How to Write an ATS-Friendly Resume (6 easy steps)

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Getting hired for a job has always been somewhat difficult, and the creation of online resume examiners that might remove your resume from the pile before any living person sees it has just made getting hired even more difficult.

So, in order to get your resume seen and give yourself the best chance at getting an interview for the job, you need an ATS-friendly resume that looks good when scanned by an ATS system, and when looked at by an employer!


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What is Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is a type of software that many employers use in order to manage the application process. This system will take all of the applicants and scan the resume and then rank all of the applicants.

According to recent studies, nearly 75% of companies are using ATS in order to streamline the application process. 70% of resumes aren’t being seen by employers, so unless you are in the to 30%, you have no chance to get the job you apply for.

How Does ATS Work?

An ATS takes the resume that you submitted along with your application and scans it. It looks specifically for information like:

  • Contact Details
  • Job Titles
  • Education History

Depending on the job that you are applying for, there will be different qualifications that the ATS searches for.

If you pass the threshold set by the employers, then your resume will continue on and is far more likely to be seen by recruiters or hiring managers.

6 easy steps to writing an ATS-friendly resume

  1. Select the correct resume format
  2. Choose the proper file type
  3. Use an ATS resume template
  4. Use a simple layout
  5. Label your sections properly
  6. Add keywords to strengthen your resume

1. Select the correct resume format

The first thing that you are going to do is to select the format that you are going to use throughout your resume. There are a number of templates to choose from, some of which I will cover later, however, you are going to want to think of the format you will have in your resume.

Using a template will automatically format most of your resume, the biggest thing you will have to keep in mind is if you want to list out your work experience or education first.

I would strongly recommend that you put your work experience before your education, in order to show the experiences that you have had and show where you are coming from.

Your education section should be short, with just the school and degree you received, while your work section should have bullet points below listing achievements during your time working there.

2. Choose the proper file type

You are also going to want to make sure that you are submitting your resume using the proper file type. Submitting a PDF is almost always the best option, as they keep your resume clean, well-formatted and don’t mess up any design aspects.

The only times that you shouldn’t submit your resume as a PDF file is when you are specifically asked for a different type of file.

Typically this is only when the ATS is older, and in most cases, you will be submitting your resume as a Word doc.

Make sure to check to see if there are any requirements for the type of file you must use, as some ATS can’t read PDF files.

3. Use an ATS resume template

The easiest way to create an ATS resume is to use a premade template that is already set up and designed to look good when scanned.

You just need to fill in the information while adding plenty of keywords so that you rank better on the scan and will be more likely to get an interview.

There are plenty of different sites that you can go to in order to get templates that will perform well when scanned by ATS.

Some of these sites that you can get templates on include:

There are many more sites that you can use to find great resume templates that are ATS formatted and have good layouts.

And while it is far easier to use a premade template when making your resume, if you know how to properly format everything you can always just create your own template to stand out just a bit, as many people’s resumes look nearly identical.

Related: 13 Best Free ATS Resume Templates

4. Use a simple layout

If you have decided to go with a premade template then you are likely not going to have to worry about this at all as this is done for you in order to make the template look good and perform well when scanned by ATS.

If you are making your own template, then read through all of this in order to make sure that your resume looks good and performs better when scanned

ATS Formatting Tips

  • Use common, simple fonts
  • Use larger font size for headings and smaller font for sections
  • Stick to bullet lists when covering achievements
  • Only use the simple bullet points for your list (a solid circle, other shapes might confuse the ATS)
  • Avoid Graphics
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Single spacing between all text
  • Use clear, simple headings

5. Label your sections properly

This might not seem like that much, but you are going to want to make sure that everything is labeled properly. Skills, work experience, and education should all have their proper information underneath them.

This is because the ATS requires these headings in order to fully understand what it is examining.

6. Add keywords to strengthen your resume

You are going to want to make sure that you are using plenty of keywords in your resume, along with the proper and most effective keywords.

The ATS system scans your resume and looks for specific words that show you are relevant to the job you are applying for. If you don’t have many keywords or the wrong ones, then your resume will likely be removed from the list.

There are two different types of keywords that the ATS looks for in your resume, job-related skills, and action verbs

Job-related Skills

These are going to be the most important keywords that you are going to add to your resume. This is because these keywords will show your primary characteristics and qualifications for the job.

Some great examples of these keywords include:

  • Data Analyst
  • Research
  • Problem-Solving
  • Other phrases that relate to the new job position

Action Verbs

Along with having plenty of job-related skills, your will want to have plenty of verbs that effectively show what you have done in the past.

