How to Create ATS-Friendly Resumes

ATS-Friendly Resumes

Have you been applying for positions and get few or no responses? It may have less to do with your work experience and more to do with the fact that your resume keeps getting rejected by the ATS.

What is an ATS System?

The “AT-what,” you ask? ATS system refers to an applicant tracking system. This is software used by human resources teams and recruiters during the hiring process to keep track of your “virtual file” so that they can contact candidates and keep track of important information about them. When you submit a resume online, most of the time, an ATS system is parsing the data off of your resume into a database. For example, it is pulling your work history and creating a candidate profile for you using information exactly as written.

ATS systems also allow hiring managers to search through thousands of resumes based solely on specific keywords. Job seekers must keep in mind two main elements when creating ATS-friendly resumes: Getting your resume into the system effectively and ensuring it can be found within the database. The goal is to get human eyes on your resume and avoid the ATS black hole.

Let’s Get ATS-Friendly

Too often, candidates attempt to be clever or cute, and that alone can get them rejected. Always remember to keep it simple. Let us start with a few examples that recruiters often see but that the candidate does not realize undermines them:

  • Keep your formatting simple and avoid putting your name within a graphic box that the computer can not read. Use a standard font, such as Arial or Times New Roman, for the resume, and stick with it. Do not use graphics or images, as they can distort your resume content.
  • Make sure that your contact information, particularly your phone number, is properly formatted xxx-xxx-xxxx. When a computer cannot read the phone number, the entire document can be declined.
  • Pay attention to file formats. It is usually best to submit your resume as a Microsoft Word or PDF file. While not part of the ATS, now is a good time to put in a plug for saving the file in a way that makes it easier for the hiring manager to remember who you are. I recommend firstname.lastname.resume. Too often, we see candidates who save the resume in a way that is helpful for them, but it is harder to recall when you are working with multiple candidates. While you may remember “Hospitality resume February 2021,” it makes it potentially more difficult to track it down if someone gets distracted and then can not find your resume.
  • Use keywords in your resume to describe what you have done but do it in such a way that it does not seem fake. Carefully read the specific job description, and pull out words or phrases that align with your experience. These are the resume keywords you need to include in your application. You may be thinking, “Does that mean I need to adjust my resume for every position I apply to?” and the short answer is yes. Each application should have a customized resume with new keywords that amplify your abilities and tie them to the specific job requirements. It sounds complicated, but it truly is not so long as you think about it in terms of “what have I done, and am I describing it in the best way” so that they relate to the job or the industry and show that you paid attention to the job description.
  • Make sure to include standard resume sections that an ATS system will be scanning your document for. These can include name, contact information, job title, work history, education section, and skills section.

The best resume format for the ATS system is one that not only appeals to the candidate’s personal aesthetic, but that also allows the reader to understand the content. Numerous websites offer ATS-friendly resume templates that you can use if you are not sure how to do this. One source I recommend is which offers a variety of options. When you are finished with it, make sure that you save it in a .docx format so that the ATS accepts it.

While thinking about terms like “optimizing for ats software” and “ats-compliant resume formats” sounds intimidating in the midst of your job search, in the end, the point is simply to ensure that your resume makes it into the hands of a person you need to speak to.

Goodwin is here to support you every step of the way.

If you are in doubt, give Goodwin Recruiting a call. We are an award-winning national recruiting firm with a nationwide team here to help coach you, prepare job seekers for interviews, and help you land your dream job. With expertise in hospitality, we also place candidates in medical, engineering, manufacturing, human resources, and finance roles.