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ATS Resume Formats in 2021: What You Need to Know

Author —
Astley
January 13, 2021

Your resume is one of the most important documents in your career. 

An ATS resume format can be the key to getting hired at your dream company. But, creating the perfect one that stands out while accurately highlighting your experience tends to be a common struggle for applicants. 

Companies receive hundreds of resumes for any given role. TopResume found that 75% of those resumes are never read by an actual human.

When applying for roles, it is important to make an ATS-friendly resume that can accurately be read and understood. In this guide, you will learn how to create a properly-formatted resume that can pass applicant tracking systems. 

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

What Is The Best Format for a Resume?

Do you have lots of work experience or do you have little to none at all? How long have you been in the workforce for?

It’s different for every job seeker because it depends on where you’re currently at in your career. 

The three main types of resume formats include:

  • Reverse-chronological resume 
  • Functional resume 
  • Combination resume

Reverse-Chronological Resume 

This structure is the most popular which almost all job seekers should be using. 

The reverse chronological resume format means listing out the most recent and relevant things first. It starts with the most recent timeline and you work your way backwards, e.g. the latest job position comes first in your work experience section, not the oldest.

Structuring your resume this way makes your career timeline more established. 

Reverse-Chronological Resume 
Reverse-Chronological Resume 

Functional Resume 

This format is also known as the skills-based resume.

Unlike the standard resume that focuses on highlighting your work experience, the functional resume puts more emphasis towards your skills. 

It does come with a few setbacks as the gaps behind your employment history become more noticeable. Even so, it’s a great solution for those of you with 0 or less than 1 year of work experience.

You can make up for your lack of experience by writing a tailored cover letter. Show that you’re more committed and passionate!

Combination Resume

This resume format is also known as the hybrid resume. 

It combines the elements of the standard resume with the functional resume format. What that means is, it evenly distributes the focus between your work experience and the skills you’ve developed.

Those of you with less than 3 years of work experience in a professional environment, this would be perfect to use.

What Format is Best for ATS Resume?

For the ATS software, the best resume format is the reverse chronological resume because it lists your most relevant and recent work experience first. It’s easier to pick up some of the keywords, qualifications, and skills that the system is looking for. 

However, that doesn’t mean the other types of resumes are incompatible for the ATS.

ATS-Friendly Resume Formatting

The ATS resume format means having an application formatted in a way that will bypass the applicant tracking system.

It’s important to understand how resumes are filtered. With the number of talented job applicants increasing, the majority of companies today are moving toward applicant tracking systems (ATS) to organize and sort applications. 

These systems can be configured to filter candidates based on different criteria such as: 

  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Keywords
  • Skills
  • And more...

This early stage of the hiring process is also where most job seekers tend to fail. 

Use a Simple Layout

When it comes to creating an ATS-optimized resume, it’s good to know how it will be read by the software. 

Like most human readers, the ATS will read from left to right and top to bottom. 

For this reason, it is important to use a simple layout where everything is straightforward and concise. Your contact information should go first in the header, followed along by the next resume sections depending on what type of resume you’re using.

Use an Appropriate Design 

If you’re using a resume design, just make sure they are appropriate. Be sensible and don’t use an over-designed resume template. 

It needs to be readable, otherwise it won’t be picked up by the ATS. 

Use a professional design, including a professional resume font (e.g. sans serif or serif). Choose one that’s universal such as Helvetica, Arial, Garamond, or Georgia. These are available on virtually all computers and designed to be easily readable.

Use The PDF File

The PDF file should be the file type you use when sending over your application electronically. 

If you’re using any other file types, your resume might not send the same way you want it to as the formatting can change. For example, the spacing and margins.

Give it an appropriate name as well, e.g. Jacob-Jacquet-Resume.PDF.

Use Bullet Points 

All resumes should be using bullet points for each resume section when describing something. It’s easily picked up by the resume scanners and makes it twice more readable for the hiring manager than if you were to write one large paragraph.

Margins

Margins should generally be one inch all around. 

