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Helpful Hints for Creating an ATS-Friendly Resume
Hcareers / OCTOBER 12 2021

You’ve been applying for jobs and not getting the response you’d hoped for. You’re frustrated because you know you’re qualified. So why aren’t those hiring managers reaching out to you?

It may not have to do with your qualifications, but with the way you wrote your resume. It’s probably not passing the electronic ATS test. According to Forbes, studies have shown that up to 75% of qualified applicants are rejected before they ever pass before a recruiter’s hands (or eyes).

What’s an ATS?

ATS stands for application tracking system – software that electronically scans your resume for keywords related to the job and decides if your resume is worth passing onto the HR person or hiring manager. Because employers are inundated with resumes, an ATS streamlines the process saving time by automatically highlighting top candidates for them.

You may have thought that keywords were only important for websites or LinkedIn® profiles, but think again. reports that 99% of Fortune 500 companies filter resumes through an ATS before a real human ever takes a look at it. Applicant tracking systems are also gaining popularity among small and medium sized businesses.

Getting in front of a recruiter’s eyes depends on how well your resume is optimized for algorithms used by the ATS. What can you do to increase your chances of being seen (and contacted)?

Enhance Your Resume for Keywords
First, customize your resume for each job you apply for. The software is looking for keywords that relate to the specific job and the industry. Focus on the skillset the employer is advertising in the job description that are also skills you have to offer.

If the job you’re applying for is “front desk agent,” we’re not talking about inappropriately stuffing your resume with that phrase. It’s about strategically using that phrase in your resume in key locations so you’re mindful of the ATS algorithms.

Make note of those relevant phrases in the job description that jump out as most important – and that represent your skills (both hard and soft skills). Incorporate these terms into your resume in the following sections: Core Competencies/Summary, Areas of Expertise/Skills, Work Experience and/or Education.

While you should use the keyword phrase(s) more than once, remember that it’s about using it where it’s appropriate. You want to reveal that you have the skill(s) the employer is looking for. Don’t ‘stuff’ keywords in there for the sake of hoping you’ll be found – that could backfire on you. You want your writing to flow naturally so it reads smoothly.

Use an ATS-Friendly Format
It may be tempting to design a creative resume thinking you’ll stand out from the crowd. However, doing so can cause your resume to “fail” when passing through an applicant tracking system. Avoid including colors, images (i.e., your photo), graphics or charts. While bullet points are fine, don’t use fancy symbols for bullet points – stick with a solid circle or square. An ATS will be unable to read your resume if you incorporate these design elements.

Submit a Word (.doc or .docx) file as it is the format most easily reviewed by an ATS. Use a font size of at least 11 points and consider clean, easy-to-read fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, etc.

NOTE: A .pdf file is not always easy for older applicant tracking systems to read.

Be sure to proofread your resume – more than once! Spelling errors can result in an automatic rejection. And, recruiters are not fond of reading resumes with typos, even if it’s only a single one. If you use a spell and/or grammar checker, that’s fine, but you should still read your resume aloud or ask a trusting friend or family member to review it. Sometimes a new set of eyes catches something you’ve missed because you’ve been reading it over and over again.

Create a Professional Name for Your Resume File
When you create a file name for your resume, include your first and last name or a combination of the two. Include the word ‘resume’ and perhaps the job title for the position you’re seeking. For instance, if you’re Jane Doe and you’re applying for customer service, consider JaneDoe.Resume.docx, JaneD.CustomerService.doc, JaneD.CustomerService.Resume.docx

This is important because if the HR manager or recruiter searches for your file later, you’ll be easily found in their database.

Don’t Give Up Hope
Even if you don’t get the job, many hospitality employers maintain a large pool of passive candidates – people they may call upon in the future, when a need arises. So don’t give up hope. Create an ATS-friendly resume and sooner or later, the right job for you will present itself. And, you’ll get called. Good luck in your future endeavors.