These verbs should show what you have accomplished and succeeded in your job position.

Some examples of action verb keywords include:

  • Created
  • Maximized
  • Solved

How to Create Your Own ATS-Friendly Resume

If you decide to design your own template instead of using a premade one, then you are going to want to use this as a guide in order to format your resume in a way that will be easy for ATS to scan.

This is a simple format that is easy to follow and will let you show your work experience, school history, and skills.

Name & Contact Info

The first thing that you are going to do is create the top section that has all of your information. This should include:

  • Your first and last name
  • City location
  • Phone number
  • Email

All of this information needs to be at the top, and if you want to feel like you should you can also include information such as:

  • Personal website
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Personal address
  • Any other contact information you feel is applicable


This is an optional section, and if you are also submitting a cover letter then you shouldn’t include this in your resume.

If you do decide to include this in your resume, then it should be very brief, with only 2 or 3 sentences covering your top skills and qualifications that make you a good pick for this specific job opening. This is a great place to put plenty of keywords.

If you do include this in your resume, make sure to change it to be specific to the company you are applying to each time you submit it. This summary paragraph is the equivalent of a mini cover letter.


You can either place your work experience or education history first, but it has been found that placing your work experience in reverse chronological order first has a higher success rate than placing your education first.

You will want to list every relevant job that you have had over the past 10-15 years and include:

  • Your Job Title
  • Employer Name
  • Work Location
  • Dates of Employment

After putting all of this information, you are going to want to list several achievements that you had during the time that you had while working there.

This should be formatted using a short list of bullet points and use plenty of keywords, including job-related skills and action verbs.

If you have just recently graduated and don’t have any work experience, just include the education section instead and include extra detail like:

  • Degree Type
  • Institution Name
  • Field of Study
  • Graduation Date
  • Relevant Class or Projects


Once you have listed out all of your relevant work experience and achievements, you are going to want to put your education on your resume.

If you just graduated, follow the guideline mentioned above. If you have relevant work experience, then you don’t need to go as in-depth about your education and only need to include:

  • Degree Type
  • Institution Name
  • Field of Study
  • Graduation Date


The final section that you are going to need to add to your resume is a list of skills. For the best results you are going to want to include plenty of job-related skills as these will be recorded as keywords and help make your resume stand out from others.

Can You Run an ATS Check on Your Resume?

Now that you have crafted the perfect resume that will pass ATS and end up being looked at by a recruiter, you might want to check to see if your resume actually will test well on ATS.

To do this you are going to want to go to This will let you put in both your resume as well as the job description and application information.

This uses an ATS to see how well your resume will perform and also will give you feedback on how to improve your resume.

How to Stand Out After Submitting Your ATS Resume

Once you have submitted your resume, there are a few things that you can do. A quality resume can get you to a job interview, but you want the job itself, so here are a few tips to help you stand out more to potential employers.

Write a cover letter

A cover letter is becoming more and more important. Because most resumes are designed for ATSs, they have started to all look and read the same.

So adding a cover letter that lets the company know a little more about you and why you are interested in the position helps you stand out more.

It lets the company hear more of your voice and understand you a bit better before an interview.

Do your research

Before your interview, you are going to want to do plenty of research about both the position you are interviewing for as well as the company.

Come prepared with a few, quality questions that you might have. This shows that you know what you are doing, that you care about the job, and also have some interest in the company as well.

A good question can also make you stand out as it will stick with them afterward.

Write thank you notes

This will likely make you stand out the most. Writing a thank you note to the interviewers for taking the time to even interview you will show that you are a genuine, caring person.

It is best to get any notes out within the first 24 hours after the interview, and physical notes are better than emails, but you can write them an email.

Consider writing a thank you to anyone within the company that you interact with, ranging from the CEO to the secretary, as all likely talked to you and helped out a bit.


Now that you know the 6 steps you need to take to craft the perfect ATS-friendly resume, it is time to get to work. Start by choosing the right format and work your way down to step number six of choosing the right keywords.

Go ahead and get started and land your perfect dream job.


Jobscan helps you optimize your resume for any job, highlighting the key experience and skills recruiters need to see.

Optimize your resume
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Donny is the founder of SMB Guide. He is a seasoned small business owner and entrepreneur, with over 17+ years of experience growing and building companies. He is a well traveled and multi-faceted individual with several successful six figure business exits.