The lowest that’s acceptable is -0.5. This will enable you to add more content while still having a readable application. But when it becomes too narrow, it would be difficult to skim through your resume for both a human and AI reader. 

Customize for ATS Keywords

Each time you submit your resume for a job that uses ATS, your resume is saved in a large database along with other applicants. Hiring managers can use this database to search for applicants whose resumes include specific key phrases related to their job opening. These are often a specific skill or job title.

When creating your resume, it is important to research and include the right keywords. 

You can start by carefully reviewing the job description for keywords and checking them against what you’ve included.

If you’re looking for a faster solution for finding and incorporating keywords, try Rezi’s free A.I resume builder. Simply create your resume and upload a job description. 

In less than a minute, Rezi AI will identify what your resume is missing!

Avoid Stylish Formatting

In order for ATS to analyze your resume for relevant keywords, the system will convert the document into a text-only file. After this conversion, all formatting will be lost. As a result, the ATS may not be able to extract the important information.

Establish a Timeline

ATS software and hiring managers alike want to see a clear and consistent work history timeline. 

A reverse chronological resume (i.e most recent experience first) timeline holds a great deal of significance as it is often considered the standard for all industries. It’s a great choice for anyone whose work history shows consistent career continuity. Just don’t forget to include dates of employment as ATS systems can measure the years of experience you have.

Resume Length

Unless you have a lot of work experience to show for, it’s a standard rule of thumb that your resume is only one page long. As you grow in your career, you’ll find that some skills and experience that were once relevant, aren’t as significant anymore. Consider bringing the most relevant information to the forefront while removing any unnecessary details.

Proofread for Grammar and Spelling Mistakes

The ATS will easily identify grammar and spelling errors. Once these are noticed, there’s a strong chance the hiring manager will reject your resume even if they haven’t read it until the end. 

What The ATS Cannot Read

Tables, columns, and text boxes are great methods of organizing complex information on a resume. 

However, the ATS will not recognize these elements. 

If the content of your resume is located in similar formatting, the ATS is very likely to miss it. You should avoid using elements such as tables, photos, columns, and text boxes. 

Graphic Design Visuals 

Think twice before using images, graphs, charts, colours, etc. Not all graphic design elements will be picked up.

Tables

Using a table will change the overall format and look of your resume. It won’t pass the ATS and on the receiving end, your application may appear different than how you intended.

Text Boxes

As mentioned, it’s too complex to be read. It also affects the look and format of your resume as a whole. 

Columns

You may have seen resume templates like the double column resume. While the format itself is clean and readable for a human reader, it doesn’t always get past the ATS. 

Header and Footer Section

You should avoid placing important information into the header or footer section of your resume. 

Many applicant tracking systems are not able to extract the information in these sections. What tends to happen is that they automatically remove it from your application because they won’t be found.

How Do I Know If a Company Uses ATS

According to CNBC, more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an Applicant Tracking System to screen candidates. It is more important than ever to have an ATS resume format. A majority of companies will use an ATS as it saves time and helps them effectively assess hundreds and thousands of candidates faster.

Part time jobs are no exception.

An ATS-optimized resume is the first step to getting your resume past the computers in order to reach the hands of a hiring manager.

Resumes With Rezi

Are you ready to create your own ATS-optimized resume? 

Rezi AI is an incredibly powerful resume software that helps you build a tailored resume for the job you’re applying for. With Rezi, you will be given a list of skills and keywords to include that the company’s job description is searching for.

From there, you can simply add those missing items to your resume. Just by doing that, you’ll improve your chances!

Users who create a resume with Rezi have a 62.18% chance of getting an interview.

Watch the video below to see our AI resume writer in action!

 

We’re trusted by over 120,000+ happy job seekers. With Rezi’s help, candidates have been able to break into the top, most competitive companies including Facebook, Spotify, and Amazon!

This article's author, Astley, is an avid content marketer who specializes as an SaaS copywriter. Learn more at Minimalist Copy

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