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Somewhere in your job search, you will have heard the importance of getting your resume past an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). An ATS is used by most 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 tell you how you can get a free ATS resume test.

(We’ll also show you a good ATS resume hack to help you get past the filters.)

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.

ATS resume scan

The resumes that don’t meet the qualifications are rejected and the resume is never seen by human eyes.

What’s the problem?

The problem is that there are many qualified candidates who are rejected because their resume isn’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.

ATS Resume Test 

You can see how your resume performs in an actual ATS scan with our Free Resume Review:

Free Resume Review

How to make an ATS compatible resume

There are five things to keep in mind when writing your resume to get past an ATS:

  1. Standard formatting
  2. Keyword optimization
  3. Send as a Word document
  4. Spell out abbreviations
  5. 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:

Keywords for ATS resume test

3. Send as a Word document

A Word document, specifically a docx file, is easily processed by all ATS out there and it’s also preferred by the majority of hiring managers. Although most of them now process a PDF, some ATS still have trouble with them.

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 to 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.

Example Of A Good ATS Resume Format:

Good example of a resume for ATS: with contact information, resume title, core proficiencies, professional experience, and education and training sections

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

Get A Free ATS Resume Test For Your Resume

How can you tell if your resume is ATS friendly? Zipjob offers a free ATS resume checker which includes the results of a real ATS test.

ATS resume 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.

Accountant Responsibilities

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

Accountant skills

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.

Good luck with your job search!

15 Comments

  1. Jared Bidlow says:

    First time I heard of this. If that is in use, I wonder if they can’t utilize some human check if recognition is below a certain threshold. Because now I’m scared that employers haven’t been seeing me resume.

  2. vicky says:

    Hi, thanks for this. I see in your article you said don’t use tables in ATS-optmized resumes, but the example you post looks like it has a table (the section with three columns) or else text boxes, which you didn’t mention specifically but you said don’t use designs. Otherwise, at least for me, Word doesn’t allow multiple bullet points per line of text, even with tab stops.

    Also, would bullet points count as graphics to be avoided?

    So are tables and text boxes OK in ATS as long as the info is presented in a clear and consistent way?

    I’d like to hear your thoughts.

    • Ahsan Siddiqui says:

      Hi Vicky, you can use this type of sections because this is not a table. Table is closed by borders. Everything in above example is clearly visible and understood. ATS don’t allow use of graphics too much as they are not compatible and designed to track them. ATS are designed to save hiring managers time and what hiring managers want from resume? Just relevant information of the applicant. So just try to keep format simple, use relevant information, errors free language, simple language and you are all set. As far as bullet points are concerned you can use them to show you capabilities.

  3. Holly says:

    Hi, I’ve heard of ATS and thought my resume was decent with it but I just discovered somehow ATS if getting a different name from it. It’s an old friends name who borrowed my computer years ago to write his own resume. Now it’s somehow attached to mine? His name is not listed on the resume in any capacity. Does anyone have any idea how this may be occuring?

    • Amneet says:

      Hi. Please check the document properties. Sometimes, it takes the name of author or owner from there

    • Paul Melagrano says:

      The name of the resume file name itself has given me this problem. When you upload a resume. I suggest Naming the File “FirstNameLastName2019Resume” Some engines search for the first letter or work recognizable and in this case is probably the file name itself.

      Secondly, It could be a labeled “header” in which your friend labled it their name. Remove the header, and or replace the name attached to it with yours.

  4. Jan Herrin says:

    Tips to comply with an Applicant Tracking System requirements::
    • Remove Header and footers
    • Spell out the months
    • Don’t use Italics, boxes, graphs, color, underlining, lines going across the page
    • Remove bullets in the form of squares, arrows, diamonds, or hollow circles (ATS will only work with solid black rounds bullets
    • Use font size to 11

    • Rebecca says:

      Jan,
      My resume was rewritten by a professional resume writer and was told my resume was screened with an ATS and it passed without any issues, however, the font used was 10.5 (you said to use 11) and the color burgundy was used to highlight my Title, Core Competencies, Professional Experience, Education and Achievements (you said not to use color). I am a bit conflicted with the guidance above and the response from the resume writer. Can you please clarify that the font can be 10.5 and headings can be outlined in color and still pass ATS? Thank you.

  5. CJW says:

    Great info. for someone who’s not had to write a resume in 20 years. Thanks!

  6. Unreadable Format says:

    I applied for jobs during 3 weeks and kept being rejected. I am sure it’s an ATS that doesn’t let me further. I talked to career professionals and they were impressed by my experience but not the machine. I will check your tips and maybe in a month I will get a job. Fingers crossed.

  7. DR says:

    I suggest keeping two versions of your resume. One for emailing directly with people and one formatted for ATS submission.

    The former can have nice formatting and some colour while the second uses hyphens for bullets and could have a keyword section at the bottom.

    I actually also keep a plain text (.txt) version for easy copy and paste for web pages that require entry into various text boxes (or correcting after submitting to an ATS system).

  8. Tiffany says:

    In your opinion, does minimalistically creative formatting hurt chances for upper level management CV’s as well? Thanks!

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