scanned images of text instead of actual text.

To ensure that your PDF resume is ATS-friendly, you should:

Save your resume as a “searchable PDF” or “text-based PDF” that contains actual text that can be read and parsed by the ATS system. 

Stick to simple and clean formatting. Avoid using graphics, tables, or special formatting, as the ATS can’t read them properly.

It’s worth keeping in mind that some companies prefer that you submit resumes in a specific format like PDF or Word. If that’s the case, it’s better to follow the instructions and submit your resume in the requested format.

3. What resume format is best for ATS?

A simple, text-based file format like an MS Word document, a plain text file, or google docs file works best for ATS-friendly resumes. The ATS can easily read and parse the information in such resumes. You can also save it as PDF but avoid fancy formatting and save it as a searchable or text-based PDF. Otherwise, the ATS may not scan it properly. 

4. How do I maximize my chances through ATS selection?

Here are some tips to optimize resume for ats to maximize your chances through ATS resume selection:

Stick to simple formatting. The ATS may not scan complex tables, graphics, and fonts properly, affecting your chances of selection.

Include the right keywords from the job description throughout your resume. They help you understand the ATS and how much you match the job requirements.

Use a text-based format like MS Word or plain text files, as such formats are easy to scan for the ATS.

Use consistent labels. ATS is not a place to be creative with your headings.

Never lie in your resume. If there are any large employment gaps, you must explain them in the same section.

Tailor the resume to showcase how your skills and experience can contribute to the company’s vision.

Use action verbs to describe your responsibilities and accomplishments in past job experiences. It would help the ATS understand your qualifications and match them to the job’s requirements.

Only send a resume after checking it for errors. You can conduct free ats resume scan to ensure that the ATS is scanning and parsing it correctly.

Accompany a cover letter. It creates an impressive impact.

Originally Published at Hackernoon