An applicant tracking system, or an ATS, is a software program that employers use to organize and manage job applications. When you submit your resume to a job posting, there is a good chance it will be run through an ATS before a real person even sees it. In order to maximize your chance of making it past the ATS and getting your resume in front of someone, you’ll need to make sure your resume is ATS friendly. Here are four areas to focus on when formatting your resume for an ATS.
1. Use a simple format
Many applicant tracking systems turn your resume into plain text before analyzing, so it is important to keep your formatting simple. Limit your resume to one page, if possible. Your resume should not include any tables or columns, as these types of elements can make it difficult for the ATS to understand and identify your important information. You should also stay away from including graphics or charts in your resume, because an ATS will not be able to read them. Include all of your important information in the text of your resume.
2. Include keywords from the job description
When submitting your resume for a specific job, you should always edit your resume to match the position you’re applying for. If your resume isn’t tailored for the jobs you are applying to, you may be overlooked as a candidate. Make sure you include keywords in the job description, so the ATS will be more likely to identify you as a match for the position, and try to make the keywords fit naturally in your resume. When selecting keywords to include in your resume, you should look for words that are repeated or emphasized in the job description.
3. Avoid headers and footers
Many people often include their name and contact information in the header or footer of their resume, which can be a mistake. Headers and footers are difficult for an ATS to read, and if you include your contact information in the header or footer, the ATS could miss this information altogether. Make sure your contact information is updated and easily identifiable by including it somewhere in the body text of your resume.
4. Choose the right file format
The most commonly used file format for a resume is a PDF, but it’s not always the best for an ATS. PDFs are a universal file format because they do a good job of preserving the information and formatting of your document, but not every ATS will be able to read a PDF. Be sure to look at the list of acceptable file formats before submitting your resume. If PDF isn’t one of the listed options, or if the job posting doesn’t provide a list of file formats, you should save and upload your resume as a .doc or .docx file.
Formatting your resume to be ATS-friendly is always in your best interest. To ensure that your resume is easily accessible for an ATS, you should use simple formatting, include key words, and choose the right file format. These things will increase your chances of getting your resume through the ATS and in front of a real person.
If you need some help getting started, download our free ATS-Friendly Resume Template!