If you’re been job searching in the digital age, you’ve probably heard about a type of software called “Applicant Tracking Systems” or ATS. An ATS is used by over 90% of employers today to screen through resumes and pass the most relevant and qualified candidates forward to the hiring manager.
Nearly 75% of resumes are rejected because they’re not correctly formatted or keyword optimized. We’ll show you examples of a good ATS resume format and a valuable hack to get past the filters.
Before we go into all that, let me draw your attention to our free resume review tool. You can get a personalized review and learn how your resume looks to employers.
How does an ATS work?
ATS resume scanning software is designed to scan a resume for work experience, skills, education, and other relevant information. If it determines the resume is a good match for the position, it gets sent forward to the hiring manager.
The resumes that don’t meet the pre-set qualifications are rejected and the resume is never seen by human eyes.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that there are many qualified candidates who are rejected because their resumes aren’t written and formatted with ATS readability in mind.
From simple resume formats to using plain text files, we’ll show you a quick overview on getting your resume past an ATS so you aren’t one of those people.
How to make an ATS compatible resume
There are five things to keep in mind when writing your resume to get past an ATS:
- Standard formatting
- Keyword optimization
- Send as a Word document
- Spell out abbreviations
- Include relevant information
1. Standard formatting for ATS scans
Use a standard resume format free of any images, designs, charts, and tables. A clear and concise resume is easy for an ATS to process and it’s also what hiring managers prefer.
If you need more advice, check out our comprehensive post about resume formats here.
2. ATS keyword optimization
This is one of the most important elements of a resume in regards to getting it past an ATS test. Keywords, in this case, refer to words that the ATS may be looking for that match the industry or job description.
Your resume should already contain core industry keywords and the job description is another great place to look for keywords.
If a position lists knowledge of Excel and Quickbooks as requirements, make sure those skills are listed in the right place on your resume.
Making a list of core competencies on a resume allows you to easily swap keywords in and out when applying for different positions.
Example of a keyword-optimized skills section:
3. Send as a Word document
A Word document, specifically a .doc or .docx file, is easily processed by all ATS out there and it’s also preferred by the majority of hiring managers. Although most ATS systems now process a PDF, some ATS still have trouble with them.
In our team of experts’ opinion, it isn’t worth the risk to preserve your formatting on an online application! Send your resume as a Word .doc to rest assured that your resume can be read easily by any ATS.
4. Spell out abbreviations
An ATS may not understand all abbreviations, which is why it’s important to spell out any abbreviation you use at least once. The ATS may be looking for the non-abbreviated form of the word instead of an abbreviation, so be sure to spell out any abbreviations.One final reason to do this is to help anyone looking at your resume understand what you do without confusing or industry-specific jargon.
Examples of spelling out abbreviations:
- CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- MBA (Master of Business Administration)
5. Include relevant information
The ATS scans your resume to determine if it contains relevant information and experience. Don’t submit two pages of experience from a sales position for an accounting job. The ATS will most likely reject you because your resume contains very little relevant information.
If you don’t have any relevant experience, try to include education, skills, or even reword your past experience so it’s relevant to the position. You can leverage your transferable skills to better match what this job is looking for.
Now that we’ve gone over all the tips, let’s put it all together with a good resume format to use for ATS scans.
Good ATS resume format example:
Here’s why this resume format is compatible with ATS:
- A title that tells the ATS the target position/industry
- Relevant keywords
- Well formatted with clear headings
Free ATS resume compatibility test
How can you tell if your resume is ATS friendly? Zipjob offers a free review which includes the results of a real ATS test.
Bonus: ultimate ATS resume hack
We already mentioned this ATS hack above but the best way to get past the filters is to use keywords you find in the job description.
Let’s take a look at a sample job posting from Indeed:
Highlighted are good keywords you can include on your resume.
Perform monthly, quarterly and annual accounting activities including reconciliations of bank and credit card accounts, coordination and completion of annual audits, and reviewing financial reports/support as necessary
Analyze and report on financial status including income statement variances, communicating financial results to management, budget preparation and analysis.
Oversee taxes and abide by federal regulations
- 5+ years accounting experience
- Expertise with QuickBooks
- Extensive knowledge of US GAAP
- Advanced computer skills in MS Office, accounting software and databases
- Additional experience in Audit and International accounting
- Experience with SaaS companies
- CPA certification
If you can incorporate all of these keywords at least once on your resume, you will pass the ATS scan with flying colors.
Applying for jobs online today means you must keep the ATS technology in mind. If you use the tips, hack, and free ATS test discussed in this article, you’ll see better results from your job applications!
Good luck with your job search!