In today’s job market, you want to stay competitive and grab the interest of potential employers. Part of being a step above other candidates is making your resume shine. But what makes a resume stand out? Which details are prominent for making it interview-ready?

The goal is to capture the hiring manager’s attention and make a great first impression. You might take the standard steps of polishing your summary, demonstrating delivered results, and highlighting your overall talent and expertise. Some like to get creative by adding color or graphics to differentiate themselves and add personality. However, it’s best to limit or avoid using certain creative elements depending on your field. No matter how you communicate your story, transforming your resume to be ATS-friendly is paramount to success.

Having an ATS-friendly resume will determine how far ahead you reach in the race for top talent. If you’re unfamiliar with ATS systems, this article will help you restructure your resume to be ATS-compliant and not overlooked. Understanding the origins, purpose, and effect ATS systems have on your job search journey could be vital in finding your next role.

What Is ATS?

The rise of the internet in the 90s introduced a turning point in the hiring process and launched the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) into popularity. ATS was integrated into online job boards and called for more advanced algorithms to help organizations continue filling their candidate pipeline and establish effective recruitment management. As new technology was being created and ingrained in our society, satisfying the craving for convenience and on-demand services, platforms like the Cloud revolutionized ATS to incorporate mobile-friendly designs. Social media platforms also influenced the shift in the candidate experience. Employers started to include social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook in their marketing campaigns as these networks were evolving job applications.

As stated in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article from 2011 Applicant Tracking Systems Evolve, Rob Prinzo, president of The Prinzo Group and a board member with the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM), said a 2011 survey his firm conducted reflects the growing use of social media as a go-to recruiting tool. Recruiting via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter placed fourth on the list of top sources for job candidates, Prinzo said, up from eighth in 2010 and 13th in 2009.

“The ability to post out to the big three social media sites is transforming recruiting practices, and it’s a feature companies should look for in an ATS,” Prinzo said.

Today, around the world, 82% of employers use social media networks in search of passive candidates. According to Social media recruitment statistics, 90% of job seekers prefer LinkedIn more than any other social media network for job search. Gen Z contributes to social media recruitment job search more than millennials. 56% of Millennials search for career opportunities on social media networks, 31% of the people are from Gen X, and 12% are baby boomers.

Why Are ATS Systems Being Used? 

Besides being another acronym to remember, digital transformations like applicant tracking systems have become a core part of the modern Human Resources and recruitment infrastructure. These systems are helping weed out unqualified candidates and creating an initial shortlist of high-value talent that best fit the advertised position. Recruiters and employers use the software tool to streamline their hiring practices.

But how exactly does an applicant tracking system operate? Once candidates have applied and submitted the supporting documents, ATS systems parse information from their resumes and cover letters, then upload it into a database. Your information, such as education, work experience, and skills, is scanned for predefined keywords. The keywords recruiters and employers typically filter for are the hard skills and requirements listed in the posted job description. For some fields, specific certifications and degrees might also be what a potential employer is seeking from an ideal candidate.

According to Jobscan, their research found that over 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS. They also stated that a Kelly OCG survey estimated that 66% of large companies and 35% of small organizations rely on recruitment software. Applicant Tracking Systems help large companies reduce time spent on manual tasks, such as sorting through a heap of applications. It organizes the influx of prospective candidates through automation to make the process efficient and more centralized. Depending on the ATS provider, additional features can include generating interview questions, posting job openings, analytics and reporting, interview scheduling, and Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) software.

Building An ATS-friendly Resume

Search, apply, repeat. It takes work to find work. Before you know it, you’re infinitely scrolling through job postings and applying to every job you come across. Maybe this tactic benefited you in the past, but blindly applying to jobs isn’t the most effective way to find that next great opportunity. By not optimizing your resume for each job, you could be damaging your chances of becoming visible to employers. Be better prepared for the hunt and use our guidelines below to help master the search and build a stellar ATS-friendly resume:


You should tailor your details to the job description of each opportunity you apply for. Look for recurring terms, action verbs, and job-related skills in the posting. The keywords should be as they appear and with the proper acronym to improve the likelihood of your application passing the screening test (i.e., Customer Relationship Management (CRM)). As defined by Novoresume, job-related skills are your primary characteristics and qualifications for the job. Action verbs (like created, solved, or maximized) show what you have accomplished and succeeded in your role. Don’t hesitate to go beyond the keywords and showcase more about your achievements to reflect what makes you different from other applicants.

As stated in the Muse article Beat the Robots: How to Get Your Resume Past the System and Into Human Hands, when describing your current and past positions, “ensure your bullet points are actually achievements, and use numbers and metrics to highlight them,” says Rohan Mahtani, Founder of Resume Worded. Instead of just telling recruiters and hiring managers that you have a skill, this will show them how you’ve used it and what the results were.


Readability is essential for ensuring your resume can be interpreted by an ATS system. Avoid using script fonts. Use easy-to-read serif or sans serif fonts like Garamond, Tahoma, Times New Roman, and Helvetica. Whichever fonts you choose, don’t use more than two types.

The body of your resume should have a 1-inch margin and be between 10 and 12 points. For section titles, use 14 or 16-point font. You can also bold or italicize section titles, but refrain from overusing them.

Reverse chronological order is the most popular format for work experience. Your most recent job should be listed first, followed by your previous roles, and ending with the earliest. A chronological resume also includes an objective statement or summary at the top of the page, featuring your educational background alongside certifications in an individual section. Your skills and other qualifications are listed at the bottom of the page.

There are ATS-compliant templates already available for you to reference or download and use online. Whether you edit an online template or use a different source, the file type for your resume should be either a PDF (.pdf) or a word (.docx) document.

Eliminate Errors

Before you upload and submit for a job posting, analyze your document and look for any visual mistakes or inconsistencies. Is there a lot of vague wording? Did you exaggerate the truth about your skill proficiency? Ask a friend or family member to review your resume and help identify punctuation mistakes, misspellings, and grammar errors you might’ve missed. You can also use ATS resume checker websites like JobScan to clean up your document further.

So, if you haven’t heard back from recruiters or employers after applying to opportunities, remember it’s not you. It’s your resume. Or at least that could likely be the case if you don’t make the proper improvements. Schedule time to reword, revise, and refresh your resume to be closer to achieving your career goals. Don’t lose momentum in your job search. Explore our open opportunities today by visiting