How to optimize resume for ATS? + Samples & Tips


Applicant tracking systems help companies oversee the recruitment process and streamline the selection of candidates. According to the statistics, 98% of Fortune 500 companies rely on ATS to filter the most qualified candidates and save the hiring manager’s time.

Writing a resume that opens correctly with ATS systems is the major stumbling point for job-seekers. If your resume has the wrong file type, formatting, or typos, it can be tossed before the hiring manager actually reads it. To help you avoid such an unpleasant situation, we have prepared a short guide to help you optimize your resume for ATS and boost your chance to get shortlisted!

Not sure if your current resume is up to scratch? Send it to us for a free evaluation. At, we offer resume reviews from professional writers. Our expert will closely examine your resume and provide detailed feedback as per structure, writing style, ATS compliance, format and more. This service is free for everyone and it usually takes 4-5 business days to hear back from us.

How does the ATS work?

Job-seekers dread ATS software for a reason: according to the survey, ATS rejects 75% of all submitted resumes. If you are unaware of how this software functions, you can keep getting rejected even if you’re perfectly qualified!

After you submit a resume, this software scans it for specific keywords, dates, competencies, and more. The program eliminates all formatting and focuses on content only. If the resume information matches the job requirements, the resume is passed to a hiring manager. Otherwise, it gets tossed.

Although optimizing the resume is no rocket science, it does take some time and effort. But worries aside – below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to make your resume ATS-friendly.

10 steps to create an ATS-friendly resume

Avoid resume builders and templates

Resume builders are websites that offer a variety of fancy templates for your resume. However, you need to be careful with them. In most cases, resumes created in a builder or templates you’ve downloaded from the internet are not compatible with applicant tracking systems.

Often templates come in unusual formats or use lots of graphic elements that the software cannot read correctly. As a result, your resume may get tossed.

Optimize your name

You might think that listing your name on a resume is the simplest thing. However, you need to keep ATS in mind here as well. The first line in the document should contain your first and last name, and nothing more. Avoid punctuation or special symbols.

If you have a degree or a certification, don’t list it next to your name as this will confuse the system. List them under your name or in a separate section of the resume.

Include the right keywords from the job posting

The main function of the ATS is to scan the resume for specific words and phrases that prove your competencies for a position. Keywords are usually software names, hard and soft skills, degrees and other requirements for the role. The simplest way to optimize your resume is to highlight key words in a job posting, and add them to the resume.

Note that keywords should go in the same form as they go in the job ad. If there’s a phrase “word processing software”, don’t write “MS Word”, as the program might not recognize it. Always add the name of the target job in a resume after your contact info, as the job title also counts as a keyword.

Use keywords in context throughout the document

Knowing where to find the keywords is only a part of the process. You need to use keywords naturally throughout the document, including them in skills, job descriptions and accomplishments. keywords listed at the top of the page have the biggest impact, so make sure to list the key qualifications in the career summary.

This strategy is important not only for passing the ATS, but also to win the attention of the recruiter. If the keywords are listed as skills and your experience doesn’t prove how you put those skills into practice, you aren’t likely to get an interview.

Avoid keyword stuffing

In an attempt to get a high score with the system, job-seekers sometimes use different tricks. The most popular one is adding many keywords from the job ad to your resume in white. In this way, the program marks the resume as relevant and sends it to the hiring manager.

The problem is, the software removes all formatting and the hidden words will appear in the system in regular color. And, once the hiring manager sees Key account management written multiple times, they’ll know for sure you’ve tried to trick the system. So, this approach is unlikely to bring you any results.

Format the dates in an effective way

There are specific requirements for listing dates as well. Firstly, always include dates in Month/Year format. Only years are not enough, as the hiring manager wants to make sure you don’t have employment gaps. Secondly, you need to place the dates to the right. In this way, the system recognizes them faster and more effectively.

Use plain formatting

Well-designed fancy resumes draw more attention than plain ones. However, the problem is that many applicant tracking systems cannot read sophisticated formatting correctly. If you use tables, columns, text boxes or graphic elements, this may confuse the system and your document will get messed up.

The solution? Use a standards common font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Tahoma. Don’t use pictures, charts, special characters or other graphic elements. Also, don’t include any information in headers or footers, as the software cannot read them.

Submit an ATS-friendly file type

Different systems accept different file types. If you don’t know what software the company uses, the safest bet is to submit the resume as a DOC or PDF file. These file types are compatible with all ATS, so your document will be opened and processed correctly.

Include full terms for acronyms

Professional skills can be presented as acronyms, for example, SEO, SMM, CAC. However, if the ATS is set to look for full phrase, say, social media management, it might not recognize the acronym. So, resume experts recommend that you use the both forms to pass the ATS for sure. For example: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Make sure it’s error-free

The software that scans resumes doesn’t recognize grammar mistakes. Say, if you write Registered Psyologist, it can mark your resume as irrelevant because the term Psychologist is not there. Therefore, it’s highly important to double-check the resume text for typos and mistakes. Use an online spell checker, and then proofread manually, as the software may not find all mistakes. If your language skills aren’t up to scratch, consider hiring a pro resume editor.

It’s also important to proofread because hiring managers dislike mistakes as well. 59% of them are ready to dismiss the candidate due to typos and poor grammar. So, an error-free resume is important for increasing your interview chances.

An example of ATS optimized resume

Why is this a good resume example? A resume like this, with plain formatting and simple layout, will surely pass the electronic selection. Firstly, it has no complex formatting except for bulleted lists. No pictures, graphs, columns or other elements that can confuse the system. Secondly, it is written in chronological format that is preferred by the software and human recruiters.

Thirdly, it has standard section names, dates are given correctly, and company names are given in bold, which means that all key information will be read correctly. And finally, the resume has skills and certifications that work as keywords.

The best way to optimize your resume for ATS

Although optimizing your resume for a target job is relatively easy, it takes time and special knowledge. Busy job-seekers often don’t have time for it and therefore get overlooked for great job opportunities. At, our goal is to help every job-seeker to get the employment you deserve. ATS optimization is included for free if you order our Resume Writing service.

Our resume and cover letter expert will build a new resume from scratch, or completely rewrite your old one so that it reflects your current qualifications and professional goals. We will highlight the accomplishments and adapt the resume for your target job posting, making the document ATS-friendly. Every writer on our team has 1+ year of experience with resumes either as a writer or as an HR.

We offer a full satisfaction guarantee: the writer keeps working until you are satisfied with the final document. Contact us today and make the first step towards your dream career!

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