Creating a resume that gets through applicant tracking software

Many employers don’t have the people power to have a real person review every resume they receive. Instead, employers often rely on an applicant tracking system that does an initial screening of resumes for keywords associated with the open position. This helps narrow their human review process to those resumes that were identified by the applicant tracking system as containing the required skills. If your resume isn’t scannable by the system or doesn’t contain the right keywords, you likely won’t get the job even if it’s perfect for you. In fact, about 75 percent of resumes never make it to a human reviewer, because scanning software rejects them first.

Making your resume scannable by applicant tracking software

  1. Make sure you target your resume content to the position for which you are applying, so you have the keywords the applicant tracking software is looking for
  2. Create your resume in Microsoft Word because it is easily read by most applicant tracking system (ATS) software (some systems can’t read PDFs)
  3. Use fonts that are readable by most systems, this includes Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, Georgia, Helvetica,  Palatino, Tahoma, and Verdana
  4. Use 10 to 12 point font, including body and headers (your name can be in 14 or 16 point)
  5. Avoid italics and underlined words or phrases
  6. Use bold text sparingly
  7. Avoid graphics and shading
  8. Use horizontal or vertical lines sparingly
  9. Use simple bullets
  10. Use color sparingly or avoid altogether
  11. Avoid tables (even if the borders are invisible, text within a table is usually not readable)
  12. Avoid double columns (ATS readers usually read from side to side)
  13. Use only common abbreviations, otherwise spell words out
  14. Use common names for resume section headings, like Summary, Skills, Experience and Education, because ATS systems will look for those sections
  15. When saving your resume, use your first and last name and the job title in the document name to make your resume easier to find in the ATS database