You’re serious about your job search. You’ve built a great resume that presents an accurate picture of your skills and accomplishments.

Now you’re anxiously waiting for a response from the HR Manager you sent it to. What you don’t know is that, most likely, your resume will be read and screened by an applicant tracking system (ATS) before it ever gets to the HR Manager. If you haven’t made it ATS friendly, it might not ever get there.

Employers are using ATS more and more as the first line of defense. With online job posting and electronic resume submissions, employers are receiving hundreds of resumes per job posting. Unfortunately, many applicants don’t read job descriptions. If the job title looks good, they hit the submit button. A system that screens and eliminates up to 75 percent of resumes saves the employer time and money.

Don’t spend your time resenting the system. Learn to work with it and understand what it’s looking for so you can successfully connect with job opportunities.

The Dos and Don’ts of Great Resume Formatting for an ATS



  • Don’t send a PDF, which may be unreadable by certain systems.
  • Don’t try to be fancy. Use a web-standard font, like Arial.
  • Don’t use abbreviations.
  • Don’t use graphics.
  • Don’t use tables. Most systems can’t read the information in tables, so if you’ve formatted your resume using a table, convert it to text so it can be read.
  • Don’t put your contact information in a header.


  • Submit in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) format.
  • Indicate your work history in a consistent, simple manner. First, list the employer’s name, then your job title, and lastly, your dates of employment.
  • Use keywords from the job description. This means you actually need to read the job description.
  • Spell check and use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Use basic section labels, like “summary,” “experience,” “education” and “certifications.”
Understand the Use of Keywords

Understand the Use of Keywords

Sprinkling your resume with keywords may have been enough when applicant tracking systems were young, but they’re far more sophisticated now. You may have gotten through the systems of the past by simply mentioning C++ or Java a few times in your resume. The newer systems use resume contextualization. It’s not enough to mention a skill a few times. These new systems can tell the difference between someone who took a class in C++ programming and someone who has actually used it.

Save your Texting Shorthand for Texts

There are two good reasons the best resume examples use proper capitalization, grammar and punctuation: The ATS is programmed to end and begin fields based on the proper use of language. Your spelling, capitalization, and grammar mistakes could get your resume thrown out. If you write in all lower case because that’s what you’re used to, use inappropriate abbreviations, or don’t concern yourself with proper punctuation, you could confuse the software. A confused ATS doesn’t forward your resume to the recruiter. If you do make it to the recruiter, you’re finally dealing with a human being who’s in business. They’re looking for employees that can not only do the job, but can communicate clearly and properly. You don’t get a pass on good grammar just because they’re used to text-speak.

If you understand what the ATS is looking for and you know how to build a great resume that makes it easier for the system to read it, you stand a better chance of making it out of the applicant black hole and into a recruiter’s hands.

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