Career Advice for Job Seekers

How to write an ATS-friendly resume

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash
Sean Kelly
October 5, 2022


Whether you’ve been a victim of layoffs or you’re just looking for a career change, applying for jobs can be a nerve-wracking process. It involves a lot of waiting around to see if your application leads to an interview, and if you’re applying for multiple jobs, this can feel like shouting into a void. A sense of uncertainty also arises when you don’t hear back from some jobs, which might cause you to wonder if there’s something you could be doing better.

The good news is that a lack of response usually has nothing to do with you as an employee or as a job prospect. More likely, it’s due to your resume not being optimized for applicant tracking systems (ATS). An applicant tracking system is software employers use to track applicants during the recruiting process. This software enables employers to have a more streamlined hiring process, but it also requires applicants to have a resume that the software can easily recognize.

ATS-friendly resume

Creating a more ATS-friendly resume is all about proper formatting, and here are some things you can do to ensure yours is set up for success.

The first thing you’ll want to make sure of is that your sections are labeled correctly. Use words like “Skills” and phrases like “Work Experience” to highlight the sections in your resume, and format them in a way that can be broken down easily. You should also ensure that your experience is listed chronologically, as this will be easier for an ATS to recognize.

Another thing that’s important when writing an ATS-friendly resume is including keywords that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. This is critical to an ATS recognizing your application, as the software will scan your resume for words that relate to the role in order to flag whether your experience and skills align with those of the role in question. 

You should also consider putting the job title in the headline of your resume. Under your name and contact info, there should be a brief sentence summing up who you are and what you do, and including the job title or something close to it will make your resume all the more readable by the applicant tracking system.

One last thing you can do to make a more ATS-friendly resume is to use a legible and standard font like Times New Roman or Arial. These fonts are easy to read and commonly used for documents of all kinds, making them more likely to be picked up by the software.

Taking little steps to optimize your resume for an applicant tracking system can go a long way in getting you noticed and ultimately increasing your chances of landing a job. Take care when crafting your resume, and be thoughtful about its presentation. It will make hiring managers take notice, and it’ll get you past the algorithm, too. 

— Article by Sean Kelly. In addition to being an analyst researching the latest industry trends for College Recruiter, Sean Kelly also co-founded a nonprofit local news publication in Savannah, GA called The Savannahian.

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