ATS-Friendly Résumés

In today’s job market, 90% of Fortune 500 companies use electronic systems, known as applicant tracking systems (ATS) to review and screen résumés. 

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)

ATS software comes under many brand names (like Taleo and Brass Ring) and is used by companies to electronically track job candidates, review résumés and begin their selection process. Generally, when you are applying online and submitting your résumé electronically it is going through an applicant tracking system. And the software will do the initial screening, not a person. That is why a clean and neat résumé is so important. 

In addition, be clear about your skills. The system will be using a keyword type of search to review your résumé for specific qualifications. For instance, if an employer is looking for Microsoft Excel and you only use the words Microsoft Office, then your résumé would not be included if they do a keyword search on Excel.

Electronic Résumé Tips

Document Type

  • Use a PDF. Other file types (doc or docx, HTML, Open Office) may not be recognized.
  • Exclude images of any kind, including photos of yourself, icons and graphics of certifications.
  • Test your PDF document by copying the text of the PDF into a Word doc to see if all your content and formatting pastes correctly. If it does not, your document is not “ATS-Friendly”, or may even be corrupted. PDFs can get corrupted, so save your Word version résumé to a PDF every so often.
  • Always opt for uploading your document into an application if that is an option (rather than copying and pasting it) into the employer’s system.


  • Make sure your name and contact information is first, at the top of the page and never in a header
  • Do not use any special characters or any extra spacing between letters
  • Do not include your title, certification or degree with your name. For example, if you are a CPA then list that after your summary. Do not include it with your name because an ATS will read CPA as your last name
  • You can link to your LinkedIn or personal website, but you must include the beginning of the address (http:// or www.). Do not just type the word LinkedIn or Github

Date Format

Consistency is important. Use the same format throughout the entire document

Acceptable Date Formats

  • June 2022
  • Jun. 2022
  • 06/2022
  • January 2018-June 2020
  • Feb. 2019-Oct. 2020
  • 05/2019-08/2020

Summary or Objective

The ATS will automatically generate a summary (like an objective) for you if you do not have one based on the content of your résumé for the recruiter and hiring managers to read. If you are a career -changer, we recommend creating a summary on your résumé so you can be in control of the summary content.

Body of Document - Format


  • Limit your résumé to one page
  • Keep it clear and easy to read; include plenty of white space
  • Use generic font and font size (Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, 10-14 pt.)
  • Use one font style throughout the résumé
  • If you right justify dates and locations, only do so using a
    tab stop (otherwise it will be considered a column). Review sample below

Do Not

  • Do not use headers, footers, or page numbers
  • Do not include pictures, graphics or templates in body
  • Avoid differentiators (colors, special formatting)
  • Avoid using tables, as it may not be read
  • Do not use columns unless you tab over and use a bullet
    to differentiate the next item, like in list of skills
  • SQL
  • Tableau
  • AWS
  • Python
  • R
  • PowerBI

Body of Document - Content


  • Use standard headings (Education, Experience, Skills, Activities, Certifications, Leadership, etc.)
  • Write results-oriented bullets: what you did, in what context, and how your actions had a positive impact on your organization or customers and clients
  • Highlight quantitative accomplishments, use $ and %. Use $5,000 instead of $5K
  • Incorporate skills you listed in the skills section into your bullet points to demonstrate you have actually used the skill. An ATS will track your skills throughout the résumé, and the skill is valued more with experience
  • Use standard symbols for bullets, not fancy ones
  • Type the full company name out and use proper abbreviation (Inc. or Co.), including punctuation (M.B.A.)
  • Tailor each résumé to that specific job posting
  • Use key phrases and words found in the job description
  • Include buzzwords, industry keywords and jargon
  • List computer software, technical skills, languages, etc. that are relevant to the position
  • Research the company and incorporate their values into your résumé and cover letter
  • Be sure there are absolutely no spelling errors
  • Underlines and links are fine to use, but include the full URL including http://, https:// or www. If you just link the text it will not be read by ATS.

Do Not

  • Do not include the company’s full address, only use the city and state
  • Do not abbreviate any titles you have held (ex. Use Manager not Mgr.)
  • Do not include irrelevant information or experiences
  • Do not state everything you ever accomplished
  • Do not include an objective unless extremely specific and compelling. Career changers have a compelling reason to use a summary or objective
  • Do not include any references unless they are requested specifically

Sections and Section Headings

ATS are programmed to look for specific content in sections of your résumé based on the headings you decide to use. The ATS will weigh, or score content in one section differently than another. The experience section is often weighed more. Therefore, using the word “EXPERIENCE” in headings where the content is most relevant to your future jobs is crucial. This includes academic projects, research, leadership, etc. and is even more crucial for career changers who are using their academic projects and internships to show employers they are transforming their career into a new path.

Recommended Section Headings


Order of Sections

The order of your sections is slightly important. More technical roles should list computer skills closer to the top. Project experience can be listed above employment experience if it is more relevant. Certifications should always be in its own section because the applicant tracking system will be looking for the content within the “Certification” heading, not the “Skills” section. Activities, professional development, study abroad, etc. is considered “gravy”. The words in the content are searchable and important, but are weighted less.  

Experience Section Format

It is possible, but not ideal to list company, title, location and date all on one line. If you have multiple positions within the same company, you must repeat the company name when listing the older title.

Automatic Responses

Once you have completed your online application or submitted your résumé electronically, you should receive a quick and automatic response indicating your application was received.

Check your junk mail as automatic emails from the Applicant Tracking System might go there.