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Optimizing Resumes for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Applicant tracking systems are the computer systems used by organizations to manage the flood of
applications they receive. The ATS will read your resume, and then rank and score your qualifications
vs. the job descriptions. Only those applicants who receive high scores will get a call for an interview.
If you follow these formatting tips you will greatly increase the likelihood that your resume will rise to
the top of the list.
Top 5 Tips:
1. Do not use templates! Use a standard Word document, and save in .doc format: File/Save
As/Word 97-2003. Not all ATS systems can read .docx, PDF, RTF, and JPG formats.
2. Use simple formatting. Do not use headers (including for contact information), footers,
templates, borders, lines, symbols (bullet points are fine) or shading.
3. Customize each resume for the specific position being sought using language from the job
description. "One-size-fits-all" does not work with applicant tracking systems. Incorporate
relevant, targeted keywords and phrases for the position being sought. Be specific -- i.e.,
"Adobe Photoshop" instead of "image-editing software")
4. Use keywords and phrases in context. Incorporate them into descriptive achievement-
oriented bullet points; do not just include them as a list of skills or competencies
5. Edit carefully: The ATS will not recognize misspelled words. And, if your resume survives the
ATS screen, it will next be reviewed by human beings so it must be Eror error-free
Make sure your optimized resume also:
Does not include any special characters or accented words
Includes no punctuation in your name, such as ( ) , / -
Is in a single column format (no tables, multiple columns, or text boxes)
Uses simply formatted text of a reasonable size (11 point font or above)
Contains only your name on the top line, with no degrees or certifications after it
Includes standard fonts (Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Calibri, and Verdana are safe choices)
Includes months when listing dates (e.g., 06/2010 08/2012). Dates should be on the right
Does not contain complex formatting (condensed or expanded text) -- that is, don't use extra
spaces between letters, because the ATS can't "read" it
Contains proper capitalization and punctuation. Both of these can affect how information is
parsed and assigned within the ATS database
Uses the full, spelled-out version terms in addition to abbreviations and acronyms [i.e.,
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)]
Accountant Parse Resume
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