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Write an ATS Resume That can Beat the System

Writing a proper ATS resume is a requirement for finding a good job position today. If your job search sometimes feels like a never-ending loophole, it might be because you have encountered the ATS block. According to the research by Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking software (ATS). Moreover, ATS has been a standard recruitment tool for large corporations since 2008. And other companies are catching up. This means that your resume is most likely going to be evaluated by an ATS. Hence, learning the ATS’s preferences and adjusting your resume might be a prudent move. In fact, there are several ways you can tip the odds in your favor!  Since the ATS acts as a filter, optimizing your resume guarantees that a recruiter will see it.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

ATS is software used by recruiters and hiring managers to manage candidates applying for open positions.  

An ATS sorts the received resumes and turns them into a standard format. Then, it checks them against the job description to see which ones are the best match. For a hiring manager or recruiter, this automatically removes candidates who are not a good fit so they can spend time manually evaluating the proper candidates. 

What is an ATS Resume?

Given the explosive software growth in recent years, writing a resume with ATS in mind is essential. An ATS, on average, rejects 75% of candidates immediately based on the potential fit criteria. 

An ATS-friendly resume is optimized to pass all the system’s settings. It has the elements and structure that translate well into the programming. The safe bet is to create a well-formatted and easy-to-read CV. 
It should be effortless for the software and a human to understand. 

What is the process for setting up a job in an ATS? 

Elements of an ATS-Friendly Resume

An ATS-friendly resume needs to have the following elements:  

Use the Exact Words Mentioned in the Job Description

The hiring manager included each header and bullet point in their job description for a reason. Your resume needs to contain the skill set, work capabilities, experiences, and specific knowledge that the job position demands. And if you see words or phrases used multiple times, these are even more crucial and need to be included. 

Customize Your Resume

Although a human may, an ATS does not appreciate creativity. There may be opportunities on a resume to use formatting or design to share your experience. Unfortunately, an ATS cannot understand those context clues. While a picture may be worth 1,000 words to us, it means nothing to this type of software – you have to write it out. 

Keep Your Font Simple (use Times New Roman or Ariel)

An ATS uses optical character recognition. That means that the ATS scans the document looking for characters, letters, and numbers that it recognizes. 
While an ATS is brilliant enough to scan PDF or Word documents, it is not sophisticated enough to recognize unusual characters. An uncommon font that strays too far from your classic Serif or Sans Serif font families could jeopardize your chances. To be safe, use Times New Roman or Ariel. 

Use Simple Formatting and Precise Wording

An ATS is customized for each job position individually. In the same way, you will need to update your resume for every different job application. 
This doesn’t mean starting from scratch each time you apply for a job; the original CV you set up should be mostly usable. You only need to tuck in a few words here and there to make sure they match the job description. 

Avoid Using Pictures

An ATS scans for words; it cannot recognize images. Many general resume tips suggest avoiding photos, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. 

ATS Resume Keywords

After the resume uploads on the company site, the ATS searches it for the correct keywords. Now, if it does not find the right ones, your resume will be removed from the pool, and a recruiter will never evaluate it – even if you were the perfect candidate.  

The only CVs that get reviewed by a human are those that contain the right keywords. 

The main keywords describe your: 

There are two ways that an ATS determines the strength of a skill: 

Important keywords should appear two or three times. A strong resume should incorporate a section for essential skills or core competencies. Also, drizzle those keywords in the work experience and education sections, where appropriate. 

Pro Tip: If you mention a skill within the description of a specific job you held, it is assigned for the same years of experience you held that job within the ATS. Listing the experience only in the skill section does not tell the ATS how long you’ve used it. 

That is why it is crucial to incorporate your skills throughout the entire resume. 

Cheating the ATS is Impossible

Just like nearly every system in the world, people will try to get around the rules put in place by an ATS.  

Don’t try it. 

People try to circumvent the software to add the target keywords to their resume with white lettering – making them invisible to the computer but findable to an ATS via the code of a Word document. Sometimes the candidates copy the job description from the resume and paste it in white. 

However, the ATS unveils these attempts. It also gives the recruiter all the lettering in black. Moreover, that tells the recruiter that the candidate is ready to cheat to get ahead. The chances are that the recruiter will disqualify this candidate’s resume. It is far better to work with the ATS than to try and cheat the system. 

Custom-Tailored Description

When you are tailoring your resume, it is essential to pay attention to some things. 

Always emphasize the accomplishments and job descriptions relevant to the job position. Build up the resume in places that are most relevant to the job you are applying to and the direction you want your career to go. 

Minimize the descriptions or even exclude some jobs that you held if they are not relevant. 

In the beginning, have a section “Summary.” Here you can integrate highlights that are important for this job. This will show the recruiter that you tailored the resume for this specific position and company. It also gives you one more place to put the most important keywords. 

Standard Formatting and Headings

There are many ways to layout a resume. Following these tips will help you make it ATS-friendly: 

Labeled and Clear Sections

You need to divide and label the sections to make it easier for an ATS to know where to look. Also, it gives the recruiter better optics. Consider bold headings, written in caps lock, and always stick to the familiar labeled sections. 

Summary headline/Target role

Some templates have a summary headline/target role section.
 It tells the recruiter what the candidate brings to the table for the specific job position.  

Contact information

This section must contain a phone number, email address, name and surname. Make sure that your details are current. 


If you are new to the workforce, you can use your full education. If you have more than five years of work experience, any education before college is not necessary. A new college graduate may place their education near the top of the resume. If you have years of work experience, your education matters less and should be at the bottom. 


Use a separate section for the accomplishments, and make sure you incorporate them in the job description. 

Work experience

Keep your writing short and use bullets for every description. 


These need to match the skills in the job description. 


In this area, you can mention relevant certificates for the position. Dazzle the recruiter (and the ATS) with your credentials and upstart spirit. 

Of course, if you think that it is necessary to mention a different section, by all means, add it. But it is always best to keep it simple. 

Use an ATS-Friendly Template

You can create a resume from scratch in a Word document or other platform, but that may not be necessary. There are ATS-friendly templates that you can use. These websites can help you build an ATS-friendly resume:  

Resume example

One more tip before you go!  

You can check your resume in seconds if it’s good enough for an ATS. There is a page called that gives you a detailed report on what is missing in your resume to be compatible with an ATS. Start there and work your way up. 

If you create an excellent ATS resume, chances are it will impress the recruiters too.